Paul George entered Tuesday’s Game 5 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks coming off of one of the worst stretches in postseason history for any player. He shot 10-of-47 from the field in those games, two of which the Clippers lost, and everyone from fans on social media to Charles Barkley on TNT roasted him for it. George, who once gave himself the nickname “Playoff P,” was struggling through the worst playoff run of his career. Considering his checkered postseason past, that’s saying something.
But he finally broke out of the slump on Tuesday with one of his best playoff games ever. George scored 35 points on 12-of-18 shooting in a 154-111 blowout of the Mavericks. Afterward, he opened up on his struggles and how they impacted his mental health during the series.
“The bubble got the best of me,” George said. “I was just in a dark place. I really wasn’t here, I checked out. These past couple of games, it was just difficult. But shoutout to the people that stood behind me, that were in my corner. The positivity of my teammates, my family, my friends, everybody. Thanks everybody that reached out to me. I was just in a bad place. But I found my way. I’m back, and I look forward to the rest of this run.”
“I underestimated mental health,” he added to reporters after the game. “Anxiety, a little bit of depression. Games 2, 3, 4 I felt like I wasn’t there.”
The bubble presents a completely unique set of circumstances that a number of players have struggled with. Normally, a player returns home to his family after a bad game. This postseason? They are forced to stew in an empty hotel room with strict social distancing guidelines. Doc Rivers revealed that a number of Clippers spoke to George in order to try to pick him up, and it seems as though their efforts were successful.
Now the Clippers are one game away from advancing to the second round, and while they had been able to keep pace with the Mavericks despite his issues, the teams they’ll encounter later in the postseason are a different story. The Clippers paid a king’s ransom for George expecting the sort of player we saw on Tuesday. If he keeps this up, the Clippers will be extremely difficult to beat this postseason.