In a must win game for the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul George was finally able to look like the best player on the floor in a playoff game.
After a slow start, George poured it on in the second half on his way to a game high 41 points in Game 5. The performance elevated the Clippers over strong outings from the likes of Devin Booker and Chris Paul as L.A. outlasted Phoenix 116-102.
The Clippers don't have much time to bask in their win however as they have to turn around and play two more elimination games just to make it out of the West. The Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead as Los Angeles struggled to find their identity without Kawhi Leonard. If the Clippers are to stave off elimination any longer, George has to continue this level of play.
It should also be stated that Reggie Jackson has been really good for Los Angeles throughout the playoffs and is someone that the team leans on to take and make tough shots in crunch time. His fearlessness attacking the rim provides a lot of space for his teammates.
Reggie Jackson after getting his free agency bag this summer https://t.co/kgR7AUeQZ5— Josiah Johnson (@Josiah Johnson)1624936925.0
The Suns have dropped two of the last three games, and their win came in Game 4 which saw a final tally of 84-80 so it's tough to gauge how much stock to take in that victory. What I'm trying to say is the Clippers have definitely looked the part of a Western Conference Champion the past three games, and the Suns are at risk of flaming out.
Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac (MCL sprain) will not play tonight in Game 5 of the WCF against the Phoenix Suns.— Chris Haynes (@Chris Haynes)1624923130.0
The Clippers' starting big man, Ivica Zubac, was out with a knee injury while Los Angeles out scored the Suns by 26 in the paint. So far in every game but one (Game 3 when L.A. beat Phoenix 106-92) the team that has scored the most points in the paint has ended up winning. Both teams are good from the free throw line and it gets the opposition into foul trouble so it is a sound strategy for either side. But Deandre Ayton wasn't able to get much going offensively in Game 5 finishing with only 10 points in 37 minutes.
For the Suns, they were quick to point out their own shortcomings following the loss. Coach Monty Williams noted, "It's just unacceptable the way we started the game," he continued on to compare the Suns and Clippers in Game 5, "We showed up in the first quarter, and they played with desperation."
Monty Williams: “Leadership is tricky - if you can’t get people to follow you, you’re just walking by yourself”— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel Nichols)1624922492.0
Chris Paul who had 22 points and eight assists talked about Phoenix's inability to hold onto advantages, "We've got to close quarters better," Paul goes on to say, "that's been a problem for us all series long."
Paul has been a leader both on and off the court helping this young team to play far above the level anyone expected them to this season, but he's also been a part of many teams that fell short in the playoffs.
A championship run is the one knock on his hall of fame resume, and it seemed destined to happen this year especially after the Suns jumped out to a 3-1 series lead. But he isn't the only player who has had their reputation affected by playoff performances.
The nickname Playoff P isn't an endearing one. It has become synonymous with Paul George and his failures in the postseason up to this point. Any success that the Clippers were going to have this year was always likely to be attributed to Kawhi Leonard, but now that he is sidelined it's all on PG to carry the load.
George entered rarified air Monday night joining the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Durant as players who scored 20 or more points in each of the first 18 games in a postseason. All of their teams reached the Finals. George is hoping to follow suit as the Clippers are headed back home to host Game 6.
We can all agree that no one could have predicted the state of the Western Conference before this season.
This year has been full of surprises, and injuries. This year is the first time in a long time where we have a toss-up on who is coming out of the West. There isn't a team like the Warriors who we all know is winning, or the Lakers from last year who dominated everyone. The first-round matchups are set with the Jazz vs Warriors/Grizzlies, Suns vs Lakers, Nuggets vs Blazers, and the Clippers vs Mavs.
