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Paul George 'Was Special' for Clippers Down Stretch vs. Blazers, Ty Lue Says

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2021

Los Angeles Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue, left, shakes hands with guard Paul George (13) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Los Angeles Clippers head coach Ty Lue said forward Paul George was "special" during Tuesday night's 113-112 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

George hit the game-winning free throws with 4.8 seconds remaining to finish with a game-high 33 points along with 11 rebounds, three assists and two steals in 37 minutes.

"He's been carrying us," Lue told reporters. "He's really stepped up by making his teammates better but also scoring the basketball. He's just doing everything. It was a complete game tonight, and we needed every bit of it."

George has been asked to carry a larger offensive burden for the Clippers with fellow franchise cornerstone Kawhi Leonard missing five of the past six games with a foot injury. Lue announced Leonard will be held out until at least next week for precautionary reasons with an eye toward the playoffs.

Meanwhile, his running mate has picked up the slack in a major way since the calendar flipped to April.

George has averaged 29.2 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 3.6 threes and 1.4 steals across nine appearances this month. He's shooting 51.6 percent from the floor, 45.7 percent on threes and 89.1 percent from the free-throw line, and he's scored over 30 points in six of his past seven outings.

That's MVP-level production, and it's helped move the seven-time All-Star up to third in ESPN's Real Plus-Minus and fifth in FiveThirtyEight's WAR among all players for the 2020-21 season.

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"Portland had the game and we were able to continue to keep fighting and take this game from them," George said. "We celebrate that. We played great down the stretch. We weren't great for the whole 48 [minutes] but I thought when we needed to be great, we were great."

The win moved the Clippers to 41-19, which ranks third in the Western Conference behind the Utah Jazz (43-15) and Phoenix Suns (41-16). It also puts them nine games clear of the seventh-seeded Dallas Mavericks (30-26), which is close to guaranteeing they won't have to take part in the play-in tournament.

L.A. is back in action Wednesday night when it hosts the Memphis Grizzlies (29-27) at Staples Center.

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