Paul George has gotten a lot of grief, including from us here at Ballers PH. His up-and-down performances, and his two missed free throws at the end of Game 2 against the Phoenix Suns, gave a lot of us doubters ammo.
Well, with the season on the line, and still no Kawhi Leonard in sight, Paul George shut everyone up by putting on a strong second half show that pushed the Clippers over the hump and gave them a 116-102 win while cutting the series deficit to 3-2.
George had a relatively quiet first half, scoring only 10 points, but turned it on in the third quarter and poured in 20 on a wide array of threes, midrangers, and drives.
His scoring explosion came at a pivotal moment. He scored his first bucket of the third quarter with 9:51 left, but the Suns then used a 6-0 run to grab their first lead of the game at 62-61 with a Chris Paul pullup with 8:27 left in the period.
It was a pivotal moment for the Clippers, as they had built a huge lead as early as the first quarter, and it was one of those times where they needed a star to shine.
In the absence of the ailing Leonard, George stepped up and poured it on, scoring 18 more points during a huge run that saw the Clippers enter the fourth quarter with a 91-78 lead.
To be fair, George had a number of bad moments in the game as well, including a costly turnover that allowed the Suns to get an and-1 that cut the lead to 98-94. He followed that up by committing a loose ball foul after a made free throw, but the Suns weren’t able to punish the mistake.
George recovered well after that incident, though, and scored eight more points. By the time he hit his last pair of free throws, the Clippers had a 114-100 lead with 3:05 left in the game that was never threatened.
PG-13 has had plenty of shooting struggles in the postseason, but he shot 15 of 20 from the field and 3 of 6 from three, while making all eight of his free throws in Game 5. He finished with 41 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and 6 turnovers.
Most importantly, he did all of this when everything was on the line. There was no Game 6 in sight without this performance, and he deserves all of the credit for putting the Clippers on his back.
He definitely got a lot of help, as Marcus Morris Sr. poured in 22 points, while Reggie Jackson contributed 23 of his own. DeMarcus Cousins also made the most of his 11 minutes on the court and he added 15 points, 2 rebounds and 3 assists in his limited time.
However, the night belonged to the oft-maligned George. In the face of all the doubters, and with the specter of elimination looming over his head, he put on the best playoff performance of his career.
For that, the man deserves credit. He complimented his teammates in his postgame interview, but everyone on that Clippers team knows who kept them alive today.