Jazz vs Grizzlies
The Jazz has been consistently great all year. With the best record in the league at 52-20 and only 5 losses at home. This team has no weaknesses with superb defense, field goal percentage, and overall team chemistry. We don't know the status of Donnavan Mitchell, who has had another superstar season, so guys like Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert, and Bojan Bogdanovic will have to step up. Gobert is most likely going to be Defense of Player of the Year, leading the league with 2.7 blocks a game. The Memphis Grizzlies are a hot young team, who most people did not see beating the Warriors in the play-ins. The backcourt of Dillon Brooks and Ja Morant is an excellent balance of offensive scoring, and defensive excellence. The defense of Dillon Brooks will definitely give Donnavan Mitchell problems scoring.
Suns vs LakersThe Lakers are probably the best seventh seed to ever exist, which is news Suns fans don't want to hear. But the Suns are a very deep team with Chris Paul turning this team around through his leadership and his ability to keep everyone involved. Devin Booker is finally getting his respect with another 25ppg+ season. Deandre Ayton has been a great force for this Suns team on both sides of the ball. The Lakers are finally healthy just in time. Lebron was quiet during the play-in game but proved his clutch gene once again with a game-winning three. Anthony Davis is also finally healthy and led the Lakeshow to a five-game winning streak to close the season. The Lakers are still looking for a third option who they could trust down the stretch, Dennis Schroder has been a huge disappointment, and he blames it partly on post-Covid-19 exhaustion. Kyle Kuzma has been wildly inconsistent this year, and Talen Horton-Tucker doesn't have the experience to be a reliable option for Lebron. As a result, This series can definitely go to seven games, and Phoenix is definitely isn't afraid of the defending champs.
Nuggets vs Blazers
When Jamal Murray went down with a torn ACL, everyone assumed that the Nuggets season was over, but Nikola Jokic had other plans. The MVP candidate has averaged 26 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists. The trade deadline was good to the Nuggets who acquired weapons like Aaron Gordon, and Austin Rivers. These two have provided the Nuggets with good scoring, and more importantly depth. Portland has had another great season with their core from last year being relatively the same. The backcourt of Lillard and McCollum continues to be lethal. But a problem for Portland for the past couple of years has been injuries. If they find a way to go through this series without any injuries, the Blazers have a great chance to beat this Nuggets team.
A center with REMARKABLE passing ability... #KiaMVP Finalist Nikola Jokic! #ThatsGame Joker and the @nuggets host… https://t.co/alglAU5veM— NBA (@NBA)1621700100.0
Clippers vs Mavs
A rematch of the heated first-round matchup last year, the Mavericks look for revenge against this Clippers team. Luka has taken another leap this year with 27 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists. Kristaps Porzingis is finally looking healthy again, providing 20 points a game. The acquisition of JJ Redick has provided Dallas with great shooting off the bench, and he won't be available for game 1, so the injury problems continue with Dallas. The Clippers acquired many veterans like playoff Rajon Rondo, Demarcus Cousins, and Nic Batum have years of playoff experience who will be the X-factors for this series.
As Ferris Bueller might say: The world of sports moves pretty fast; if you don't stop and look around at least once a week, you could miss it.
Here we'll review what you might have missed in the past week all in one place. Why spend hours scrolling through Twitter to catch up on the news you want? We've already done that for you, so remember to check back every Monday to get your dose of weekly sports review.
Taysom Hill, Andy Dalton, and P.J. Walker all lead their teams to Week 11 victories filling in for injured starting QBs. Cleveland moved ahead of the Ravens in the AFC North with their win over the Eagles while Baltimore fell to the Titans. The Steelers continued to roll and now sit at 10-0 atop the NFL. The Colts outlasted the Packers in an overtime thriller as Indianapolis is now positioning themselves as a team nobody wants to see come playoff time as they boast the best defense in the NFL.
Joe Burrow was injured in the Bengals' game against Washington and he miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury. This should make Justin Herbert the odds on favorite to win Rookie of the Year if you're interested in a futures bet.
