NBA Basketball

Timberwolves-Thunder Preview

(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

Paul George continues to carry the Oklahoma City Thunder through December.

Going into Sunday's home game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, George is averaging 31.4 points in 10 games this month.

The Thunder are coming off a 107-106 win at Utah on Saturday night that stretched their winning streak to four.

"We're just battling," George said. "We're starting to hit our stride. We're playing great ball."

George is a big reason for that. Against the Jazz, he scored 43 points -- 22 in the third quarter -- for his third 40-point game of the month and his second in a row.

While George has been on fire from the field this month, Russell Westbrook has struggled from the floor, shooting less than 39 percent including his 3 for 17 performance against the Jazz.

"His offense, I'm not worried about it," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "It'll get better. It'll continue to come.

"For us to be the team that we hope to be, he's got to be a big part of that."

The win over Utah lifted Oklahoma City into a tie for the best record in the Western Conference.

Minnesota is next-to-last in the conference, though it is still well within striking distance of a playoff spot, just three games back of the No. 8 spot.

The Timberwolves are likely to be very thin at point guard against the Thunder.

Starting point guard Jeff Teague has missed the last three games due to the lingering effects of a left ankle injury suffered early in the season.

Teague could miss another week or so.

When Teague was forced out with the injury, he was replaced by veteran Derrick Rose, who filled in capably there.

But Rose suffered a left ankle injury of his own in the second half of Friday's 124-98 loss at San Antonio.

"I think I did a bad job listening to my body and managing my body," Rose told reporters after the loss to the Spurs.

There is a chance Rose could play against the Thunder, as he's listed as questionable, though he only participated in the walkthrough part of Saturday's practice.

If Rose can't go, Tyus Jones figures to get the majority of the time at the point, though the injuries have also opened things up for veteran Jerryd Bayless.

Bayless, who was acquired Nov. 12 in the trade that send Jimmy Butler to Philadelphia, hadn't played in a regular-season game since Feb. 9 before Friday's game in San Antonio. Bayless suffered a knee injury during training camp that kept him out for the early part of the season.

After his season debut, Bayless said he felt great, though he was disappointed his first shot at playing time in Minnesota came thanks to a teammates' injury.

"I know what I'm still capable of," Bayless said. "I just need opportunity. For that first step just to be able to get out there, I'm happy about that -- really happy."

Minnesota has dropped six of its last seven games, giving up an average of more than 119 points per game during that stretch.

Updated December 23, 2018

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