As teammates encourage Paul George to get out of his own head and block out all the negative chatter surrounding his three-game slump, Doc Rivers wants the LA Clippers guard to shoot the ball “20-plus times.”
Entering a pivotal Game 5 between the Clippers and Mavericks, Rivers and some of his players have been talking about how to free George from a shooting funk that has seen the guard miss 21-of-25 from behind the 3-point arc over the past three games.
Rivers says he is giving George even more of a green light to fire away.
“Just let him keep shooting,” Rivers said on Monday of trying to get George to shake his shooting slump. “We clearly got to get him more shots. And that’s on us, on all of us. [He got] great looks and I just want him to get more of those and take more of those.
“He needs to shoot 20-plus times, he needs to get the ball up in the air. And he will. I feel very confident about PG because I always have.”
George admits he is struggling and says if he shot better, the Clippers would not be tied 2-2 in this best-of-seven series with the Mavericks. He has only taken 20 or more shots once in this series, when he went 10-for-22 and knocked down four 3-pointers to score 27 points in Game 1.
Since then, he has shot 4-for-17, 3-for-16 and 3-for-14 in the last three games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, George is the first player to shoot under 25% in three straight playoff games since Bob Cousy in 1960 with a minimum of 10 field goal attempts each game.
George has shot 20-of-69 (29%) in this series — the worst shooting percentage of his career in the playoffs, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Kawhi Leonard has repeatedly said that George will rediscover his stroke and that “his time is coming.”
Teammates like JaMychal Green tell George to not let the struggles become mental and to stay away from the online firestorm surrounding his playoff struggles.
“We just keep trying to tell [George] to get out of his head, try to block out social media, the fans and just get back to playing ball,” Green said. “We need him to get back to the high level of basketball he is capable of playing. I feel like he is just in his head. We tell him that we need him and know what he can do and just show it.
“I think it is just more mental for him right now,” Green added. “We all have bad games, every shot is not going to fall. Just feel like if he gets out of his head right now, he will be fine, he will be back to that normal PG. We are just going to keep riding with him and we believe in him and he will snap out of it.”
George says he will continue to remain aggressive and try to spend more time shooting closer to the basket. According to ESPN Stats & Info, George is shooting 32.7% when he creates his own shot as opposed to the 20% he is shooting when his teammates create for him.
“It’s just tough for me right now,” George said after scoring a series-low nine points and missing 6-of-7 3-pointers in 45 minutes during Game 4. “It’s hard to say, because I’m getting looks, getting shots, the floor is open, the defenders aren’t great, but I’m just having a hard time finding the ball through right now.”
George’s struggles have been a hot-button topic on social media, often sparking ridicule from critics and fans.
“I mean it’s Paul George,” shooting guard Landry Shamet said of all that is swirling around George. “He’s got his own shoe, he’s been on the cover of a video game, it’s not the first time he’s been publicly scrutinized. I don’t think it is anything new to him. There is obviously a lot of pressure on this team. We have championship expectations but … is he still being a good teammate? Yeah.
“On this team, and under the scope that we are under, he is going to get ridiculed a little bit, but in these four walls with our team, we all got his back… one of these nights he’s going to have 40 and everybody is going to say oh yeah, well he was supposed to do. It’s what he does. He’s a scorer. Nobody here is worried about it. It’s going to come.”