NFL players coming back from torn ACLs: ➖ Joe Burrow ➖ Saquon Barkley ➖ Odell Beckham Jr. ➖ Nick Bosa ➖ Tarik Cohe… https://t.co/9fLMBjuKDx— B/R Gridiron (@B/R Gridiron)1606147450.0
Along with the Colts' win this past Sunday, the Seahawks' victory over the Cardinals this week was just as important to keep pace in a competitive division. Both teams currently lead their respective divisions, but their margins of error are slim. The Titans beat the Ravens to match the Colts' 7-3 record, but the Colts hold the tie-breaker over them.
Taysom Hill contributed 284 total yards and two rushing touchdowns in a win over division rival Atlanta. The Falcons couldn't get their offense working all game and New Orleans was able to keep the Falcons' defense guessing all game. Michael Thomas led the way with nine catches for 104 yards.
P.J. Walker helped the Panthers get a win against Detroit showing his mobility and arm strength on a 52 yard strike to D.J. Moore and tossed for 258 yards and a touchdown. Mike Davis had 64 rushing yards and a TD as Carolina won 20-0.
PJ was having fun 😎 https://t.co/psYmAolycu— Carolina Panthers (@Carolina Panthers)1606148197.0
The Dallas Cowboys beat the Vikings in one of the most surprising outcomes from Week 11 and are now tied with Washington and New York for second place in the NFC East. The Eagles still lead with a record of 3-6-1 but it's truly anyone's prize to win. Ezekiel Elliott had over 100 yards on the ground and Tony Pollard pitched in with 60 yards and a TD. Andy Dalton had three touchdown passes in the game.
Despite an early touchdown pass to DeVante Parker the Dolphins offense stalled under Tua Tagovailoa and the Dolphins brought in Ryan Fitzpatrick to spell the struggling rookie as their five game win streak came to an end after a loss to the Broncos 20-13.
The Chiefs avenged their only loss on the season defeating the Raiders in a barn burner 35-31 and are now 9-1 on the year and arguably the best team in football even though the Steelers remain a perfect 10-0. Patrick Mahomes threw for 348 yards and two touchdowns, but Derek Carr nearly outdueled him in a losing effort throwing for 275 yards and three TDs. Clyde Edwards-Helaire fantasy owners were happy as he had two scores which has been his Achilles heel all season is a lack of touchdowns.
The multi-TD game for Clyde Edwards-Helaire is here! https://t.co/epv1rYeqfX— Yahoo Fantasy Sports (@Yahoo Fantasy Sports)1606101381.0
A few other notable performances from Week 11 include Keenan Allen finishing with 16 receptions for 145 yards and a touchdown. Deshaun Watson had 344 yards passing along with three touchdowns (two passing and one on the ground). Derrick Henry had 133 yards and the game-winning touchdown to beat the Ravens.
DERRICK HENRY CALLED GAME (via @NFL) https://t.co/hYeLwF2xGX— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter)1606079811.0
There's been a lot of player movement in the past week in the NBA and there may not have been a more impactful signing than Montrezl Harrell agreeing to terms with the defending champion Lakers. Harrell is the reigning sixth-man of the year and averaged 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game during the 2019-2020 season.
Lakers really replaced Danny Green, Dwight, & Rondo with Dennis Schroder, Wes Matthews AND Montrezl Harrell https://t.co/H0PeZ2O0UD— LakeShowYo (@LakeShowYo)1605929348.0
It appears that Anthony Davis will be asked to play more at the center position this upcoming season. Now that Dwight Howard is on his way to Philadelphia and JaVale McGee was traded to Cleveland to make room for the eventual signing of Marc Gasol, Davis will likely be asked to play the 5 more often rotating with Gasol and Harrell.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel proved throughout the 2020 playoffs that he is very adept at finding good lineups with the talent at his disposal and with the league shifting to smaller and quicker lineups, Los Angeles is gearing up for a title defense.
The Clippers will hope to replace Harrell's production with veteran Serge Ibaka who is signing with the Clippers and should provide some nice spacing for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to work in this season.
