After Paul George scored 27 points for the LA Clippers in Game 1 of the first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks, the six-time NBA All-Star suffered a dramatic drop-off in offensive production the next three games, two of the three ending in defeat for the Clippers. On Tuesday, George came back to life with a 35-point outburst. Following the game, the 10-year veteran was surprisingly honest on the reasons for his recent struggles and said that it was all behind him.
Paul George struggles in playoffs
In Paul George’s career, he’s elevated his game in the postseason dating all the way back to his days with the Indiana Pacers, which has earned him the nickname “Playoff P.” Even last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, when he averaged 28.0 points per game during the regular season, he finished the postseason with a 28.6 points-per-game average.
This season in LA, his first with the Clippers, George appeared to be following the same pattern after one game. After averaging 21.5 points during the regular season—the lower number a result of playing second fiddle to Kawhi Leonard—George scored 27 points in the series opener against the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs at the bubble in Orlando.
In Game 2, George’s production fell off a cliff. He scored 14 points and the Clippers lost by 13. In Game 3, the Clippers managed to overcome George’s woeful 11-point performance and won. After two sub-par performances, most thought Playoff P would come to life in Game 4. It didn’t happen. In fact, he got worse. George went 3-of-14 from the field, scored just nine points, and the Clippers lost.
Paul George gets hammered by critics
Following Paul George’s third consecutive poor performance, the critics came out en masse. In addition to getting blasted on social media, the always opinionated Charles Barkley took a shot.
“You can’t be giving yourself nicknames and going 3-for-72,” Barkley said on Inside The NBA.
However, not everyone was doubting George. Former Miami Heat superstar, Dwyane Wade, who faced George in the postseason on multiple occasions, said the Clippers star is worthy of the nickname.
“Paul George has done it too many times for anyone to question his playoff abilities,” Wade wrote on Twitter. “His shoulders must be really bothering him but he hasn’t giving himself any excuses. I’ve witnessed Playoff P it’s a real thing.”
George explains why he has struggled
On Tuesday, Playoff P finally reappeared, and did so in a big way. Paul George went 12-of-18 from the field, including 4-of-8 from behind the three-point line. He led all scorers with 35 points. After the game, George addressed his struggles in a revealing post-game press conference and talked about how the bubble got the best of him.
“It was just a little bit of everything. I underestimated mental health, honestly. I had anxiety, a little bit of depression, just being locked in here. I just wasn’t there. I checked out. For games two, three, and four, I just felt like I wasn’t here.
“Everybody reached out. Whether it was in person or a text. All of my guys showed up for me. They helped me. They were there when I needed them. I’m indebted to this team. I love the energy, the synergy, the camaraderie, the brotherhood. I can’t thank this squad enough.”
Paul George’s honest admission shows there’s a side to the game that most fans don’t appreciate, much less think about. They’ve been confined to the bubble for almost two months without any personal interaction with family or friends.
While they are paid millions to play a game, they are still human, and dealing with the adverse set of circumstances affects some more than others. George’s mental well-being is much more important than a game, and by the sounds of it, his recognition of this might just be the key that helps propel the Clippers on a deep run in the playoffs.
All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.