With Kawhi Leonard sidelined for what might be the entire regular season, this was the year that Paul George would be able to captain the Los Angeles Clippers‘ ship and see how far he could take this team without his cohort. Although the Clippers are struggling to start the season with a 2-4 record, it certainly hasn’t been because of lackluster performances from George.
Against the Thunder on Monday evening, George turned in his most recent impressive performance, carrying the Clippers to their second win of the season after falling behind by 15 points in the second quarter. It wasn’t a perfect game by any means for George, as he put up only five points in the first half. But he wasn’t going to let his team lose this game, and he went off for 15 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, including two back-to-back 3-pointers to close the gap to a 3-point deficit.
A couple of possessions later, it was George’s mid-range jumper that gave the Clippers their first lead since the first quarter, and the team didn’t look back from there. The win helped the Clippers avoid a 1-5 start to the season, but even at 2-4, George isn’t worried about his team.
“We hate to put ourselves in that position, but honestly that’s when we click and play our best is when we’re playing from behind,” George said. “We just never think we’re out of a game, it [was like that] last year and this year we have that same confidence. We’re gonna continue to fight and give ourselves the best chance.”
Paul’s performance this season is ironically reminiscent of his final year with the Oklahoma City Thunder, where he averaged a career-high 28 points a night and finished third in MVP voting.
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It’s also a great reminder that despite all of the jokes that have been thrown George’s way about his performance in the past, mainly during L.A.’s playoff run in the Orlando bubble back in 2020, that he’s still one of the most dominant two-way players in the league. George was completely locked in against the Thunder, and although Oklahoma City isn’t quite a fearsome opponent, having won just one game this season, the Clippers as a team have been abysmal on offense to start the year, ranking 26th in the league It shows that despite L.A.’s early-season struggles with the offense, George can still outweigh all of that bad and win you a game.
If George manages to carry the Clippers to a high playoff seed in the West, he would have to be considered in MVP voting for his performance. Not only is he scoring at an incredibly high clip, ranking fourth in the league in points per game (27.6), he’s also leading the league in steals per game (3.4), and is shooting the ball at a career-high 50 percent from the field. He’ll have to get the Clippers out of the early hole they’ve found themselves in to start the season, but if he does that and keeps up his production, then it won’t be surprising if his name is on that ballot at the end of the season.