While everyone else is busy giving their predictions for the NBA Finals, let me digress a bit and write about one of my favorite players—Paul George, whose team could very well have been playing in these Finals, had they been healthy enough.
He is otherwise known as Playoff P or Pandemic P—whichever iteration shows up, that is.
CRITICISM. After last year’s debacle in the NBA Bubble where the Los Angeles Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets and George gave an awful showing in Game 7, he was criticized for having the gall to refer to himself as “Playoff P.”
That’s criticism that’s well deserved. After all, if you refer to yourself as a big-time player in the playoffs, you had better back it up with your performances.
But for this year’s playoff, he has achieved some level of redemption and hopefully he can leverage this to an even better showing next season.
CLIPPERS. And by the way, this season has turned me into a Clippers fan and that’s not because of Paul George only. Consider how they clawed themselves back into winning the first two rounds of the Western Conference playoffs after being down 0-2, the first team in NBA history to do so.
And against the Phoenix Suns in the Conference Finals, they found themselves in the same 0-2 hole again and still managed to give a decent 4-2 result without their best player, Kawhi Leonard. These guys showed a lot of heart and character.
Which brings me to George.
With Kawhi out in Games 6 and 7 in the series against the Utah Jazz, the team with the best record in the regular season; George stepped up and silenced his critics.
Of course, we all know about those missed free throws in Game 2 against the Suns. But did he actually choke? Methinks not.
Choking is when someone is petrified of the moment and fails to deliver and perform what would otherwise be a simple act. The choker is overcome by the enormity of the moment.
It sure didn’t look like that to me. George looked confident enough in his free throws and his body language showed that. This is a player who has been known to drive to the hoop often to draw contact so he can get his points from the stripe. Truth is, sometimes they just don’t go in.
Even the best of the best miss free throws. Damian Lillard, an 87 percent free throw shooter and one of the most clutch players in the league otherwise known as “Dame time” missed two crucial free throws against the Los Angeles Clippers in last year’s bubble with his team down one with 18 seconds left.
Even the great Lebron James has had a few clunkers with the game on the line with him standing so alone and vulnerable on that free throw line.
And don’t forget. George was the reason his team had that lead in the first place. Paul George giveth, Paul George taketh away. That’s that.
But overall he played well in the playoffs. He set a record for most games with at least 20 points, and found himself in elite company with Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant.
And don’t forget this guy was running on fumes, having played almost every other day and leading his team within two games of the NBA Finals.
Sure, he’s inconsistent. And sometimes he says the darndest things. But he’s no scrub. He’s a legitimate star and one of the top 15 players in the NBA. This is a guy who already made the Eastern Conference Finals and did well against Lebron and that super team in Miami. This is a guy who broke his leg while playing for his country and was lucky enough to regain his All-Star form. Give the man his respect.
LAST ROUND. It’s on one of my good friends, Stephen Villamor (Step V), who recently celebrated his birthday. Cheers!