Thunder hope to get George back vs. Hornets

OKLAHOMA CITY — Paul George said he learned from being on the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder’s last two games.

The forward, in his first year with the Thunder, is still trying to figure out where he fits into the offense, as is fellow first-year Oklahoma City forward Carmelo Anthony.

George, who is suffering from a right calf contusion, hopes to be back Monday when Oklahoma City hosts Charlotte.

“It’s just about playing with one another, playing for one another,” George told The Oklahoman. “The game will be extremely easy if we just create shots for one another. As good as we are, we got to do it together. That’s what I took away from it.

While George missed his first two games of the season, the Thunder experienced mixed results.

On Thursday, the Thunder blew a 16-point lead to the Brooklyn Nets and were handed a 100-95 loss in Mexico City where they were the road team. Two nights later, Oklahoma City snapped an eight-game road losing streak by coming back from 20 points down to get a 102-101 overtime win at Memphis.

George’s two star teammates also experienced their share of mixed results in his absence.

Russell Westbrook led all scorers with 31 points Thursday but shot 10 of 27 and scored five points in the fourth quarter. In Memphis, he recorded a triple-double with 20 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds despite shooting 7 of 29.

Carmelo Anthony, who is averaging a career-low 18.3 points and shooting a career-worst 40.4 percent, scored 11 points on 5 of 20 shooting Thursday and led the Thunder with 21 points on 7 of 20 shooting Saturday.

“We kept working and grinding and gave ourselves a chance. That’s good for the soul,” Thunder coach Billy Donavan said. “This was a good boost for us.”

George last played in Tuesday’s 100-94 win over Utah when he scored 21 points.

The Thunder are in the midst of their most productive stretch of the season with four wins in their last five games. They would like to keep up momentum to reach .500 for the first time since Nov. 15 headed into a three-game road swing. The Thunder is just 3-10 away from home.

Even though George’s return would give the Thunder one of its better defenders back, they could be without another top defender, as Andre Roberson is questionable with a left ankle sprain.

Hornets coach Steve Clifford is expected to miss his fifth consecutive game with an undisclosed health issue.

Clifford hasn’t been on Charlotte’s bench since Dec. 1.

With Stephen Silas filling in, not much has changed.

The Hornets have struggled especially defensively in dropping seven of their last eight including three in a row. During their last eight games, the Hornets are allowing 106.2 point per game.

Charlotte guard Nic Batum is listed as questionable as the effects from a torn ligament in his left elbow keep adding up.

Batum has played in 12 of the last 13 games after missing the season’s first 12 games.

In Saturday’s 110-99 loss to the Lakers, Batum was forced to the bench for the fourth quarter in a tight game due to pain in the elbow.

“Since I got back three weeks ago, it’s really, really bothered my game,” Batum told The Charlotte Observer. “It’s (affected) my performance. I can’t be myself.”

Batum, who is averaging 10.1 points, 4.4 assists and 4.3 rebounds, decided against surgery following the injury.

His shooting numbers, both overall and from behind the 3-point line, are the worst in his 10-year NBA career.

“I know I can do more to help this team,” Batum told the Observer. “But it really is affecting my performance every night. I can practice, I can go through treatment every day, but (in-game) contact is different.”

Frank Kaminsky and Jeremy Lamb are also listed as questionable. Kaminsky has missed the last two games with a sprained right ankle while Lamb missed Saturday’s loss to the Lakers after suffering a shin contusion in Friday’s overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls.

Charlotte (9-16) is 1-10 away from home this season. The Hornets have lost their last eight road games since getting their win outside of Charlotte on Oct. 30 against Memphis.