Sunday, May 26, 2024

Clippers in Foul Play! George’s Whistles Threaten L.A.’s Championship Hopes

HomeSports NewsClippers in Foul Play! George's Whistles Threaten L.A.'s Championship Hopes

LOS ANGELES – As the heated first-round playoff clash between the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks careens toward a pivotal Game 4, one burning issue has emerged – the costly foul troubles of LA’s Paul George. In their stinging 101-90 Game 3 loss on Friday night, George’s foul demons haunted him at every turn, shackling his impact and disrupting the team’s rhythm like a bad omen.

The fouls materialized early and often for George against the pesky Mavs. Barely 3 minutes into the opening quarter, the All-Star swingman was whistled for his second personal foul – deemed over-aggressive by many – while futilely pursuing Dallas reserve Josh Green on a non-scoring possession. This forced the rattled George to the pine with LA clinging to a 19-14 edge, disrupting their halfcourt flow.

“It’s been the past three games,” a visibly exasperated George bemoaned afterward, having committed more fouls (5) than made baskets (3-of-11) on the night. “I don’t know what it is. I thought this was playoff basketball. A couple of them have just been cheap, touch fouls. And I don’t know.”

George’s foul bugaboo cast a dark cloud over the game’s outcome from the outset. Though the Clippers still nursed a slim lead after one despite his premature exit, they couldn’t extend that advantage with their catalyst planted on the sideline. His second quarter cameo lasted under 2 feeble minutes before whistles again wailed, this time for fouling Mavs center Daniel Gafford amid a sudden 9-0 Dallas flurry that shifted momentum forcefully.

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From there, LA never regained the lead as Luka Doncic’s Mavericks punctuated matters with ruthless 12-0 and 11-0 outbursts before halftime, seizing control for good. The Clippers seemed powerless to stop the Mavs’ ornery barrage.

While struggling mightily with foul afflictions on defense, George also confronted a staunching perplexity when his team had the ball. He did not draw a single foul in Game 3 after just seven total in the first two games – a stark parallel to the free-wheeling Doncic, who baited the Clippers for 10 fouls on the night.

“We try to attack guys that are in foul trouble, for sure,” said the cheeky Doncic, who endured an uncharacteristically poor 7-for-25 shooting outing. “They aren’t going to be that aggressive. Especially if it’s a good defender, you know, you got to go at him.”

The fouling fusillade ultimately burst George’s offensive rhythm into pieces. With running mate Kawhi Leonard hobbled by knee woes and James Harden shouldering a colossal 43:55 workload, the beleaguered George managed just two measly second-half points on a paltry 1-of-6 shooting.

“I felt good, rhythm-wise, to start the game off,” he recounted. “And then pick up those, get sent to the bench, and then it just felt like the whole game, I couldn’t find how to be aggressive and create contact and balance all of that out while trying to stay within the offense.”

In stark contrast to George’s fortunes was the heady play of Mavs guard Kyrie Irving, who picked up his fourth personal foul midway through the third period with just two points. But Irving remained on the floor and soon heated up, igniting Dallas down the stretch by scoring or assisting on their final 10 points of the quarter to re-establish a double-digit cushion.

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“I’d like to continue my streak of not fouling out of games,” said the wry Irving, who has never been disqualified in 806 career NBA regular season and playoff games. “I like to think of myself as a valuable asset out there.”

George’s fouling follies transcended his own putrid stats. The Clippers were outscored by a staggering 18 points in his ailing minutes off the floor – a alarming opposition to their +7 net rating in that scenario over the first two games. In attempting to offset George’s disappearing act, the indefatigable Harden logged heavy minutes while Leonard admitted he couldn’t prop up the team with his limited mobility.

“We got to help him just get more open looks,” Leonard said of George. “They’re doing a good job shrinking the floor, making sure that we have no penetration to get to the paint.”

With premature elimination now glaring in Game 4 on Sunday, the weight rests squarely on George’s shoulders to stay grounded and regain his rhythm. He accepted culpability for the foul-induced disruptions.

“It puts pressure on James – James had to play 44 minutes,” George said. “It just puts us out of sync, now (coach) T. Lue is in his rotations earlier than expected, guys aren’t playing at the times they’re used to playing. It just throws the whole team off. So, I take the blame on that.”

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For a starry Clippers team with heightened title aspirations after loading up at the trade deadline, bowing out meekly in the first round would be a calamitous disappointment. Their championship hopes desperately rely on George solving his puzzling penchant for undisciplined fouls that sabotage both ends.

In a hostility-marred series already sullied by technical fouls, flagrants and even ejections for on-court unruliness, George must navigate the tightrope between aggression and discipline. Foul mania has disrupted LA’s momentum time and again, enabling Doncic’s merciless Mavericks to seize control of the series.

Only by recapturing his scoring verve while remaining fundamentally sound defensively can George unlock the Clippers’ full potential. He is their torchbearer and anything less than a tour de force may spell doom.

The stakes are astronomical for this star-studded but underachieving Clippers core to finally break through. With legacies, job security and their season teetering, the path forward is starkly clear – George simply must be better, more disciplined, more impactful when it matters most. No larger factor exists in ultimately outdueling the ruthless Doncic and these ornery Mavericks than Paul George keeping himself on the hardwood.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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