Whether it’s because of the Mavericks’ sticky defense, a legitimate Paul George slump or just blind luck, the Los Angeles Clippers have gone three games now without getting much production from one of their stars.
The 6-8 George joined Kawhi Leonard in LA this year with designs on the NBA championship.
At the moment, getting by the Mavericks is proving quite the challenge. And George has had struggles. After scoring 27 points and shooting 10-of-22 in Game 1, George has made just 10-of-47 shots (21.3 percent) in the last three games.
He’s 4-of-25 from 3-point range and has averaged 11 points, far below his 21.5-point regular-season average.
The Clippers, however, do not expect this to last.
“I mean, it’s Paul George,” said guard Landry Shamet. “He’s got his own shoe. He’s been on the cover of a video game. It’s not the first time he’s been publicly scrutinized. I don’t think it’s anything new to him.
“Obviously (there’s) a lot of pressure with this team. We have championship expectations. Yeah, he’s not making shots but is he still being a good teammate? Yeah. Is he still moving the ball, playing hard defensively? Absolutely. A good basketball player is not just defined by the shots he makes.”
All true. But when you are in a playoff series against a team that was a significant underdog and it’s tied at two wins apiece, clearly the Clippers have had some troubles.
And it’s not just George. The loss of Patrick Beverley to injury has hurt their vaunted defense. And the Mavericks deserve credit for making plays at crucial junctures.
“I just let him keep shooting,” Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers said. “Listen – we’ve got to get him more shots, and that’s on us. That’s on all of us.
“He got great looks last night, and I just want him to get more of those and take more of those. You know, he needs to shoot 20-plus times. He needs to get the ball up in the air. And he will. He will.”
George is no stranger to tough times. In addition to the brutal leg injury he suffered in 2014 that cost him virtually a whole season, he and Russell Westbrook could not get Oklahoma City out of the first round of the playoffs the last two seasons.
Now he’s with Leonard on a team with legitimate championship aspirations.
“He’s a great player,” Mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle said. “He’s got a lot of playoff experience (80 games). We just got to keep trying to make it as difficult as we can for him and Leonard. And Lou Will (Williams), too. The guy’s a walking bucket. These guys are very, very challenging guys to play.
“When you’re in a long playoff series, you don’t ever get feeling too good about a great player that’s had a couple off games. We just got to keep having ultimate respect for him and try to make it as difficult as possible.”
Rest assured, that if and when George breaks loose, it will be a much different looking Clippers’ team.
“Under the scope that we’re under, yeah, he’s going to get ridiculed a little bit, but in these four walls with our team, we’ve all got his back,” Shamet said. “Nobody is worried about that. He’s playing the right way.
“He’s taking the shots that we want him to take, and one of these nights he’s going to have 40 and everybody is going to say: oh, yeah, well, he was supposed to. That’s what he does. He’s a scorer. Nobody here is worried about it. It’s going to come.”