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Paul George breaks out of ‘dark place’ to score 35, spark Clippers Game 5 win

Paul George

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - AUGUST 25: Paul George #13 of the Los Angeles Clippers drives against Justin Jackson #44 of the Dallas Mavericks in the second half in game five of the first round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 25, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images)

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It wasn’t just a shooting slump Paul George was dealing with the past three games — the bubble had effected his mind. He described himself as being in a “dark place.”

“I underestimated mental health, honestly. I had anxiety, a little bit of depression,” George said after Game 5. “Just being locked in here. I just wasn’t there. I checked out. Games two, three, four, I felt like I wasn’t there.”

He was there for Game 5, scoring 35 points on 12-of-18 shooting as the Clippers routed the Mavericks 154-111 to take a 3-2 series lead. Game 6 is Thursday at 9 p.m.

George looked like an All-Star player again.

The all-basketball, no family experience of the bubble began to wear on George, he said after the game.

“This is really hard being in here. It’s not easy. All day it’s just basketball. It’s hard to get away from it,” George said. “You see guys on other teams. Shout out to the NBA for creating this environment, but at the same time, it’s rough. I just got to find what’s going to get me able to check out of the game and check out of just constantly being in that mode.”

Everything went the Clippers way in this win. They started to pull away with a 19-0 run in the first quarter, and kept building on the lead from there, a lead that at one point reached 33 points. Kawhi Leonard played a big part in that first-quarter run and he finished the game with 31 points. Montrezl Harrell added 19.

More importantly, the Clippers upped their defensive pressure on Luka Doncic — it was Leonard and George on him to start the game, and Los Angeles as a team pressured him and was more physical with him. Doncic’s rolled ankle from Game 3 also seemed to bother him more than the last game. The result was a 6-of-17 shooting night for Doncic – and words with Marcus Morris after the Clipper stepped on his shoe. The Mavs got so frustrated coach Rick Carlisle was thrown out of the game.

Without Kristaps Porzingis (knee), Doncic missed a good pick-and-pop partner. Tim Hardaway Jr. added 19 for Dallas.

This was by far the Clippers best performance of the bubble, and if they can replicate it on Thursday the Mavericks are in trouble. Consistency, however, has not been the hallmark of this Clippers team.