When the regular season wraps, this vintage of the Los Angeles Clippers will have some huge moments to look back on. Among them will be a number of huge comebacks; including a record 35-point recovery against Washington, and the most recent a 25-point effort against the Utah Jazz. Yet the comeback of Paul George may go down as the biggest of the season, just as it was integral to Tuesday night’s win. A comeback within a comeback — your team could never.
After five straight losses, the Clippers looked like they were ready to skip to the postseason already — though further losses would’ve increased doubts about their ability to find their way out of the NBA’s play-in tournament, even with the eighth seed all but wrapped up. With key players’ minutes being managed and a tough run of games leaving little room for encouragement, it was becoming harder to stay energised for what was left of the 82. The guys were running out of ways to answer questions about the disappointment of losing in their media duties, with any hopes of getting back to looking like a winning team hanging on some divine intervention.
Step up, PG.
It was clear to see in the spirit of the squad just how much the return of their teammate lifted them. There’s an argument that, while the return of Kawhi Leonard will raise the ceiling of the squad exponentially, the return of George was actually the most important to the morale of the squad — and that’s before you even consider that they still have Norman Powell closing in on a return too. Ty Lue confirmed as much saying: “It’s a big morale boost. Last couple of days, when we found out that he had a chance to play and just him being at practice with the guys, the vibe has been totally different. We needed that.”
The 31-year-old stepped up big time on the court too. He poured in 34 points on 50% shooting from the field, including 66.7% from deep, as well as tallying up six assists, four steals and a block on Rudy Gobert after Terance Mann had initially stifled the Frenchman. The smile on his face post-game showed just how good it felt for him to be back out there, and the celebrations of his teammates showed just how crucial his influence is. There were teams in worse positions, but this blessing came at the perfect time for the Clippers and it’s not the only feel-good story in their camp right now.
Among those that celebrated with George on-court after the game was one of the guys that became one of the feel-good stories of the season just a few short months back, and has since been making himself at home with the Agua Caliente Clippers in the G-League. The news that Xavier Moon had resigned with the franchise on a two-way deal was a nice touch and felt like just reward for a guy who put in a couple of big displays during his 10-day contract days. Reacting to the news of his new deal, he complimented the guys on the main roster for showing him how to be a good teammate, and it’s clear that he’s also a popular figure within the locker room.
Xavier Moon is all smiles on his two-way deal. pic.twitter.com/3A7VB51OYE— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) March 28, 2022
The move that allowed Moon to be resigned was of course the long overdue deal to allocate Amir Coffey the roster spot vacated by the waiving of Semi Ojeleye. Given Coffey’s performances throughout the season, how much he’s contributed and how much he’s loved by the fans, this one was really a no brainer — even if the timing made us all wonder whether the day would actually come. Now Coffey can continue to show what he can do as the Clippers make a push for more playoff success, and he has completely deserved the opportunity to do so. Let’s just hope there are more big performances to come from the Brewmaster. And more great lines from commentator Brian Sieman, of course.
The mood can swing quickly in basketball and this squad may have felt like all it would take was one of their guys to return for the load to feel a little lighter. They got arguably their best morale man back and they were also blessed with the return of another good vibes guy with a feel-good story, as well as some much-needed love for the Folger Soldier. It could just be the perfect prequel to a positive play-in and playoff experience for this franchise, and we’re all absolutely here for it.