Paul George
(Josh Lefkowitz / Getty Images)

The Paul George Slander Needs To Stop, Or At Least Slow Down

2020 was not a great year for Paul George. After the Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets in the second round, fingers pointed everywhere. Head Coach Doc Rivers was fired and Tyronn Lue named his replacement, but most of the fingers pointed at the man for whom the Clippers had given up a king’s ransom in the previous offseason. From fans on social media to media outlets themselves, “Playoff P” was joked at and blamed for the Clippers’ collapse, but it is safe to say that narrative has changed in 2021.

George has excelled throughout the 2021 playoffs and during Kawhi Leonard’s absence in particular. A lot can be said about the decision-making of LA’s primary option, but the remaining cast has simply gotten it done. Their playoff run has not been without mistakes, but the Clippers are alive and kicking against the Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference Finals. George redeemed his missed clutch free throws from Game 2 with a superb 41-point performance on 75% shooting from the field. He also silenced the crowd in Utah with a clutch 37-point performance in Game 5 of the second round. Despite George’s brilliance, however, he has not created the Clippers’ playoff success alone.

Everybody Loves Some Depth

What has also helped the Clippers tremendously is the ability for other guys to step up without Leonard. Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris Sr. have stepped up throughout the postseason but apparently saved their best for the past few games. Demarcus Cousins is rediscovering some of his All-Star ability off the bench. Terrence Mann’s career night against the Utah Jazz in the closeout game of the second round deserves a look back, though he has been less effective since.

All of these players have solidified Lue’s rotation ever since Leonard went down with a knee injury. This is still a very talented roster without the two-time Finals MVP, and the team is playing with a chip on its collective shoulder. George cannot do it all himself and the support from the other Clippers has been monumental in keeping LA’s season alive. It goes to show that good coaching and giving other guys a chance can work wonders in the NBA.

Looking Ahead

The Clippers will have their fans behind them as they look to survive in Game 6 Wednesday night. Staples Center will no doubt be erupting as the game will be the biggest in the team’s history. If George and company can get it done, then I see Game 7 as a wash, with either team having a real shot to win. Chris Paul and the Suns will also have a point to prove for not finishing the job on their home court, and it would be poetic to watch the former Clipper reach his first-ever Finals in front of his former fans.

Regardless of the outcome, we are in for an explosive matchup in Los Angeles. Paul George has already joined an exclusive list of postseason scoring in NBA history. Only Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, and Michael Jordan have scored at least 20 points in each of their first 18 games in a single postseason, and it seems likely that George will extend that scoring run to 19 games.

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