This story has been updated.
12:40pm EST: Los Angeles Clippers star Paul George has been ruled out of tonight’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans for rights is the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
The combination of good teams couldn’t reach the heights needed to weather the strong winds of the playoffs on their own. Kawhi Leonard is an upgraded version of Paul George. Zion Williamson was the boost CJ McCollum needed for the Pelicans to reach their peak. Eventually, McCollum and George relinquished the lead, but both are thriving for now.
McCollum, used to be Portland’s Damien Lillard’s lieutenant, currently the biggest star player left in this game. In new Orleans, McCollum was finally beginning to stand out on his own. Extrapolating to the entire season, the 24.3 points and 5.8 assists per game he has averaged since becoming a Pelican would both be the pinnacle of his career. McCollum’s 32 points against the Spurs, including 27 in the first half, were the driving force behind New Orleans’ win over San Antonio. McCollum is having a moment leading the Pelicans into the V playoff roster.
That’s not to say the Clippers can’t win, as they are used to not having their two best players and finished six games against the Pelicans. However, it was a devastating blow when George, who has just play 11 games since November due to a torn ligament in the right elbow, Paul George is old in the six games he has played since the end of March. Even in slippers’ lost to Minnesota, George marked 34 points, hit six times three, five assists and three steals.
George experienced the leader lifestyle in Indiana for seven seasons. After flirting with a legacy-changing trip to the Finals during his early years with the Pacers, difficulty followed. He suffered an impending mixed fracture on the stanchion during a Team USA practice game and saw the team around him collapse after he returned to form.
The only thing missing is consistency from George. In the aforementioned 2013 Eastern Conference Finals series against LeBron’s Miami Heat, George dropped a foul bomb in Game 7, scoring seven points in a 2-on-9 shootout. Everyone forgot in his speech about those things. George’s playoff defeat that he returned the following year and was so spectacular, a 29 lead in a Game 6 loss to the Heat.
The most important thing in George’s post-season career was that Lillard shot him in the eye with a series-ending trilogy. George scored 36 points and shot from 70 percent range but still caught the ball because of his “bad” performance in that series.
Throughout the 2021 post-season, George has been a phenomenon without Leonard. His three 34-plus games in the playoffs last season were the eight that Leonard missed. George saved his best run in the Western Conference finals when he single-handedly kept the Suns close to them for six games. George would have been remembered as a hero if DeAndre Ayton hadn’t snuck in to catch a winning lob from Jae Crowder.
The Clippers are a veteran team that can’t afford to look towards a better tomorrow in 2023. They are expected to win the title over the past year. The New Orleans star is living in the moment, but understands the long-term vision well.
“This is definitely the start of something special,” McCollum said after Wednesday’s win. “You see energy. Feel the energy. My mother is in town; I have several families in town. When we go out to eat, you can feel the city getting excited about basketball, because they should [be]. There is a lot of talent here. We are playing the game the right way. There will be many victories in our future. “
If the Pelicans win, they will become the fourth team to reach the knockout stages after starting season 1-12 or worse. The last team to do so was the Sun 1996-97. McCollum is playing with house money. Victory, and no expectations against Phoenix. The whole season story that will revolve around a healthy Williamson next season builds on this season’s epilogue.
There is little hope that Williamson could return to the next round if the Pelicans come forward. However, after missing an entire season, it is doubtful that the Pelicans will risk next season rushing Williamson out of there to plunge like Icarus against the Suns.