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Paul George forces a way out of Clippers’ losing streak

George’s valiant 35-point effort was just enough for the team to squeeze away with a win.

Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

“I take full responsiblity for us and our record right now,” Paul George opened up in his post-game interview following the Los Angeles Clippers’ storybook win against the Houston Rockets.

He added, “Regardless of who’s in the lineup who’s not, I’m more than capable of going out, performing, and willing our team to wins.”

That’s exactly what he did with Kawhi Leonard and John Wall on the bench last night. George did everything for the Clippers, putting up 35 points on 15-of-26 shooting, 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 6 steals.

As the Rockets’ young core was putting out the Clippers’ fire, it was George’s solitary flicker that turned into a thriving flame of points and defensive stops — and eventually the fireworks celebrating the team’s win.

With less than a minute to go, the seven-time All-Star pulled up from the top of the key to tie the game at 93. Then, it was George that robbed the Rockets off a chance to re-take the lead: he slightly pushed the ball off the dribbling Eric Gordon as Marcus Morris Sr. swooped it up and brought it up the floor.

With the clock running out, PG dribbled at the touch-defending Gordon, spun away from him, almost falling and side-stepped into a highly-contested jumpshot in the corner. He made it. He ended the team’s four-game losing streak.

And that’s what he should’ve been doing all along.

As of now, the Clippers stand with an underwhelming 3-4 record.

But L.A. shouldn’t be losing right now. They are a deep, well-coached team that’s proven that they can win high-stakes games without Leonard or George.

Then, why are they losing?

It’s evident that the team’s offense isn’t flowing the way it should be. Returning faces are slowly finding their rhythm. New faces are starting to fit into the system. And the whole team is figuring out who should be doing what — in the midst of different players intermittently missing games left and right.

The Clippers have the second-to-worst offensive ratings in the league, just behind their Hollywood neighbors, the Los Angleles Lakers. Why?

They are shooting an abysmal 30.4 percent from long range — just two seasons ago, they led the league in three-point percentage with 41.1 percent. They turn over the ball league-most 17 times each game, allowing opponents to seize control of the game. In fastbreaks, the team becomes especially more vulnerable to opponents beating them down the floor for easy looks.

Not to mention, the team’s ball movement is not close to where it should be. Often, players stand still as George and Morris force up a shot after dribbling one too many times.

Therefore, Tyronn Lue and the Clips aren’t able to take advantage of the many off-the-ball weapons — spot-up shooters like Luke Kennard and Norman Powell and cutting runners like Ivica Zubac and Terance Mann. Some of the team’s best moments came from George finding the pocket to feed the rolling Zubac for an emphatic finish at the rim.

Most importantly, George needs to step up.

Although he’s publicly crowned Leonard the team’s first option, the time isn’t now. Leonard has missed five of seven games thus far and will be missing more as the season progresses. That leaves George as the surrogate for the team’s offensive production — much like he did for the Indiana Pacers and the OKC Thunder.

The California native is shooting a disappointing 31.1 percent from deep. Most noticeably, however, he has been very inconsistent.

When he’s hot, he’s very hot. When he’s not, he looks more like a second or even third option on a contender: with the exception of his 40-point and recent 35-point productions, he has not had a single 20-point game yet.

Now, it looks like George is slowly but surely picking up where he left off last season. Against Houston, he drained five of 10 three-point attempts, one of which was, again, an extremely tough shot with the game on the line.

He finished the game on fire. We can only hope that this is the fire he needed all along to find his old self, the lethal offensive showman he always was. And perhaps the fire will be the light to guide the Clippers through their long, long journey ahead.