For two games, L.A. Clippers forward Paul George was less than efficient from the field and struggled offensively despite scoring more than 20 points in each game. And two games, the result was a Clippers loss against the Utah Jazz in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
But George got hot early in Game 3 and didn’t let up, scoring 31 points on 12-of-24 shooting — including 6-of-10 from the 3-point line — to hand the Jazz their first loss of the series. George also added five assists. The Clippers were plus-14 with him on the floor.
“We’re a different team,” Clippers coach Lue said when asked how George getting off to a good start impacts the team. “We know that. It’s been that like that all season long and we’ve been great.”
George put together a stretch in the second quarter where made two consecutive 3-pointers to expand LA’s lead to 16 and gave him 20 first-half points. Earlier in the game, after the Jazz got off to a hot start with eight straight points, George went to work.
“I thought [George] really set the tone early,” Lue said. “After that 8-0 run, I thought he really got it going. I thought he really was decisive about what he wanted to do.”
Jazz forward Joe Ingles said that in other games of the series, George got some good looks at the basket, but missed them. That wasn’t the case, however, in Game 3.
“The biggest difference was he made some shots,” Ingles said.
Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell thought George and the rest of the Clippers had an easy time getting the shots they wanted. He added, though, that the Jazz will need to be better disruptors in Game 4.
“They have talented players,” Mitchell said. “We kind of let him get comfortable and he get to his spots. … At the end of the day, he hit some shots, but we can make it tough for him.”
George wasn’t the only Clippers superstar to get going Saturday. Kawhi Leonard also showed out with his 34 points, 12 rebounds five assists and two steals.
Aside from the offensive end of the floor, Lue was pleased with the way George accepted the challenge on the defensive end.
“The biggest thing, I think, defensively just taking the challenge with [Mitchell], with Ingles, with those guys — closing out but also stopping penetration,” Lue said. “[George] did a great job of that tonight.”