(News4usonline) – Paul George made his return back to the Los Angeles Clippers. It was a good show. George’s return is much needed to aid a short-handed Clippers team as they gear up for a potential postseason run. The Clippers have been without their star forward since late December.
With George being out for almost a full three months, the Clippers have found themselves wandering in the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference standings. And slipping.
In George’s absence, the Clippers have managed to stay competitive and hold the eighth seed in the Western Conference. George will give them a stronger opportunity and now the team becomes a bigger threat.
However, matching up against higher seeded teams in both the Eastern and Western Conference, the Clippers have struggled, and at times, seem to be outmatched. That’s not the case anymore. Just ask the Utah Jazz, the No.5 team in the Western Conference.
Utah had George and the Clippers down as many as 25 points in his return. The Clippers outscored the Jazz 39-21 in the fourth quarter to secure a 121-115 win at Crypto.com Arena. George scored six of his game-high 34 points to lead the Clippers to the win.
Work to do. pic.twitter.com/VKuSepUrbg— LA Clippers (#LAClippers) March 30, 2022
“The best part is we won, we just lost five in a row so [Paul George] coming back and playing the way he did was huge and the biggest thing outside of his scoring was his defense,” Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said. “I thought his defense was incredible and I thought Luke Kennard, his defense tonight was unbelievable. Just physical, guarding [Donovan Mitchell] and [Mike Conley] on the switches, boxing out on rebounds.”
For his part, George said he felt good coming back.
“Felt good,” George remarked. “Honestly, I was well prepared coming into tonight. I shouted out the guys that were working with me when those guys were playing games and those guys were on the road. You know, I was at Honey Training Center grinding trying to get back and get back healthy and get in shape. The crew that was there with me really pushed me and one person I didn’t shout out was [Brian Shaw], [Brian Shaw] really whipped me into shape and it just got me prepared to play.”
The Clippers needed George’s play in more ways than one. The team was on a five-game losing streak, an unwelcomed skid that was punctuated by an embarrassing home loss to Doc Rivers and the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Clippers took on the 76ers, facing one of the best duos in the league. James Harden and Joel Embiid of the 76ers have been one of the more impressive superstar duos since the NBA trade deadline and proved so Friday night.
Philadelphia dominated the Clippers for the entire game. Taking control in the first quarter, the 76ers quickly took control of the game.
“We’ve competed every single night, some nights you’re going to be overmatched, and tonight I thought we were overmatched,” Lue said.
The Clippers looked to come out off the right track by going up quickly. That short lead (5-0) would also be the only point in the game where the Clippers had a lead. 76ers players picked up the defense and created several early turnovers.
Harden and Matisse Thybulle with steals and deflections led to easy transition buckets for the 76ers in the first quarter. Defense from Philadelphia and constant pressure on the rim took the Clippers out of rhythm. Harden and Embiid both had double digits after the first quarter, while Clippers struggled to find consistent scoring in the first.
“We were in sync and focused. We played physical. We were all over them.” Embiid said
Once the 76ers grabbed control after the first quarter, the Clippers were playing catch up the whole way. However, they were doing so with their primary offense scorers unable to get going in the game. Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris Sr, and Luke Kennard all did not have their best performance.
There was not a single Clipper player that had crossed double-digit scoring in the first half at all. While the star duo of the 76ers led the way, having 42 out of the 64 first-half points for their team. The duo even came close to outscoring the entire Clippers team in the first half as the Clippers finished with 43 points.
When the second half of play began, nothing better truly came for the Clippers. They had spurts where they would have a scoring run, but it was not enough to keep up with the 76ers. Efforts to stop Embiid by doubling, or even trapping in the post rarely resulted in a favorable result for the Clippers. Harden and Embiid as expected lived at the free-throw line for most of the game.
Philadelphia made sure this game never came close due to their dominance. Embiid and Harden did not even have to play most of the fourth quarter, for the game’s outcome had been pretty much solidified heading into the final quarter.
With a tough loss like this late into the regular season for the Clippers, fatigue is believed to be a factor. Lue said fatigue has played a factor at this point in the season.
“Look like it, don’t it,” said Lue.
Featured Image: Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George in a file photo. Photo by Mark Hammond/News4usonline