Paul George said he felt like he was playing catch up all season with the Clippers. He missed training camp and the start of the season rehabbing his injured shoulders, and every time he felt like he was finding a rhythm, another injury would derail his progress.
George got another fresh start in the bubble Wednesday, and if he continues to show out like he did against the Orlando Magic, it is the rest of the league that will be playing catch up.
George was the star of the Clippers’ 99-90 scrimmage win against the Magic, showing off his full bag of tricks. He looked smooth driving to the basket and pulling up from distance, finishing with 18 points on 6-of-13 shooting in 19 minutes.
The Clippers know what they have in Kawhi Leonard, who was quietly excellent defensively and led the team in plus-minus (+17) while deferring the offensive responsibilities elsewhere. But George’s performance has been inconsistent, and seeing him start out strong in Orlando is a good sign for the team.
Another good sign was the debut of Joakim Noah, who started at center. He fit right in on offense, setting massive screens so that the Clippers didn’t miss Ivica Zubac, and keeping the ball moving in the halfcourt with quick passes out of the short roll.
The team also had surprising contributions from Amir Coffey and Rodney McGruder. Coffey was a menace defensively even if he couldn’t quite find his footing on the offensive end, while McGruder showed more scoring burst than he has for the most of the season. He comfortably shot the three ball from the corners and showed some verve attacking the basket. The minutes probably won’t be there for Coffey and McGruder going forward, but they’ll have to stay ready just in case.
Lou Williams was his usual self, and he had even more burst with his first step than before the hiatus. He finished with a team-high 22 points. The entire world can be shifting on its axis, but Williams still gets buckets.
Even with no expectations heading into this game, the Clippers have to be pleased with how their rotation players looked. Thus far, it’s safe to say they won the wait.