Clippers forward Paul George is playing like an MVP of late. 24 hours after being named Western Conference Player of the Week, the 11-year veteran scored 36 points in a Tuesday road win against his former team, the Indiana Pacers, shooting 13-for-25 and flirting with a triple-double through eight assists and seven rebounds.
It was George’s fourth-straight game of more than 30 points and the sixth-straight W for the Clippers who own the fifth-best record in the league and are making a major push as the regular season enters its backstretch.
“[Paul’s] making all the right passes and reads out of the pick and roll,” head coach Ty Lue said after Tuesday’s win. “When he’s playing at a high level like this, we’re a tough team.”
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A little more than a week ago, however, things looked far less rosy for George. His toe edema, a swelling of his right second toe that forced him to miss seven games earlier in the season, had returned and the debilitating effects were readily apparent. George sat out the Clippers final two games of March, and then, on April 1, in a loss to Denver, George went 5-for-15 and struggled to get any sort of lift. One game later, against the crosstown Lakers, George’s woes continued, committing five turnovers and shooting 6-for-14.
But then, on April 6, he poured in 36 against the Portland Trail Blazers and so began his current hot streak. Over his last four games, George is averaging 34.3 points, 6.3 assists and 5.0 rebounds, all while shooting 55.2% from the floor and an incredible 60.0% from three. Oh and he hasn’t missed a single free throw, going 23-for-23 from the line.
So what explanation is there for such a dramatic turnaround? According to George, in large part, it’s a classic case of mind over matter.
Mind Over Matter
Speaking to reporters after the Pacers’ game, George became somewhat philosophical when asked about the toe, specifically how he’s been able to play so well despite its current flare-up.
“The injury allowed me to kind of make an excuse for myself,” explained George. “But then, when I put it in perspective, if I’m gonna play then why not just give it my all and put that to the side. That was the mindset I came in with, just to play through it. If I’m going to play don’t let it limit me. It’s just been paying off. I feel like I’ve had a breakthrough because of that mindset and I’ve been good.”
Of course, a zen outlook is not the only factor in George’s recovery. Rest and treatment have also played a big part, along with George realizing that his being healthy is more important than trying to be a hero.
“Icing, making sure I’m icing,” answered George, when asked about his treatment specifically. “I’m contrasting, cold hot tub and then just getting massages, that’s been helping. But honestly, it’s just been taking the time that I can get off. I’ve been taking that time off to let it heal and let it rest. It hasn’t been flaring up, so that’s been working. Hopefully, at some point, it just goes away and [becomes] an afterthought, nothing that I’m worried about going forward. But it is what it is. Injuries are a part of the game, it’s just about managing it.”
‘We Are Just Having Fun as a Unit’
George’s mental breakthrough is coming at just the right time for the Clippers. L.A.’s other megastar, Kawhi Leonard, is day-to-day with a foot injury of his own and has been forced to sit out the last two games. The Clippers also recently found out that starting point guard and renowned defensive irritant Patrick Beverley will miss at least three weeks with a broken hand. This is in addition to the continued absence of center Serge Ibaka, who has been out since mid-March with back spasms and has no timetable for a return.
But George is not the only reason for the Clippers’ current win-streak amidst all the injuries. Veteran forward Marcus Morris, a career 12.1 scorer, has gone for 33 and 22 over the last two games, and Nicolas Batum has averaged 15 points over the last three contests while swatting away a total of nine shots over that time.
Morris and Batum, like George, have kept focused and ready as they look to eventually make a run at the franchise’s first-ever NBA title. And it’s paying off not only in wins.
“I’ve been locked in, focused on my assignments, I’ve just been at peace. I’m loving and enjoying the game,” George said after the Clippers’ April 11 win over Detroit. “I think the team is coming together. You feel it. Last thing I want to do is leave a stone unturned. So I’ve just been preparing, sticking to the script, sticking to the process, enjoying the process. We are just having fun as a unit.”