With less than a minute left in Game 2 of the NBA Western Conference Finals, the Los Angeles Clippers were up by one with Paul George at the free-throw line. With the opportunity to seal a Game 2 win, George missed both clutch free throws. Seconds later, an alley-oop would see the Phoenix Suns take Game 2 by one point, as well a 2-0 series lead. Heading back to Los Angeles, the Clippers are in a situation similar to the first two rounds of the playoffs. Unlike the first two rounds, the team is missing superstar Kawhi Leonard.
Kawhi Leonard has not played a game since Game 4 of the second round against the Utah Jazz. In the 11 games he has played during the postseason, Leonard has averaged 30.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. In the shortened 2020-21 season, Leonard missed 20 of 72 games. In those 20 games, the Clippers had an 11-9 record. In the four playoff games Leonard has missed, the Clippers are 2-2 with Paul George as the leader of the team.
Paul George stepped up in Games 5 and 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals, with a surprise performance from Terance Mann helping seal Game 6 and the series against the Jazz. In Game 1 and 2, George dropped 34 and 26 points, respectively. In Game 1 against the Phoenix Suns, George did not receive much help, with Reggie Jackson and Demarcus Cousins being the only two players to score over 10 points. In Game 2, Cousins dropped in points, but George received help from others including Ivica Zubac and Luke Kennard. While Paul George is doing as much as he can to keep his team close in games, he has struggled in clutch situations.
Heading back to Los Angeles, the Clippers are looking to even the series before heading back to Phoenix for Game 5. The Clippers have won their last four games at home, going back to Game 7 of the first round against the Dallas Mavericks. The Phoenix Suns have dominated throughout the NBA playoffs, with the last two games being without superstar guard Chris Paul. While Leonard has been ruled out for Game 3 in Los Angeles due to his knee injury, there is a possibility of Chris Paul coming out of health and safety protocols and rejoining the team while they’re in Los Angeles. There has not been any word on if Leonard has been ruled out for Game 4 or the rest of the series, but Leonard’s absence has had an effect on the team and Paul George. A pivotal Game 3 that could see the Clippers pushed to the brink takes place Thursday night in Los Angeles.
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