The Los Angeles Clippers live to play another day. Facing elimination for the third time this postseason in Game 5 on Monday night, the Clippers showed that they weren’t ready for their season to end as they pulled out an impressive 116-102 win over the Phoenix Suns. With the win, the Clippers forced a Game 6, which will go down on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
Paul George led the way for the Clippers as he poured in a playoff career-high 41 points, along with 13 rebounds and six assists. In the process, he became the first-ever Clipper with a 40/10/5 playoff performance. George has now scored at least 20 points in all 18 games he’s played in this postseason so far, and he became just the fourth player to open a postseason with a 20-plus-point streak that long. The other three players are Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan.
Paul also got some serious help from Marcus Morris, DeMarcus Cousins and Reggie Jackson. That trio combined for 60 points and 10 rebounds. On the other side of the floor, Devin Booker paced the Suns with 31 points, four rebounds and three assists, while Chris Paul also added 22 points and eight assists. Ultimately, though, their production wasn’t enough to end the series and clinch Phoenix’s first NBA Finals berth since 1993.
The game was an encouraging one for the Clippers, and a disappointing one for Phoenix, but neither team can dwell on it for long, as they’ll be back in action in less than 48 hours for Game 6. Before moving on to that game though, here’s a look at three key takeaways from L.A.’s Game 6 victory.
1. Paul George answered the bell
If the Clippers were going to extend their season on Monday night without Kawhi Leonard, who remains sidelined with a knee injury, they were going to need a big-time performance from Paul George, and that’s exactly what they got. With L.A.’s season hanging in the balance, George stepped up in a major way, especially in the second half. After scoring a pretty pedestrian 11 points in the first half, George exploded for 30 points in the second half. In all, he dropped 41 points, which was the most that he’s ever scored in a playoff game, and his production was paramount in L.A.’s victory in Game 5.
It wasn’t just that George put up points either, but that he did so in an extremely efficient way. George attempted just 20 shots en route to his 41 points, and he made 15 of them. That’s 75 percent shooting from the field. He also shot 50 percent from long range (3 of 6), and made all eight of his free throws. He also added 13 rebounds, six assists and three steals for good measure. It was an all-around epic performance from George, who continues to do a commendable job of leading the Clippers on the offensive end in Leonard’s absence.
2. ‘The others’ stepped up for L.A.
Paul George was awesome on Monday night, but he didn’t win the game for L.A. alone. On the contrary, he got major help from role players, or “the others,” as Shaquille O’Neal would say. Namely, the trio of Marcus Morris, Reggie Jackson and DeMarcus Cousins were huge for L.A. Morris provided the Clippers with some much-needed offense early on in Game 5 while George got off to a bit of a slow start. Morris had 13 points on 6 of 7 shooting in the first quarter, and he finished the game with 22 points while shooting 56 percent from the field. The Clippers are now 8-0 this postseason when Morris shoots 50 percent or better.
Cousins has seen just spot minutes for L.A. throughout the postseason, but he made the most of his on-court opportunity in Game 5. Cousins scored 15 points in his 11 minutes out on the floor, and that total represents a postseason career high for the former All-Star.
If you’re the Clippers, you couldn’t have asked for much more from Cousins. Similarly, Jackson continues to be better than anyone could have expected heading into postseason play. Jackson has been providing the Clippers with consistent offensive production, and Game 5 was no different. He finished with 23 points, five rebounds and three assists, and he was a game high plus-21 during his time on the court.
If the Clippers can get similar production from this trio of players in Game 6, they’ll have a great chance of extending the series again and forcing a seventh and final game.
3. Another quiet night from Mikal Bridges
Mikal Bridges hasn’t had his best series against the Clippers. He’s scored six points or fewer points in three of the five games so far, and he scored just 11 total points in Games 4 (six points) and 5 (five points) combined. This dip in production isn’t ideal considering the fact that Bridges averaged 13.5 points per game for the Suns during the regular season, and they rely on him for supplementary offensive output. With the Clippers focusing a lot of their defensive effort on the duo of Booker and Paul, Bridges’ output becomes even more important. With his athleticism and his floor spacing, Bridges has the ability to swing a game in Phoenix’s favor, but he’s largely been a non-factor the past couple of games. The Suns should try to get him going early on in Game 6, perhaps by running him off some screens to get him some open opportunities from the perimeter. When he’s clicking on the offensive end, it opens things up for everyone else.