Paul George: Here’s where superstar can reclaim his reputation

LA Clippers guard Paul George (13) reacts against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of game two of the Western Conference Finals. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
LA Clippers guard Paul George (13) reacts against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of game two of the Western Conference Finals. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

Paul George took a lot of heat for the LA Clippers Tuesday night loss to the Phoenix Suns in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals.

Plenty of it was certainly overblown, as FS1 analyst Skip Bayles pointed out below:

PG scored a lot of points (26), chipped in six boards and six rebounds, and shot a nice 43.5% from the field. People will define George’s performance off of his free throw shooting at the end, and that’s not an accurate representation of how he played. There is, however, something PG can do immediately in Game 3 to avoid a potential reputation-changing event like this to happen again.

If Paul George gets off to a fast start, he and the LA Clippers aren’t even in that position on Tuesday night.

Paul George has certainly had his share of quick starts to playoff games this year for the LA Clippers, but he’s also struggled to get going at times. Tuesday night was one of those rough starts.

He was two for seven in the first quarter. Now, there have been games where George has started off poorly, but ended up being a major contributor to getting the Clippers back into the game late. Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals rings a bell.

The Clippers obviously didn’t come out on top in that game, and that happened here as well.

Like Bayless pointed out, George had 17 points entering the final 2:40 of the game. When a superstar does that, he puts a lot of pressure on himself to have a perfect finish to the game.

Even when the guy put up nine clutch points in those last 2:40 and gave the Clippers a lead, the job wasn’t done yet.

Everybody misses free throws, and George hadn’t looked particularly strong at the line throughout the game in general. He was five for eight entering that last trip to the line, and he looked very nervous when he was shooting; especially for the second shot.

If PG had played even just a bit better offensively earlier in the game, he wouldn’t have had so much pressure on him to hit those shots.

That’s the real issue here. There’s so much pressure on the $34 million man to deliver now that his superstar teammate Kawhi Leonard is out, and there’s a lot of weight on his shoulders.

If George hadn’t gone two for seven in the opening quarter, or he hadn’t gone 4 for 12 in the first half, or he hadn’t already missed three of eight free throws before that last trip to the line, there would have been much less weight on the shoulders of PG.

The Clippers trailed after each quarter, and coming back in the fourth of an away playoff game is always tough, especially when the best player on the team isn’t out there.

The truth is, PG didn’t have a bad game overall. He didn’t have a negative +/-, and again, put up 26/6/6. If he could’ve just been a little bit more efficient earlier in the game, however, he would have been in a better headspace to shoot those free throws.

He was one for eight from three. If he could have just gotten one or two more to drop, the entire dynamic of the game could have completely changed, and he’s more than capable of hitting three three-point shots out of eight.

Team needs a healthy Morris to get back into the WCF. dark. Next

This was a team loss. Paul George is just one player who should have been better. That being said, the Clippers are going to have a much easier time winning these next two games in LA to tie the series up if he can get going earlier.