Clippers' Paul George caps 26-point comeback with game winner

ByOhm Youngmisuk ESPN logo
Monday, April 8, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- When the LA Clippers' 26-point comeback win over the Cleveland Cavaliers was complete, Steve Ballmer could only shake his head and let out a sigh of relief.

In one of his best games as a Clipper, Paul George wowed the franchise's owner and the rest of the crowd that remained at Arena. Down 94-68 with 6:35 left, George led a furious comeback by scoring 23 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter to help the Clippers shock Cleveland 120-118.

To get the Clippers to their 50th victory of the season and third win in a row without an injured Kawhi Leonard, George played 44 minutes -- including the entire second half -- grabbed 11 rebounds, went 16-of-16 from the free throw line, hit the go-ahead shot with 7.1 seconds to go and delivered a massive block with 1.7 seconds left.

Russell Westbrook then sealed the victory by getting a piece of the ensuing inbounds pass to the corner before smothering Max Strus into a 3-point air ball that fell well short of the rim to set off a Clippers celebration.

"I knew we weren't ourselves," George said of a first half that saw the Clippers surrender 80 points to Cleveland. "And so at that point, I was locked in and committed to do whatever it took to win.

George said he told Ty Lue not to take him out in the second half. The Clippers coach obliged, letting George lead the comeback with James Harden (22 points) sitting the fourth quarter after starting the day questionable to play with right foot soreness.

"I wanted to stay in and I just felt we were making a good push," George said. "And he trusted me to just continue it on. But I've been saying, I just played until the clock hit zero. I thought we were in striking range and my aggression just got higher, and so it was just a will to win at that point."

The Clippers used a 29-6 run to close the gap to 100-97 with 9:14 remaining. Cleveland pushed the lead back up to seven with 2:47 left but George scored four straight points.

Terance Mann and Amir Coffey drilled consecutive 3-pointers to give the Clippers a 118-115 lead. Cleveland's Jarrett Allen converted a basket while being fouled and then made the free throw to tie the game.

But George shook Evan Mobley off of him before drilling a 13-foot stepback shot to give the Clippers the lead for good. George and Westbrook then closed the game out with their clutch defense.

"You just got to dig in, man," said Westbrook, who played the entire fourth quarter and finished with 8 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. "It's the time of the year. Can't give in, can't give up games. Got to find ways to win basketball games, however you got to do it. And for us it's important, especially with [Leonard] down.

"Never give in. Never quit. Always find ways to keep battling. You never know."

The Clippers (50-28) have now won six of their past seven games, a stretch that also includes another double-digit comeback when they erased a 17-point deficit to beat Denver 102-100 at home Thursday.

"Resilient, and we're capable," Lue said. "You know, we can do it every night. Starting to get our rotation back. Guys are healthy outside of Kawhi. But just getting our rotation back, getting the way we play, the style of basketball. ... It was a huge win for us to get to 50 wins from where we started. ... We have to keep getting better going into the playoffs."

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