The needle of the “Playoff P” meter has reverted to “not a joke” territory.
Paul George bounced back from a string of three straight putrid performances with a 35-point effort as the Los Angeles Clippers dominated their way to a Game 5 win. The Clippers now hold a 3-2 lead over the Dallas Mavericks in the first round.
With a final score of 154-111, the Clippers set a franchise record for points scored in the playoffs. The 154-point mark was the third most of any team in NBA playoff history.
And after the game, George acknowledged that his recent struggles have extended off the court, too.
Paul George details anxiety, depression: ‘I was in a bad place’
Entering Tuesday, George had received more than his fair share of online mockery after a miserable string of shooting performances. It started with him going 4-of-17 in Game 2, followed by 3-of-16 and 3-of-14 nights in the following games.
All told, George averaged 11.3 points per game with 21.3% field goal shooting (16.0% from 3-point range) between Games 2 and 4. The Clippers went 1-2 in those games, little surprise given how the team has been built with the expectation of two do-everything wings in George and Kawhi Leonard. Leonard has obliged so far in the playoffs, while George has struggled and made the ill-advised decision of wading into the waters of social media.
That all led to George being aggressive early and often in a pivotal Game 5, scoring nine points on 4-of-7 shooting in the first quarter. George eventually finished with 35 points on 12-of-18 shooting with three rebounds and two assists.
When speaking with reporters after the game, George said he feels he has turned the corner from some of the mental struggles he has been enduring in the NBA bubble.
“Whatever it was, the bubble got the best of me,” George said. “I was just in a dark place. I really wasn’t here, I checked out. These past couple games, it was just difficult. Shout out to the people that stood behind me, that were in my corner. The positivity, my teammates, my family, friends, everybody. Thank you to everybody who reached out to me.
“I was just in a bad place. I found my way, I’m back and I look forward to the rest of this run.”
George later added that he has been dealing with anxiety and depression, saying he “underestimated” the mental health ramifications of isolation in the bubble. A talk with a team psychiatrist reportedly preceded his breakout performance, and a record night for the Clippers.
Clippers’ Paul George said he talked to psychiatrist after slump before Game 5 breakthrough: “I underestimated mental health, honestly. I had anxiety and a little bit of depression. Being locked in here (in the bubble), I just wasn’t there. I checked out.” pic.twitter.com/rwOzAnxSKK— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) August 26, 2020
Clippers much-improved vs. Mavs
Leonard was his usual self with 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting with seven rebounds and four assists, with five other Clippers scoring in double digits. That included a resurgent 19-point, 11-rebound night from Montrezl Harrell, another Clipper that has struggled in the bubble.
As a team, the Clippers shot 63.1% from the field and a comical 22-of-35 from 3-point range.
More importantly for the Clippers, they found the aggressive game plan on defense they needed against the NBA’s most efficient regular-season offense. The team did everything it could to stifle Luka Doncic and make the rest of the Mavs make plays, frequently trapping the star that burned them so much in Game 4.
Doncic, still without co-star Kristaps Porzingis (knee), finished with 22 points on 6-of-17 shooting, seven rebounds and four assists, a quiet night by his standards. He didn’t play a single minute in a fourth quarter of a game that was long gone for the Mavs, still nursing an ankle sprain suffered in Game 3.
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