Serge Ibaka is signing a 2 year $19M deal with the Clippers and will re-unite with his former teammate Kawhi Leonar… https://t.co/s31RE11aMa— NBA Retweet (@NBA Retweet)1606019596.0
Gordon Hayward in a surprise move is headed to Charlotte to join newly drafted LaMelo Ball. The Hornets are an organization that has struggled with bad contracts weighing down their flexibility to make roster changes. Hayward signed a 4 year deal for $120 million and has struggled to stay healthy since arriving in Boston three years ago.
Goran Dragic signed an extension to remain with the Miami Heat and best friend Jimmy Butler. The Heat and head coach Erik Spoelstra will look to make another run for the Finals, but the Nets, 76'ers and Bucks will be serious contenders to take the Eastern Conference Championship crown from them.
🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨🚨I'm glad that I can announce that I'm staying with my #HeatNationFamily 📝❤️🏀🔥 @MiamiHEAT Let’s finis… https://t.co/CH3EzSimPv— Goran Dragić (@Goran Dragić)1605913295.0
The Golden State Warriors lost Klay Thompson to yet another season ending injury. Thompson missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in the 2019 NBA Finals, and will now miss the entire 2020-2021 season after an Achilles' tendon tear suffered during a workout this past week. All is not lost however for the once dominant Warriors.
Steph Curry will be making his return and he will be joined by a couple new faces. The team's top draft pick was James Wiseman out of the University of Memphis. The big man will add a level of scoring versatility that they haven't had during the Steph years and will make defending the perimeter shooting of the Warriors considerably more difficult.
The @warriors will be without Klay Thompson next year but added Kelly Oubre Jr. to help offset the loss What place… https://t.co/DlLgtSRoOY— The Association on FOX (@The Association on FOX)1605894922.0
Golden State also traded for Kelly Oubre Jr. sending a future first and second round pick in exchange to Oklahoma City. Oubre averaged 18.7 points per game last season in Phoenix and shot over 35% from three. This is obviously an attempt at replacing Thompson's skill set and shows that the organization feels like they can jump right back in and contend in a deep western conference.
With the Eastern Conference Finals match up set to begin on Tuesday night between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, the Lakers will be waiting for the winner of Game 7 between the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers to determine the Western Conference Finals.
The night will see both the beginning and an end to a series, and one team's season will be over by the end of it. The NBA postseason has provided memorable moments already, from Luka's buzzer beater to the Raptors' double-overtime win to force Game 7 against Boston. But the league's biggest star, LeBron James, sits in waiting while trying to add another championship to his Hall of Fame resume.
Luka Doncic GAME WINNING BUZZER BEATER!!! Clippers vs Mavericks Ending Sequence, Luka-Morris-Luka GW www.youtube.com
After dismantling the Houston Rockets' explosive offense by changing up their lineups and inserting Markieff Morris and Alex Caruso alongside LeBron James, the Lakers were able to take away the perimeter opportunities that the Rockets have capitalized on all season to outpace their competition. By playing a smaller lineup to combat the Rockets' strengths, the Lakers made Mike D'Antoni's squad look confused and frustrated throughout the series.
It appeared that Lakers' coach, Frank Vogel, had a defensive game plan centered around taking everything away except James Harden. That sounds crazy, but Harden is going to get points regardless of how you defend him, so by focusing on taking away those open teammates spotting up for corner threes, the rest of the Rockets were largely unable to get in rhythm. That included Russell Westbrook who finished Game 5 with only 10 points in 36 minutes.
The Lakers were daring Westbrook to take open three point shots and were rewarded for it. Westbrook went 7 for 27 from three point land during the West Semi Final, which is just a tick above 25%. LeBron James was spectacular, averaging 25.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game in the series.
Those second-round numbers 👀 https://t.co/xhhvozj9Py— Los Angeles Lakers (@Los Angeles Lakers)1600188424.0
It will be interesting to see if the Lakers will utilize the smaller lineup they had success using against Houston against their next opponent. Both the Nuggets and Clippers have formidable big men, so you should expect to see more usage of JaVale McGee and possibly Dwight Howard.
