'He’s such a cerebral player': Chris Paul dazzles in Thunder's blowout win against Trail Blazers
Chris Paul looked to his left, then to his right, but Saturday night he was the Thunder’s best option on offense.
Paul eased into a transition 3-pointer at the top of the arc and drained it. The shot, with 26 seconds left in the second quarter, capped a stretch of seven consecutive points from Paul to close the first half.
The veteran point guard didn’t wait until crunch time to take over. Paul tied his season-high with 30 points in the Thunder’s 119-106 win against the Trail Blazers on Saturday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“He’s such a cerebral player,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. “I think a lot of times as a point guard your natural tendency is to try and get others involved … His tempo, his pace, how aggressive he was, that certainly got us off to a really, really good start.”
Paul shot 11-of-15 from the floor, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range, and he connected with Nerlens Noel for a highlight alley-oop in the fourth quarter that sent Thunder fans into a frenzy. Noel tied his season high with 15 points.
Paul finished with seven assists and four rebounds.
Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari rested Saturday night. It was the first time this season a Thunder player sat out with the “rest” designation.
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Both the Thunder and the Trail Blazers were playing on the second night of a back-to-back. Thunder coach Billy Donovan said the decision to rest Gallinari was a collaborative one between Gallinari and the medical staff.
“Gallo’s feeling great,” Donovan said. “He’s doing well. Obviously I think it’s important when you’re talking to players, you’re taking a long approach in terms of there’s 82 games. We’re right at the halfway point. We want to keep him feeling like he is feeling.”
The NBA's resting policy prohibits teams from sitting players in nationally televised games. It also requires teams to rest players during home games, absent "unusual circumstances."
Gallinari is the Thunder's second leading scorer at 19 points per game. He's shooting 41 percent from 3-point range on a team-high 7.5 long-range attempts per game.
“We may do it again,” Donovan said of resting Gallinari, “but it’s not like we’ve made a decision that on any back-to-back we’re gonna rest him.”
A wave of injuries has washed over Portland this season, but the Trail Blazers were further depleted Saturday due to a game-day trade.
In the trade, first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Portland sent Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and two second-round picks to Sacramento for Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan.
With Bazemore and Tolliver on their way out, coupled with injuries to CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, Rodney Hood and Skal Labissiere, the Trail Blazers only had eight players available against the Thunder. All of them played at least 17 minutes.
Thunder guard Terrance Ferguson sat out Saturday with an illness.
Abdel Nader missed his third consecutive game with a left ankle sprain.
Thunder center Steven Adams returned to the starting lineup. He sat out Friday with a right knee contusion.
Hamidou Diallo replaced Ferguson and Darius Bazley replaced Gallinari in the starting lineup. Diallo and Bazley started together for the first time.
Anthony returns to OKC
Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony received a warm welcome from Thunder fans during pregame introductions. Anthony spent the 2017-18 season in OKC.
“Carmelo’s always been a terrific player,” Donovan said. “I don’t think anybody’s ever questioned his offensive ability. I enjoyed the time that we had together. He was a total pro. He was a great guy. He’s obviously going to go down as one of the greatest scorers to ever play the game.”
Happy birthday, Gary Trent Jr.
The Portland guard scored a career-high 30 points on his 21st birthday. His previous career high was 19 points.