LOS ANGELES — He has scored more points than anyone else in the 2021 playoffs. He has gotten to the line more times and made more free throws than anyone else. He grabbed more defensive rebounds than anyone else.
And he played more minutes than anyone else this postseason — 129 more minutes, the equivalent of two-and-a-half full 48-minute games more.
Paul George carried an insane load for the Clippers — and he carried them farther than this franchise had ever been in the postseason. With Kawhi Leonard in street clothes due to a sprained knee, George took on the burden and lifted the Clippers into the Western Conference Finals for the first time.
It’s time to end the “Paul George falls apart in the playoffs” narrative. Not that George was ever playing along.
“The narrative of me not being a postseason player or all that, I never understood it,” George said after his Clippers were eliminated from the postseason by Chris Paul and the Suns Wednesday. “I’ve dealt with stuff as we all do. Makes me no different than the next man. But it is what it is. I came up short again.
“I’m proud of what we did as a team. I wasn’t out to move nothing to nobody but to show up as a leader for this team and to put us in position to get to where we got to. Again, came up short. My good wasn’t enough.”
Critics of George seem to forget he was the same guy who went toe-to-toe and held his own with LeBron James back when George was wearing a Pacers jersey. The same guy who had a horrific leg injury in 2014 while representing his country, an injury that would have ended most guy’s careers. George pushed back, pushed through the rehab, and returned to being an All-NBA level player — plus picked up a Gold Medal along the way. George had already proven himself long before he dropped 41 in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
“I just think Paul was huge for us all season, not just the playoffs but all season,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said after Game 6. “And I know you judge off the playoffs and he had a hell of a playoff run. I know he wanted to play and keep competing but he was out of gas.
“You want to give it your all and he did that and that’s all you can ask for. If you leave it all on the line and leave it on the floor, you can live with the results. And I think our guys can live with the results after laying it on the line for so long.”
The results were good, if not what the team ultimately hoped. George came to Los Angeles to return home and chase a ring with Leonard — the Clippers were never going to win one this season once Kawhi went down.
However, the George-led Clippers showed a level of grit and resiliency never seen before by this franchise. This Clipper team went farther in the postseason than CP3 and Lob City could take it, farther than Elton Brand could take it a couple of decades ago. Farther than their predecessors the Buffalo Braves ever got.
This was a historic Clippers season, and George proved in the postseason to be the reason.
That should end the debate. Even though we all know it won’t.