Los Angeles Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue anointed a new point guard in the absence of primary playmaker John Wall, tasking his leading scorer with running the offense.
Paul George began his new role Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks. After turning over the ball five times in the first half, the seven-time All-Star had zero turnovers in the second half in totaling 21 points, six rebounds and four assists in a 112-98 road victory over Luka Doncic and the Mavs.
“It was all about being offensive and getting the defense to swing and react,” said George, who leads the team in scoring (23.1 points per game) and assists (5.3). “It’s our ball movement, getting the ball swung from side to side, playing on the catch and sharing the ball.”
While 14 of George’s 21 points came after halftime, Lue is confident that the de facto point guard has the ability to get his points and get his teammates involved. Wall, who has not played since Jan. 13, sat out Sunday’s game due to abdominal soreness.
“He’s bringing the ball up,” Lue said of George. “So he still has a feel for the game where he doesn’t get lost in the offense."
Last season, the Clippers were without Kawhi Leonard, who was sidelined for the entire 2021-22 campaign while recovering from a torn right ACL. They finished eighth in the Western Conference at 42-40 and were eliminated in the play-in tournament after losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans. Making matters worse for L.A. was the unavailability of George, who missed the Pels defeat after entering healthy and safety protocols.
The partnership between Leonard and George is still developing. Sunday marked the 18th time in 49 games this season that the franchise stars have played together. The Clippers returned to Los Angeles on a two-game win streak heading into Tuesday’s road game against the rival Lakers.
George credits Lue for strategically fitting an elaborate practice schedule in a tough week that included three games in four nights.
“We want to be fresh for games,” George said. “But when we have time to come together and walk through stuff, (the more we’re) on the same page before games the better. So that’s the way we approach it, but I definitely think that it’s definitely a reason why we won the last two games. And we’re playing better because of the continuity and going to practices and just getting a rhythm as a team.”
While he was effective in Dallas alongside Leonard (who finished with 30 points, nine rebounds and three assists), George is still getting into a groove after missing time earlier this month with a right hamstring injury. The Clippers struggled without him, extending a losing streak to six games. George believes the rough stretch made the team stronger.
“The inspiration is that we have a great locker room,” George said. “Like, we didn’t cave in, we didn’t point fingers, we weren’t chippy with one another. … We still believed. We kept everything at an even keel at the center, and everybody trusts one another. We’re just, at the end of the day, happily playing our best. … We’re going in the right direction.
“We learned how to play with one another again, and that’s the beauty of it. And that’s the one thing I can put my finger on is that the locker room never caved in.”