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Clippings: Even in a shooting slump, Paul George was a worthy closer

The Clippers star rebounded from a bad finish in Sacramento.

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Los Angeles Clippers v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Soobum Im/Getty Images

Paul George often spoke glowingly of his relationship with Chauncey Billups last season, and it seems like George eagerly looks forward to whenever he gets to see Billups this year. What better explanation for the good mood — and great performances — George has when he plays the Trail Blazers?

George came into this game averaging 26.7 points, 4.7 assists, and 3.3 steals per contest against Portland while canning 11-of-24 threes. The Clippers star has been in a deep slump recently, and didn’t perform the way he wanted down the stretch against the Kings, but the salve for his woes was seeing the Trail Blazers on the court again.

With the Clippers up 86-84 heading into clutch time (the last five minutes of a game within five points), George revved up. He put his head down and got all the way to the rim on multiple occasions. And when the Portland defense attempted to put a wall in between George and the basket, he used his footwork to generate jumpers in isolation. They may not have been good shots — and let’s be clear, the last jumper was an incredibly difficult shot, just watch the bench reaction — but those are the looks George is comfortable taking and making.

“You got to give them a lot of credit, they executed really well down the stretch,” Billups said postgame. “Kept on kind of going to Paul, he made some big ones.”

“P hit some big-time shots like he always does,” Luke Kennard said.

Clutch time was an issue for the Clippers last season. Not so this year. They’re 8-4 when games reach this threshold, and George has been at his best down the stretch. He is posting 52/40/100 shooting splits and has eight assists compared to two turnovers in his 36 minutes, during which the Clippers have outscored their opponents by 25 points.

This team doesn’t have the luxury of building big leads like last season’s outfit; they have to grind for the full 48 minutes, and that means poise in high-stress situations. In another game that was far too close for comfort despite the Clippers employing significant personnel advantages over the Blazers, they needed their team leader to bring them home. Paul George did it.

“That’s what he’s supposed to do, close the games,” Ty Lue said, “and he did that for us tonight.”

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