Paul George busts out of playoff funk as Clippers score 154 points to rout Mavericks

Dallas Mavericks' Tim Hardaway Jr. covers Clippers' Paul George.Dallas Mavericks' Tim Hardaway Jr. covers Clippers' Paul George.
<figcaption class="C($c-fuji-grey-h) Fz(13px) Py(5px) Lh(1.5)" title="Paul George scored 35 points in 25 minutes against Tim Hardaway Jr.and Dallas.  (Ashley Landis / Associated Press)» data-reactid=»18″>

Paul George scored 35 points in 25 minutes against Tim Hardaway Jr.and Dallas.  (Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

As part of its plan to restart the season amid a pandemic, the NBA redesigned the bench areas with individual seats, multiple rows and plenty of space. As socially distant as possible.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="That was the theory — one that was disregarded entirely by the Clippers on Tuesday night, as Paul George approached the sideline when his night was done, with just under eight minutes remaining in Game 5, a 154-111 victory against Dallas.» data-reactid=»24″>That was the theory — one that was disregarded entirely by the Clippers on Tuesday night, as Paul George approached the sideline when his night was done, with just under eight minutes remaining in Game 5, a 154-111 victory against Dallas.

Once past the out-of-bounds line, George was hugged by teammate Marcus Morris Sr. and dapped up by assistants Armond Hill and Sam Cassell. Teammates came to him in waves, and he slapped their outstretched hands with an unusual amount of force, like a man venting frustration after being pilloried for the last six days on social media, as his shooting worsened and his team’s postseason momentum stalled.

He responded Tuesday by producing his best offensive game of the first round. Behind the forward’s 35 points in 25 minutes, the Clippers took a 3-2 series lead and set franchise postseason records for points, margin of victory and three-pointers in a dominant performance.

After scoring 14, 11 and nine points in his last three games, while shooting a combined 21%, George made five of six shots in the paint in Game 5 and four of eight three-pointers.

Promising to be more aggressive after Game 4, George attempted five shots during the team’s first 10 possessions and made four of his first six attempts.

Teammate Kawhi Leonard made his first six shots and finished with 32 points while making 12 of 19 shots. The star duo’s hot start helped the Clippers create a 24-2 run to take a 33-18 lead in the first quarter while shooting 81%.

The Clippers would finish shooting 63% and made 22 three-pointers on 62% shooting.

Dallas star Luka Doncic could provide no game-winning heroics. He scored 22 points but made just one of six three-pointers.

After a 23-point lead was cut to 16 late in the second quarter, the Clippers’ shrinking lead was reminiscent of their lost opportunity in Game 4, when a 21-point lead vanished. But they came out of a timeout strong, not shaken, scoring the next 11 points. As the Clippers’ lead built, so did the Mavericks’ frustration. Doncic’s charged banter with officials led to a technical foul two minutes before halftime.

After scoring on a lob at the rim and a three-pointer to open the third quarter, George spun toward the basket but was raked across the face by the right hand of Tim Hardaway Jr. before he could take a shot. George quickly turned to confront Hardaway, who was assessed a flagrant-1 foul, and was held back by Ivica Zubac.

Already without center Kristaps Porzingis, who missed his second game because of a sore right knee, Dallas lost coach Rick Carlisle midway through the third quarter. Carlisle was ejected after arguing with crew chief Kane Fitzgerald that the Clippers should not have been allowed to challenge a call that resulted in George’s fourth foul because Hardaway was about to shoot a free throw.

Three observations:

1. The Mavericks are hopeful Porzingis can play in Game 6, and the Clippers feel the same about guard Patrick Beverley (left calf), who missed his fourth straight game. “My guess is he’s getting closer,” coach Doc Rivers said, “but I can’t tell you how close.”

2. Rivers has often resisted calling timeouts amid Dallas runs, preferring his team play through them. He changed tactics in the second quarter when the Clippers’ 23-point lead was trimmed to 16. Los Angeles responded by scoring 11 unanswered points.

3. Usually propelled by their bench, the Clippers took control despite a quiet offensive night from reserves. They finished with 55 points but most were added after the game was decided.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Greif reported from Los Angeles.» data-reactid=»43″>Greif reported from Los Angeles.