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& # 39; Unstoppable & # 39; PG helps clips keep away from bubble deja vu

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LOS ANGELES – A 22-point lead had shrunk to one, and the LA Clippers could feel the Los Angeles Lakers coming for them on the championship ring night.

The Clippers could have felt like a déjà vu as they were about to take another massive lead. But Paul George made sure the Clippers didn't suffer a bladder relapse or another epic breakdown.

A fiery George buried 10 of 12 shots, including four 3-point shots, and scored 26 of his 33 points in the second half to open the Ty Lue era with a 116-109 win to celebrate the Lakers in the Staples Center on Tuesday night.

While that opening night win didn't cast any of the demons out of the Clippers' 3-1 breakdown in the second round of the playoffs against the Denver Nuggets, George helped the Clippers win that game in a way that will help wash off some of the players bitter taste in their mouths from the bladder.

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When the Lakers hit 77-76 in the third quarter, George beat the Lakers 10-2 and increased the lead to 89-78 to advance to the fourth round. Lue was asked what he saw of his watch in the second half.

"That he cannot be stopped," said Lue.

The last time George was seen in Game 7 at The Bubble in Orlando, Florida, the shooter missed 12 of 16 shots, scored 10 points and shot a 3-pointer off the side of the backboard, which became the futile symbol of the Clippers. disastrous playoff fight.

Earlier this season, however, George vowed that he would look more like the player who finished third in the Oklahoma City 2018/19 season MVP vote. He said he was finally healthy after undergoing surgeries on his shoulders last off-season and he could go back to exercise before this season.

"I did the work I did this off-season," said George after the win. "It doesn't get nice every night. Tonight I got it going and was able to show a lot of time for my team."

After the Clippers playoff collapse, team owner Steve Ballmer decided not to run it back with the same roster and replaced Doc Rivers with Lue as coach. The Clippers also lost Montrezl Harrell and JaMychal Green in the free agency but signed Serge Ibaka who had 15 points and 6 rebounds on his debut.

But as big as Ibaka's perimeter shoot was, the Clippers hope the veteran's presence and Lue's ability to hold stars to account will improve locker room chemistry. The Clippers 'lack of chemistry was a major contributor to the post-season decline, and George spoke about the Clippers' problems over the Clippers star duo's preferential treatment, Kawhi Leonard, and themselves.

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"The guys who put it in the work, who built themselves to be where they are, it's part of the reason they reach this level," George said when speaking on Inside the NBA during an interview TNT asked if preferential treatment was an issue. "They know what they need and what makes them play at a high level.

"Whoever is offended by this, you know, we don't have this problem in this locker room right now."

Leonard warned the Clippers still have a long way to go this season. But he liked the demeanor he saw from his teammates when another big lead was gone.

"We're not thinking about last year," said Leonard, who scored 26 points. "It's a different team. I'm just glad we pretty much always played basketball properly. Even if we lost the game, the lead, we turned around, we stayed positive, we pretty much kept playing basketball Insult. And I'm proud of that tonight that everyone had their backs on each other and spoke positively and we talked on the floor and won. "

Leonard also said he thought George's leadership shouldn't be defined by his postseason struggles last season.

"Last year in the playoffs when he was missing shots he was still talking, communicating, playing properly and playing defense," said Leonard. "They just didn't fall in love with him. And his shots were fired tonight, but obviously he makes my work easier by talking to people, giving instructions on missed tasks or when we don't get the games going right."

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Melinda Martin