Behind Paul George, the LA Clippers pulled off a memorable road playoff win in Utah, bringing the franchise within one game of its first Conference Finals appearance.
For George and his teammates, the day couldn't have started off any worse, with the news that superstar forward Kawhi Leonard would be missing an indefinite period of time with a right knee injury.
On the back of 37 points, 16 rebounds and five assists, George spoke about the moment the team realise they would be entering Game 5 without Leonard.
"It was a blow. It was a tough blow. At the end of the day, we don't want nothing but the best for Kawhi," George told reporters.
"Hopefully he can get some rest and we can hold it down but it's a positive. We got to come together, our season is alive because of all the work that he's done so we got to hold it together and keep his boat afloat until he returns."
Paul George's big night propels the @LAClippers to a win in Game 5 and a 3-2 series advantage! #ThatsGame #NBAPlayoffs- NBA (@NBA) June 17, 2021
37 PTS | 16 REB | 5 AST
Game 6: Friday at 10pm/et on ESPN pic.twitter.com/c1cUPZpFKL
Shouldering much of the offensive load, George understood his team was going to need a big performance if they were to shock the Jazz and take a 3-2 lead heading back to STAPLES Center.
"It was no secret. I knew I had to be big tonight and I've got to be big going forward. It was just no secret coming into this. First, I put faith in God, believed in myself, my teammates trusted me, T-Lue trusted me and I thought we just lived in the moment and played our hearts out tonight."
"It's everything," George expanded on the trust from Lue. "I know I'm not going to be perfect T-Lue has trusted me in every situation. It's a beautiful thing. I learn from my mistakes and I'll get better along the way but he's allowed me to make mistakes and grow from it and he's done it all season long so he's continuing to trust me, the team is continuing to trust me so I got to go out there and play and continue to be me."
A much maligned player across the course of his career, particularly during the postseason, Lue acknowledged George's detractors when describing the huge individual performance.
"It was a big statement. All the outside noise, it doesn't really matter, they just try to make up anything but he's a great player," Lue said.
"Tonight, he carried us. He had to step up in that first half and he really dominated offensively. In the second half he made great passes, we didn't knock down shots every time but he made good reads. For PG to have 16 rebounds, that was huge. It was a total team effort like I said, I'm proud of our guys. Every guy that played tonight contributed and that's the team that we have. Mentally tough, mentally strong and we just keep fighting until the end."
"Paul is special." - Reggie Jackson praises Paul George's talent and leadership #ThatsGame- NBA (@NBA) June 17, 2021
Up 3-2 in the series, @LAClippers can advance with a win in Game 6 on Friday at 10pm/et on ESPN. #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/twoJESNn2y
From the Jazz locker room, a disappointed head coach Quin Snyder lamented Utah's ability to get stops down the stretch, combined with an inability to hit shots in the second half after leading by five points through two quarters.
With injury issues of their own, Snyder commented on the offensive burden Donovan Mitchell is carrying despite labouring with an ankle injury while starting point guard Mike Conley Jr. remains on the sideline.
"When we get into the halfcourt he's carrying a huge load," Snyder said. "Not just creating offence for himself but for the group so they'll continue to evaluate him and see where he is after tonight. They will continue to monitor that and make decisions going forward that have Donovan's best interests first and foremost in mind."
With the series heading back to LA, there will be one night off before Game 6, as the Jazz fight to keep their season alive and force a Game 7.
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