Clippers’ Paul George goes 4 for 17 in Game 1 loss, but says he wasn’t rattled by taunts and chants of ‘Pushoff P’ and ‘overrated’
Los Angeles players and coaches say Utah was the more physical team in second-half Jazz comeback, vow to up their intensity in Game 2 Thursday night
Bring it on.
That was Los Angeles Clippers’ star Paul George’s response Tuesday night after a revved up Vivint Arena crowd taunted him mercilessly throughout Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal series with the Utah Jazz.
Before the Jazz escaped with a 112-109 win when Rudy Gobert blocked Marcus Morris’ 3-point attempt with a second remaining, the sellout crowd deliriously chanted “overrated” and “Pushoff P” every time George touched the ball, and especially during his free throws.
“Yeah, I mean, I like it. That part doesn’t get to me. It is respect. I have had good games here, I have had bad games here. That’s part of this game. The crowd is going to be involved. I like that. As an opposing player you kinda want that.” — Clippers star Paul George on taunting and chanting from Utah crowd.
“Yeah, I mean, I like it,” George said when asked about the crowd’s chants in a virtual news conference via Zoom. “That part doesn’t get to me. It is respect. I have had good games here, I have had bad games here. That’s part of this game. The crowd is going to be involved. I like that. As an opposing player you kinda want that.”
George had a poor game, reminiscent of those forgettable games he had a few years ago in the playoffs against the Jazz as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. The former Fresno State star was 4 of 17 from the field. He did have 20 points and 11 rebounds, but also committed two of the Clippers’ eight turnovers.
“The fact of the matter is I didn’t shoot the ball well tonight,” George said. “I was just indecisive on my approach. But I will be a little bit better in getting the shots that I want, and taking the shots that I want, in Game 2.”
George’s mostly positive responses were typical of the No. 4 seed Clippers’ attitudes after the loss.
“Credit to them. They played a good game,” said Los Angeles reserve Luke Kennard, who scored 18 points off the bench after averaging just 4.3 points per game in the Dallas series. “We gotta be ready to fight for a full 48 minutes next game.”
Kennard and coach Tyronn Lue said the Jazz were the more physical team in the third quarter, when they outscored the Clippers 32-19 to erase the big deficit. Utah led by as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter, then held on down the stretch and breathed a huge sigh of relief when Gobert stuffed Morris.
“It is playoff basketball,” George said, when asked if the Jazz’s rough tactics turned the tide in the second half. “The physicality just has to be allowed on both ends, and I will leave it at that.”
In short, there was no panicking from the visitors after the falling just short. After all, the Clippers have been here before. They overcame a 2-0 deficit to Dallas in a first-round series and won Game 7 to advance, then had to face a well-rested Jazz team on its home floor in front of a raucous, rowdy sellout crowd.
The fatigue factor “is no excuse,” said Clippers all-star Kawhi Leonard. “We had a (13-point) lead at halftime. We just have to keep being aggressive.”
Leonard picked up his second foul with four minutes, 49 seconds left in the first quarter and logged just 36 minutes, a tally that will likely go up as the series goes on.
Leonard (2 of 6) and George (1 of 7) were a combined 3 of 13 in the first half, yet the Clippers had a big lead. They got a huge contribution from Kennard off the bench (11 first-half points) and six unexpected points from DeMarcus Cousins, a late-season addition to the roster.
At one point in the first half, the Jazz missed 20 straight shots, many due to awful shot selection. It was Junior Jazz level shot selection.
Utah finished the half shooting 32% from the field and 26% from 3-point range, as woeful a shooting performance as it has had this season.
But the Clippers said they “came out flat” in the third quarter, and Utah’s all-star went to work. Donovan Mitchell scored the Jazz’s first 10 points of the second half, and finished with 45.
“Donovan Mitchell had a monster night,” Lue said. “He had a game, so hats off to him for having a great game. We will look at the film and make some adjustments.”
Nicolas Batum hit a 3-pointer to beat the buzzer and send the Clippers into halftime with a 60-47 lead.
What happened in the third quarter?
“I thought their physicality in the second half picked up,” Lue said. “Picking us up full court, getting into us, being physical. We didn’t match that physicality on the offensive end. They would get into us and we had a couple turnovers that led to baskets for those guys. So we gotta hold our space in Game 2 and be more physical on the offensive end.”
Lue said fatigue was an issue for his guys, which is why he played 10 in the first half.
“In the second half, we just made some mental mistakes as well,” Lue said. “We just gotta clean those things up and we will be ready to go in Game 2” which is Thursday night at Vivint.
In the final minute, George hit his third 3-pointer with 38.4 seconds left to pull the Clippers within three. When Mitchell missed a difficult shot moments later — he was drifting to his left and heavily defended — the Clippers pushed the ball up the floor and didn’t take a timeout before Morris’ shot was blocked by Gobert.
Asked about that, Lue said the thought of taking a timeout didn’t cross his mind. He said he didn’t want to let the Jazz get their defense set up, or decide whether they should foul to avoid getting tied by a 3-pointer.
“They just did a good job closing out to the corner,” Lue said.
As far as positives went, Lue said he liked the way his reserves played in the second half, and he was encouraged that big man Ivica Zubac scored 11 points and blocked three shots in 20 minutes off the bench.