The nickname “Playoff P” has been highly criticized after coming up small in recent playoff appearances. Now, with a new organization, Paul George looks to change that narrative this summer in Orlando. The six time all-star has been a great second man next to Kawhi Leonard and wants to carry momentum into a tough playoff journey in the Western Conference.
Since George’s emergence in 2013 as a premier all-star, his expectations were at an all time high to lead his team to a championship. Although he has had many memorable regular seasons, the energy in the postseason has been somewhat unpleasant. In key pivotal moments of a playoff series, George has disappeared in at times on what could have made a difference in changing the dynamic of a series.
During his time in Indiana, the Pacers were legitimate favorites to win a championship led by George. Even when everyone doubted them, Indiana believed they were significantly a better team than the LeBron James-led Miami Heat. Indiana at one point had Miami on the ropes and eliminating them from the playoffs. Unfortunately, George did not play at the highest level when it mattered most through many of those games. The poor performances resulted in Miami going to two consecutive NBA Finals in their run.
Game 7 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, George would only record 7 points on 2-9 shooting. After capitalizing in a pivotal Game 6, Indiana was suppose to go into South Beach in Game 7 and steal a victory. No one can say that George nor the rest of the Pacers did not believe they could knock down the Miami Big 3 in the playoffs. With the grit and toughness they displayed through the season, they were shortly enough to take down Miami in a playoff series.
George was obviously outplayed by LeBron. While the King dropped 32 points on the young all-star, George didn’t allow the game to come to him whatsoever. Indiana as a whole could not stop the dynamic shooting of the Miami Heat. Three pointers were falling for the Heat and the Pacers were late covering the perimeter. As a star, George had to understand how to set the tone for his team. With his poor performance, Indiana was flat the entire game and it resulted in a blowout loss.
Let’s fast forward now to 2018. In George’s first season for the Oklahoma City Thunder, the expectations were to knock off Russell Westbrook’s then-enemy Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors. But once they got to the first round against Utah, the team struggled drastically and couldn’t hold off a team led by then-rookie Donovan Mitchell.
George may have had one of the most horrendous game of any all-star in Game 6. In another must win game, George shot a gruesome 2/16 shooting from the field with only 5 points in Salt Lake City. It was unfortunate that Westbrook did not have any production out of his superstar to back up his 46 point performance. George’s ill-advised shot selections along with his unassertiveness allowed Utah to move on to the 2nd round against Houston.
Those are just two examples of George’s playoff disappointments. Over the past 6-7 years, George hasn’t elevated his game in the postseason enough to move past his competition. It is the reason why he has never been viewed as a superstar in his career. Having numerous MVP caliber seasons, it is up for George to keep the same energy going forward with his new team and new hopes for a championship.
In a new environment, George looks to embrace the given nickname “Playoff P”. With his new role as the 2nd man behind Kawhi, George is expected to play that Scottie Pippen type role in LA and make all the necessary plays in order to get through in the playoffs. Keep in mind that George has had this ups and downs throughout his first season in a Clipper uniform. With health and team chemistry being in his favor going forward, the Clippers are in great hands by the production of George.
Expect George to play in a much comfortable position this postseason. With the season suspended due to COVID-19, this gave George the golden opportunity to heal and stay ready for the return. There’s no pressure on him to carry the team with his new role on the Clippers. It will be interesting how he matches up with the tough teams in the West during their playoff run. Kawhi Leonard is hungry for his 3rd championship and needs all the support that is necessary. The team has a deep rotation of players who can come in and make a huge contribution. But the most important piece besides Leonard is PG-13.
George is eager to change the narrative of his playoff career. He is playing at home and in the best position he has ever been in for a championship. Let’s see how much he produces once the NBA season returns when the Clippers show their hunger for a championship.