Three things to know: George continues strong start, lifts Clippers to fifth straight win
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1) Paul George continues strong start, lifts Clippers to fifth straight win
“He’s playing on an MVP level… He’s just a matchup nightmare.”
That’s not Clippers coach Tyronn Lue trying to pump up his star Paul George, that’s Trail Blazers’ coach Chauncey Billups discussing what a problem George has become for the rest of the league.
George then went out and lived up to the hype and Billups’ nightmares scoring 24 to lead the Clippers to their fifth straight win, 117-109 over Portland.
With Kawhi Leonard out for most (or, more likely, all) of the season following ACL surgery, George has become the head of the snake with the Clippers and he has the highest usage rate of his career. George is averaging 26.7 points and 8.3 rebounds a game, is shooting 36.4% on 3-pointers, and has kept his efficiency fairly high despite the added workload and attention from opposing defenses. He also continues to play strong defense.
It’s that end of the court that has been the key to the Clippers’ five-game win streak — Los Angeles has the third-best defense in the NBA. George heads a team of switchable, smart defenders and Tyronn Lue has them playing within their system.
While I’m not sure I’d go as far as Billups and say George is playing at an MVP level (at least not in the top tier of early contenders), he is certainly playing at an All-NBA level at least. And that is what the Clippers need from him as they are the mix to get a top-six seed and avoid the play-in in the West.
2) Damian Lillard is more than a little frustrated with league officiating
Add Damian Lillard to the list of NBA players who think the pendulum has swung too far in favor of the defense.
“I feel like the way the game is being officiated is unacceptable,” Lillard said after having just one free throw in a loss to the Clippers Tuesday. “I don’t want to go too deep into it so they make a big deal out of it, but the explanations, the s*** that’s getting missed, I mean, come on. I felt like coming in, the rule change wouldn’t affect me, because I don’t do the trick the referees, I don’t do the trick plays, and t’s just unacceptable. Then the explanations and the remarks in return when you tell them is just like [Lillard shrugs]. I don’t even have nothin’ else to say about it.”
Lillard scored 27 points against the Clippers but his shooting slump to start the season continues. Free throws are a part of that, he averages 3.2 free throw attempts a game this season, down four from the 7.2 he got a season ago. However, that is just one aspect of Lillard’s shooting slump, he is shooting 25.5% on 3-pointers this season and is struggling in particular with the deep threes. Lillard shot 4-of-13 from 3 against the Clippers. He also has struggled to finish at the rim as well as in previous years. All of it has led to some speculation around the league that the abdominal injury that slowed Lillard in the Olympics may not be fully healed.
Lillard’s comments will cost him a fine, no doubt. Not that he cares, he’s making his point, just like James Harden made his on Monday night.
3) Greek Freak pours in 31, Bucks pull away late to beat 76ers
If Milwaukee and Philadelphia meet in the playoffs, don’t let anyone try to use this game to predict what might happen in that series. Not playing in this game due to injuries/COVID: Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Seth Curry, Matisse Thybulle, and more.
One name not on that list: Giannis Antetokounmpo. The reigning Finals MVP took over in the fourth quarter, scored 31 on the night, and won the Bucks the game 118-109.
Despite being so shorthanded, Philadelphia has shown real grit and been in games, but they have dropped a couple in a row. Doc Rivers said before the game Harris is getting close to a return.
Antetokounmpo has played at an MVP level early this season to keep the Bucks afloat.
Highlights of the night: Anfernee Simons skies for the tomahawk dunk
Anfernee Simons has some serious hops.