All the Pandemic P chatter out in the Twitter-verse seems to have evaporated. All the needling over the two missed free throws at the end of Game 2—and the missed free throws in Game 4—that’s gone silent, too. It might not be enough to save this Western Conference finals series but for now, at least, Paul George has rescued his reputation as a playoff performer.
He was jeered with the “Pandemic P” nickname after his meager performance in last year’s conference semis, which saw Denver storm back from a 3-1 deficit to eliminate L.A. He erased that on Monday.
And what a way to do it. George was scorching from start to finish in Game 5 in Phoenix, with the Clippers facing elimination and the Suns hoping to celebrate a trip to the Finals with a win. Instead, George shot 15-for-20 from the field, made three of his six 3-point attempts and, yes, made all eight of his free-throw attempts for a career postseason high of 41 points, to go with 13 rebounds and six assists.
In doing so, George joined an exclusive club, marking his 18th straight game with 20-plus points in the playoffs. Only three other players, according to ESPN, have done that: Michael Jordan (three times), Kevin Durant (twice) and Kobe Bryant. All accomplished that feat on their way to the NBA Finals.
Paul George Predicted Better Start for Clippers
Give George some credit. After Game 4, he seemed to have an understanding of what, exactly, needed to change for both the Clippers as a while and for himself. The Clippers stumbled out of the gate in that one, falling behind, 14-2, in the opening minutes and, despite a comeback, never held a lead in the game. George was 2-for-10 from the field in the first quarter of that game.
“I think (we) just try to find rhythm inside closer to the basket,” George said. “You know, try to get a game plan, just to get Ayton to step up by taking a couple long ones. Just to put it on their mind to try to get Ayton to come up so I can play down in the paint a little bit. Tonight, I couldn’t get it to go. You know, it’s just what it is. I feel good. Not going to let that be an excuse or have something to fall back on. I feel good. When I’m out there, I feel good.”
On Monday it was the Clippers who were hot out of the gate, building an early 20-5 lead. George got out of the way of teammate Marcus Morris in the early going, as Morris came out with 13 points in the game’s first eight minutes.
George had 11 at halftime, then exploded for 20 in the third quarter, racking up key baskets to keep any Suns comeback attempt at bay. He was aggressive attacking the basket, attempting a whopping seven shots at the rim. George had been averaging 4.8 such shots per game in the playoffs.
Ty Lue Given Game 5 Accolades
Even with George’s memorable performance, the Clippers still have a long row to hoe ahead of them, needing two more wins to pull off the upset of the Suns and reach the Finals for the first time in franchise history.
But they can draw some confidence from coach Ty Lue, who had his praises widely sung after Game 5. He is now 10-2 all-time when coaching the playoffs with his team facing elimination.
Some recent former players took notice.
And there was, also, just flat-out media praise.
George and Lue can soak up some credit. It’s well-deserved. But they’ve got 48 hours until they do it again, seek to stave off elimination in a must-win Game 6.