The Nuggets have managed to bring their series with the Clippers back to even after being down 3-1. Denver overcame a 3-1 deficit in the first round of the playoffs against the Utah Jazz, however completing two such comebacks in one postseason has never been accomplished. Standing in front of them will be a determined LA Clippers team and the reigning Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard.
This happened the last time Kawhi Leonard played a Game 7. https://t.co/F2WXrLGGMc— Bleacher Report (@Bleacher Report)1600183786.0
We are already aware of Kawhi's ability to perform in big moments, but it will be up to his counterpart, Paul George, who has been infamously dubbed "Playoff P" due to his spotty play in the playoffs during his career, to step up and put in a big performance in Game 7 to prevent one of the preeminent favorites to win the championship from going home early, like the Bucks did over in the East.
Although the Clippers boast possibly the deepest and most talented roster in the league, I like the Nuggets to continue their winning streak and upset the Clippers to move onto the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers. Nikola Jokic has proven to be too much to handle at times during this series, and the Clippers don't have a good answer for him defensively. Because Jokic can cause mismatches all over the court and has the vision to find open teammates, I think the duo of the Joker and Jamal Murray will continue their excellent play, especially in the second half of games (82 combined points in the second halves of the two comeback victories), and close out the Clippers.
The @nuggets come back from 19 DOWN to erase a 3-1 series deficit and FORCE GAME 7 Tue. (9/15) at 9pm/et on ESPN!… https://t.co/p2ky7iC3Ll— NBA (@NBA)1600026629.0
The Heat have surprised many by reaching the Conference Finals, but they are well coached by Erik Spoelstra, and Jimmy Butler has provided the kind of leadership that this young team has responded to. The return of a healthy Goran Dragic to the rotation has given Miami a real boost, as he's been chipping in 21 points per game during the postseason, and his leadership on and off the court is a stabilizing factor for the Heat. Rookie, Tyler Herro, has proven to be willing and able to take big shots in big moments and is a large reason why this team is thriving in the playoffs.
Shooting just a hair under 40% from three point range in the playoffs, Herro gives Butler and fellow all-star Bam Adebayo a reliable option to pass to when the paint clogs up. Butler has described the Heat as having a dog mentality heading into the Eastern Conference Finals, but a gritty and battle tested Celtics team stands in their way of getting to the NBA Finals.
Happy birthday, @JimmyButler They said he went to Miami for the weather, the beaches, & the nightlight. They sa… https://t.co/APXc9edjna— 𝙃𝙀𝘼𝙏 𝙉𝘼𝙏𝙄𝙊𝙉 (@𝙃𝙀𝘼𝙏 𝙉𝘼𝙏𝙄𝙊𝙉)1600103397.0
While the Heat have been surprising, the Celtics have managed to resurrect themselves in the wake of the disastrous Kyrie Irving experiment and become a legitimate threat to win the NBA championship this season. Kemba Walker has seized the opportunity in Boston to propel himself into the role of the unquestioned leader of a title worthy young squad.
Jayson Tatum has established himself as a superstar in the league with his play this season, and Jaylen Brown has also taken significant steps forward with increased opportunities this year. Gordon Hayward has provided a steady fourth option for the Celtics and can still score when asked to, but he's also begun to excel as a passer and rebounder, as it seems he's settling into his newfound role. Add in Marcus Smart, who continues to be one of the best defensive players in the league, and you get a team that has the potential to win now and in the future.
Here's the uniform sched for @celtics during the ECF. C's going with black unis for all home games: Game 1 - Statem… https://t.co/kg6vNOYQ8O— Marc D'Amico (@Marc D'Amico)1600197109.0
Western Conference Semi Finals Game 7
Denver Nuggets over Los Angeles Clippers (4-3)
Eastern Conference Finals
Boston Celtics over Miami Heat (4-2)
Western Conference Finals
Los Angeles Lakers over Denver Nuggets (4-3)