Kawhi Leonard had a great career with the San Antonio Spurs and was an integral part of their success. His trade request to leave them for LA has proved problematic, as the Lakers only keep losing while George is carrying his team on his surgically-repaired shoulders.
It’s easy to envision Paul George is a well-known figure in the looking around and seeing limitless fields of maize instead of the cityscape of downtown Los Angeles. That’s because George is the only star on his squad for the first time since joining the Indiana Pacers. The Los Angeles Clippers are without Kawhi Leonard, perhaps for the rest of the season, thus George must face the whole burden of leading the club.
George’s shoulders aren’t affecting him yet, despite the fact that the season is just four games old. Instead, it’s his back, which bears the weight of the whole enterprise. George fell to the mean in mean manner after opening the season on fire with 70 points on 27-of-48 shooting in his first two games. In LA’s past two games, he scored 26 points on 12-of-36 shooting. It’s taking a toll on the six-time All-NBA star, who confesses.
Paul George is ice-cold when it comes to 3-point shooting.
Paul George had his worst shooting performance from 3-point range in over three years in the Clippers’ shocking defeat at home to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 27.
Against Cleveland, George was 0-for-8 from outside the arc. The Clippers, predictably, replied with their lowest point total in in a year. Los Angeles scored only 79 points against the Cavs, their lowest total since a humiliating 124–73 loss to the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center on Dec. 27, 2020.
It was George’s first miss from outside the arc since March 24, when he went 0-for-6 in a 33-point win against the San Antonio Spurs. One would think that the rout would have softened the shock.
In LA’s first two games, George went 10-of-23 from beyond the arc. Since then, he’s gone 2-of-16. It’s small-sample-size theater at its best, but as the legs become tired, the jump shot is frequently the first thing to go.
The fact that George has attempted just six free throws in four games, all of them in the Clippers’ defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies on Oct. 23, is perhaps more revealing of how he is attempting to preserve energy. Last season, George averaged 4.2 foul throws per game and had a career-high 7.0 attempts per night with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
George freely confesses to being exhausted.
Paul George admits that carrying the Clippers’ weight is already wearing him down. | Getty Images/Thearon W. Henderson
Defensively, Paul George is still killing it. He has a 4.0 steals per game average. George led the NBA in thefts two seasons ago, so this isn’t shocking. He has also been named to the All-Defensive team four times. His defensive flexibility, as a switchable 6-foot-8 wing, works nicely with Leonard (when he’s, you know, playing).
According to SI.com, George revealed he was having some fatigued legs after the defeat to Cleveland:
“As the games go, my body will get used to carrying this strain.” That weariness will dissipate after 35 minutes.”
George is averaging 33.0 minutes per game, but that number is skewed since he only played 27 minutes in a rout of the Portland Trail Blazers on Oct. 25.
Still, it’s not like George hasn’t had a lot on his plate. He played 36.9 minutes per game on average in 2018–19. Last season, he averaged 33.7 points per game.
The Clippers’ dilemma is that without George blazing on all cylinders, they don’t have much else going for them offensively.
As a team, the Clippers are shooting horribly.
Despite his troubles in the previous two games, Paul George has a 46.4 percent overall shooting percentage. The other perimeter-oriented players are in short supply. Luke Kennard, who comes off the bench, is shooting 45.7 percent overall and 45.8 percent from beyond the arc. The Clippers’ season quickly deteriorates after that.
The sheer amount of bricks hurled at Terance Mann (41.9 percent and 33.3 percent, respectively), Eric Bledsoe (40.5 percent and 15.4 percent), and Reggie Jackson (32.4 percent and 30.0 percent on 10 3-point attempts per game) are jeopardizing the paint on rims all over the West Coast right now.
Last season, Jackson resurrected his career with a fantastic postseason run in which he scored 17.8 points per game and shot 40.8 percent from long range. He was rewarded with a two-year, $21.6 million deal with the Clippers. With Leonard and Serge Ibaka still healing from injuries incurred during the 2021 playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers don’t need Jackson to revert to the form that led to the Detroit Pistons buying out his contract in February 2020.
The Clippers are currently ranked 23rd in the NBA, shooting 42.7 percent from the field. Their 3-point accuracy is atrocious, as they rank 27th in the league at 30.7 percent.
Paul George must be counted on to score the majority of the points, but the rest of the team must also prove that it can hit a shot now and again. Otherwise, even if Leonard is able to return this season, it may be too late for the Clippers to be saved.
Basketball Reference and Stathead provided the statistics.
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