Paul George is having one of the best statistical seasons of his career through 26 games, but when it matters, he's still wilting. On Sunday, the Los Angeles Clippers faced the Milwaukee Bucks and fell apart late, allowing Giannis Antetokounmpo's squad to capture a 105-100 win. The game showed that once again the Clippers and George couldn't rise to the occasion in a big moment.
Sunday's game was a matchup between two teams who disappointed in the NBA's Orlando bubble. Both were expected to vie for spots in the NBA Finals, both were upset in the second round and both have a lot to prove this season. In a game that carried a playoff atmosphere, the Bucks outscored the Clippers 28-19 in the fourth quarter and George had one of his worst shooting games of the season.
While his overall numbers have been good this season, George has struggled in the last three games. Heading into Sunday, he was averaging 23.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 33.1 minutes per game on the year. Perhaps more importantly, George was hitting an absurd 47.3 percent of his shots from 3-point range and shooting a career-best 51.0 percent from the field. But on Sunday his shot escaped him, as it has in each of the past three contests.
Against the Bucks, George finished with 16 points and was 7-of-21 from the field and 2-of-10 from 3-point range. In the last three games he's only averaging 14.0 points per contest, while shooting 36.3 percent from the field, and 21.1 percent from 3-point range.
He also had this sequence in the fourth quarter on Sunday:
The Clippers went 0-of-9 from the field over the last four minutes of the game against the Bucks. Kawhi Leonard and George took all of those shots. Now maybe that's just a product of guys getting tired late in the first-half of the season, but given what we saw from George in the bubble, there's reason for concern.
Nine days ago George also struggled in a close win over Utah, scoring 15 points and hitting 6-of-14 shots from the field and 1-of-4 from 3-point range. Given that the Jazz are the top seed in the Western Conference right now and could face the Clippers as early as the second round if things don't go well, that's not a good sign.
The Clippers are currently 24-12 and sit in third place, four games behind the Jazz in the Western Conference. They're going to need George to continue to put up the numbers he has all season if they want to finally make the franchise's first NBA Finals appearance. Given that Luke Kennard has turned into a bust and been relegated to the bench shortly after signing a $64 million contract extension, LA needs George, Marcus Morris and Nicolas Batum to knock down shots from beyond the arc. For this team to be successful, shooting slumps simply can't happen.
The Clippers still have a championship-level roster, but they won't be able to consistently beat top teams unless George shows up. He entered this season with a chip on his shoulder and he'll need to prove he deserves the respect given a superstar.