NBA Fans Are Finally Seeing the Paul George They Were Promised

Michael Gonzales/Getty ImagesPaul George, forward, put together one the most impressive stat lines of any conference finals in history, with the Los Angeles Clippers' road win of 116 to102 over the Phoenix Suns.George was the ninth player to reach the postseason with 41 points, 13 boards, and six assists (as Basketball Reference has complete box scores).George's efficiency in collecting his points is what really sets this performance apart. The nine players combined have played 12 games, while LeBron James had four. PG's five missed shots are the lowest mark.After years of criticism, George was dubbed "Playoff P" in 2018. It now feels like he is on the brink of a breakthrough that we believed was just around the corner a decade ago.He was 23 years old, a member the Indiana Pacers. In the Eastern Conference Finals, he lost Game 7 to LeBron and his Miami Heat team.Although he had seven points, his series average of 19.4 against Miami's star-studded Miami suggests that he may be on the cusp of becoming a superstar. His Pacers lost to the Heat again in the conference finals the next year. However, PG managed 24.0 points, 3.2 threes, and a 38.0 percentage of three-pointers in that series.Dan Feldman, NBC Sports's then-newspaper reporter, wrote that "If his career unfolds in a 3-and D++++ player who never taps into his full potential...that would hardly be a tragedy.""Yet George can do so much more."... Paul George, the Pacers are making waves which could soon erode Miami's beaches. Perhaps as soon as next season."George was left with a broken right leg two months later.George suffered an injury in the fourth quarter of the Blue vs. White scrimmage. He was hit with the basket stanchion by James Harden's transition layup.NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stated that it was hard to see the injury Paul George sustained tonight while representing the country. The NBA sends Paul our thoughts and prayers.In each of his four subsequent postseason appearances with both the Pacers or the Oklahoma City Thunder, George failed to make it past the first round. The Clippers won the last season's championship by blowing a 3-1 lead on the Denver Nuggets. He shot 4-of-16 on the field, and 2-of-11 from three in the final game of the series. He was 0-of-2 in the conference finals.The low points received more attention than highs, despite a top-three MVP finish for 2018-19, postseason averages at 25.4 points, 7.9 rebound, 4.6 assists, and 3.0 threes since the injury. "Playoff P" became a joke rather than a nickname.George will likely make a comeback if he pulls this off. He'll exorcise all the demons from last year's fall and most likely silence his critics.George declared, "I am who and what I am." After the game. "I wish I could shoot at least 80 percent every night." ... They can make judgements about me based on their own opinions. It doesn't matter what part of me it is. I'm going to go out and hoove it and give it all I have."Since Kawhi Leonard, George's co-star, was injured in his right knee, it'd be difficult to argue that George hasn’t done so. L.A. has defeated the top-seeded Utah Jazz twice in seven games. 2 Suns. George's stats in this stretch are 30.9 points and 11.3 rebounds, respectively.Although he's been aided by Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris Sr. and Terance Mann, the Clippers' continued existence has more to do PG than anything.It doesn't matter if it's Royce O'Neale or Mikal Bridges, Joe Ingles Jae Crowder, Devin Booker, or Joe Ingles. George scores on everyone.He seemed determined to get to the paint on Monday. He was only second in three-point attempts this postseason with six (he had five in the win over Utah), while he was 4-4 on two-point jumpers. His damage was limited to the rim.Deandre Ayton played 37 minutes, and L.A. was playing small for most part of the game. George went 8-10 around the rim.This is only one game. Kawhi is still out and the Suns lead 3-2. They are currently 3-0 in elimination games, but must reach 5-0 in order to be able to represent the Western Conference at the Finals. They must win Game 7 if they are to survive Game 6.George continues to show that he is up for the challenge, even though it is not an uphill fight.He's been through a lot over the past seven years. He's had a terrible injury, made adjustments to two new organizations, and has taken many playoff lumps. It is possible to win two more games against the Suns.In 2013, George was well ahead of schedule. He was just in time to be a superstar in 2021.