It’ll take two more wins for it to really matter. And you can certainly say things bent toward Paul George to give him this platform. The Jazz had their injuries and problems. Kawhi Leonard got hurt, leaving the Clippers not much choice but to give George the keys and the blueprints. You still have to make the most of it, though. You can’t let the call go to voicemail. It’s been an extremely weird NBA playoffs, given the amount of injuries and fatigue from the short offseason and once-in-a-lifetime ending of last season.
George had all of it thrown at him before this, the idea that he wasn’t “that guy” and that Kawhi was going to leave him hanging after this season anyway. Depending on how this series finishes, it might turn out that Leonard was the rainy cloud hanging over the Clippers as was severely hinted at last season. But we’re not there yet.
George put up 41 in the 116-102 win that keeps the Clippers playing and returning home, which somehow isn’t as impressive as doing it on 75 percent shooting from the field. The Suns had no answers, and Clippers coach Tyronn Lue was smart enough to get out of the way, as his instructions for most of the second half were just to give George the ball and have his teammates move aside.
Again, it might all be for naught should the Clippers lose one of the next two. And maybe this will be the only spasm of George single-handedly dragging a team on further than they should go. But if there’s one benefit of these weird-ass playoffs, it’s been the new names that have gotten to play the big games, and the ones who got to rewrite their playoff profile. George is probably the leading member of the latter group.
The fan experience
Finally, this Switzerland fan before and after his team’s equalizer against France yesterday:
We’ve all been there, if you truly love a team just once. In the biggest games, with the most on the line, there comes a point where you don’t think you can take it anymore and wonder why you’re doing this to yourself. And then it pays off, as it did in the second picture, and you’re not just celebrating your team’s accomplishments, but letting out the catharsis and joy that you’d stuck it out. Most of the time it doesn’t work out, which is why this is so fun. But there’s that one time that it does, which keeps you doing it again and again, and justifies all the times you didn’t get to see it. That’s the second pic. Fandom is so rarely completely encapsulated so well.