George comes back at the right time, Clippers restoring order
Since the Los Angeles Clippers won the first in-city battle of the 2019-20 NBA season against the Los Angeles Lakers on opening night, the tide has turned just a bit. It is the Lakers who boast the best record in basketball at 11-2, while the Clippers are sixth in the Western Conference at 8-5.
Enter Paul George. The 29-year-old made his L.A. debut this past Thursday after missing the first 11 games of the season due to offseason shoulder surgery, and his impact has been instant. The Clippers are a modest 1-1 in two contests with George, but that is mainly because Kawhi Leonard was sidelined from them by a knee contusion. A 132-127 loss to New Orleans in his first outing was no fault of George, who contributed 33 points in just 24 minutes of action. The former Fresno State standout went 10-for-17 from the floor, 3-for-5 from three-point range, and 10-for-10 from the foul line only to say afterward that he was “terrible.”
If that was “terrible,” the Hawks should have known they were in for some trouble two days later in George’s home debut. And that is exactly what turned out to be the case. George led Los Angeles to a 150-101 blowout, scoring 37 points in a mere 20 minutes of work. He again made 10 of 17 attempts, draining six of 11 three-pointers and all 11 of his free-throws. George also finished with four rebounds, three assists, two steals, and one block. Not bad for playing less than half the game!
Saturday’s win over Atlanta touched off what should be an intriguing five-game home-stand, which includes dates with Oklahoma City (George’s former team), Boston (the best team in the Eastern Conference at 10-2), Houston (with George’s former teammate Russell Westbrook), and New Orleans. Be sure to check out our free NBA picks for those games and throughout the season.
Leonard is questionable for Monday’s meeting with the Thunder and defensive nuisance Patrick Beverley’s status is also uncertain because of a calf issue. Both guys, however, will be back sooner rather than later—if not immediately. Despite being undermanned, L.A. is respectable 5-3 in its last eight games and pouring in a century and a half’s worth of points against Atlanta was especially impressive without Leonard. It was impressive, but nothing out of the ordinary. This squad features four players who are averaging more than 18 points per game: George (35.0 ppg), Leonard (26.8), Lou Williams (23.0), and Montrezl Harrell (18.2).
Combine that kind of offensive firepower with the defensive prowess of Leonard, Beverley, George, Harrell, and others, and the Clippers are arguably the most talented team in the association…yes, perhaps even more talented than those L.A. rival Lakers. Both Los Angeles squads are currently +300 favorites to win the NBA title. If they can stay healthy, popcorn-worthy jockeying for status as the league’s best will entertain fans all the way until June.