After Kawhi Leonard went indefinitely out with a sprained knee, Paul George channeled his old way of thinking of being the Indiana franchise leader and produced arguably his best game and moment as a member of the LA Clippers.
Playing in front of a hostile crowd that taunted his every move, George delivered a superstar performance with 37 points, 16 rebounds in the playoffs, and five assists that led the Clippers to a 119-111 win over the Utah Jazz in a pivotal one Game 5 before 6.007 in the Vivint Arena. The Clippers took a 3-2 lead in the series and could prevail at the Staples Center on Friday.
“It wasn’t a secret,” said George, what he had to do without Leonard. “I knew I had to be big tonight and be big in the future.”
George was then asked if this was what “Playoff P” – the nickname he coined for himself before Oklahoma City faced Utah in the 2018 postseason – looks like.
“Sure,” answered George with a smile.
By joining Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant as the only two players to have at least 35 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in a game this postseason, the Clippers are just one win away, the franchise’s first Western Conference final in the second Result to reach postseason.
And he helped the Clippers make it without Leonard, the team’s best player. Leonard sprained his right knee in the fourth quarter of Game 4 on Monday and was unable to finish the final 4:35 of the game.
Head coach Ty Lue said the Clippers are awaiting the results of further testing to see what the schedule for Leonard’s recovery is. Leonard originally flew to Salt Lake City with the team before returning to Los Angeles.
Leonard told his teammates late Tuesday that he would be out for Wednesday’s game, sources said Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.
“Oh man it was a blow,” said George of his reaction when he found out. “It’s been a tough blow. But you know, at the end of the day we only want what’s best for Kawhi. It’s positive, he can rest. Hopefully we can hold it. But it’s a ‘positive.” You know, he has a new little boy here. Lots of positive things, lots of love for him and his family. “
In front of a crowd who didn’t love him, going back to the 2018 first round series between Thunder and Jazz, George acted aggressively and stayed that way even when Utah threatened to bury the Clippers under an avalanche of 3-pointers. Jazz had drilled 17 of 30 triples by half-time, with Bojan Bogdanovic ruining his first six attempts in the first quarter alone.
But George hit nine of his first 14 shots, scoring 22 points in the first half, and the Clippers followed their all-star guard.
“He’s amazing,” said point guard Reggie Jackson, who hit numerous big shots when the Clippers needed them and ended up with 22 points. “Paul is special. … you will have the naysayers and critics, but that’s what you love about this game. You just have to try to get past it.”
Jackson said George “seemed calm” after hearing the news about Leonard.
“It didn’t seem to hurt that much,” said Jackson. “He was ready to put the team on their back to carry extra weight and he showed up and proved why he is one of the best players in the league and why he was amazing to us when we played him the whole Had the season … He just kept on playing with conviction. “
The Clippers were heavily criticized in the last postseason when they lost a 3-1 lead against Denver in the second round. George also took on heat from struggling with his shot in the bubble last postseason which culminated in Game 7 when he shot 4 out of 16 for 10 points. He later admitted that he was depressed in the bladder and that it was affecting his mental health and gambling.
George came into this season with a determination to have a boom year and to wipe out the bad taste of the last postseason. Lue said George said to him before the morning shooting on Wednesday, “T, I’ve got us.”
“Have a lot of respect for PG,” Lue said of George, who played 40 minutes. “Just like you can’t judge a man’s career by what he’s doing on a series. I know a lot of great players who have a bad series or a bad game or two bad games on a series, but whenever he has a bad game You want to make a big deal of it. It’s whatever. You know, just keep playing. Stay who you are and at the end of the day you can live with the results. “
George has silenced even his loudest critics lately. He has scored 30 or more points in three games in a row. Utah’s scorching shootout finally cooled off in the third quarter, but the Jazz made one final run, reducing a 10-point gap to 110-106 with two minutes to go. George responded by burying a 19-foot jumper while it was being fouled. He converted the three-point game and hit two free throws too late to seal the victory.
George shot a total of 12 out of 22, with only one of his field goal attempts remaining unchallenged, according to data from ESPN Stats and Information. He also helped keep the Jazz on 4-of-13 shooting and forced turnovers as the main defender.
If he can keep up his latest rift in the series and continue to live out his old mentality when he franchised the Indiana Pacers, George has a chance to lift the Clippers to the Western Conference finals for the first time in their 50 seasons – According to ESPN Stats and Information Research, most players played by a team without making the league’s penultimate playoff round under active NFL / NBA / MLB / NHL franchises.
“I was in Indiana where I had to run a franchise,” said George, who had to run without Leonard. “The nice thing here is that I can do that to one of the best in the world in Kawhi. Now Kawhi is down. It was just that mindset to set the tone back in Indy and come out and run a ball club.
“This is really the mindset that I came out with. It wasn’t something I had to prove. It wasn’t anything I had to surprise myself with. I just dug myself into a place I’ve already been in my career It was, and it’s just. It came down to trust. Everyone allowed me to lead and they pushed me further. They just kept me in a great mental space. “