Paul George’s throbbing toe not only limited his performance on the field recently, but the LA Clippers guard felt it was mentally dragging him down.
So the All-Star restored his mindset, and the result was the best week-plus trajectory of the season for him and the Clippers.
“The injury allowed me to come up with some kind of excuse for myself,” George said on Tuesday. “But then I put it into perspective … if I’m going to play, don’t let it limit me.”
“I feel that this mentality has given me a breakthrough.”
In his latest return to Indiana, George delivered 36 points, eight assists and seven rebounds to lead the Clippers to a 126-115 victory over the Pacers on Tuesday.
The Clippers (38-18) won their sixth game in a row despite not having Kawhi Leonard (sore right foot) in their last two wins. George carried the burden. This was the fourth game in a row that George has scored 30 or more points, tied for the second longest run of his All-Star career.
“He’s definitely in a groove,” said Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. “He’s playing with a chip on his shoulder.”
“He puts an emphasis on really taking over and being the best version of himself.”
George came this season inspired to make it a comeback season after his shooting battle ended last postseason with a 4-for-16 dud in Game 7 when the Clippers squandered a 3-1 lead and lost to the Denver Nuggets in the second round . He opened the season playing as a man on a mission, before sidelining seven games in early February due to a toe injury.
He returned, but the injury flared up again. He would have to play with the injury for the rest of the season. Before his current four-game crack, George had only scored 30 or more runs once in the previous 15 games.
But now George has regained form, shooting a career high 47.7% from the field and 43.8% from behind the arc that came in on Tuesday. Not only has the guard learned how to handle and play with the toe issue, but he is thriving again with winning the Western Conference Player of the Week award.
Last Tuesday, George scored 36 points against Portland and Damian Lillard, with whom he exchanged words after a game in the bubble last year. Then on Thursday against the Phoenix Suns and Devin Booker – another player he exchanged words with during a game earlier this season – George dropped 33 points and seven rebounds. After sitting a game against Houston before half-time, George remained red hot with 32 points, nine assists and a huge one-handed poster of Isaiah Stewart on Sunday.
And George typically keeps his best for his former team, averaging 25.9 points per game in seven career games against the Pacers – his highest against any opponent, according to research from ESPN Stats and Information. He delivered vintage highlights like a double clutch two-handed baseline dunk, stopped on a dime and hit step-back jumpers, punched four 3s and delivered two perfect alley-oop passes to Terance Mann that helped keep the Pacers at bay in the fourth.
George said he had a “doll” in his toe and it shows.
“It doesn’t flare up, so it worked,” George said of his treatment plan. “And hopefully at some point it will just go away and be an afterthought, nothing to worry about moving on.”