For the first time in 50 seasons as an NBA team, the LA Clippers have advanced to the Western Conference Finals, overcoming the no. 1-seeded Utah Jazz 131-119 on Friday night.
With superstar Kawhi Leonard out the past two games with a nebulus knee injury, Paul George has answered the call as the go-to option. Following up a stellar 37-point performance in Game 5, George contributed an all-around game consisting of 28 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in Game 6. George was a key contributor to a miraculous 25-point comeback.
After the game, George made sure to call out those that doubted his team after his co-star went down.
“Man, it feels great to close out here,” George said during his postgame interview with ESPN, overlooking a filled-to-capacity Staples Center. "They wrote us off when Kawhi went down...hopefully he gets healthy, but we've got to continue on. He carried us up until this point. I look forward to the challenge of carrying us even further."
George shared his national TV postgame interview with an unlikely hero: Terance Mann. Mann gave a performance that no one (other than maybe Mann himself) could have predicted, reaching a career-high 39 points and hitting seven of his 10 three-point attempts. 20 of those 39 came in the third quarter alone, in which the Clippers cut 19 points off of a 22-point deficit.
“He did it in the most crucial part of the game,” George said of Mann. “He single-handedly willed us back during that stretch.”
“I trust my work,” Mann said. “When you trust in your work and trust yourself, you’re not surprised when any of this happens.”
The Clippers will not have too much time to celebrate; they’ll be headed to Phoenix to take on the Suns in Game 1 in the Western Conference Finals on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
Leonard's status remains unclear, but it sounds as though George is ready to put the team on his back if need be. Ultimately, though, he can't do it alone. LA will need more heroic performances from supporting players like Mann if they hope to advance to their first-ever NBA Finals.