Paul George says his struggles are over as he scored a team-high 35 points on Tuesday to lead the Los Angeles Clippers to a dominating 154-111 playoff victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
George rebounded from three sub-par performances to combine offensively with Kawhi Leonard and give the Clippers a 3-2 series lead.
George opened up after the game about his struggles with coping inside the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida where the players have to adhere to strict health and safety measures and no spectators are allowed into the arena.
George says after being in a “dark place” he has finally got rid of the demons and is ready to help the Clippers with their playoff run.
“The bubble got the best of me. I was in a dark place,” said George, who spoke with a team therapist before game five. “I wasn’t here, I checked out.
“I was just in a bad place. I found my way. I am back and I look forward to the rest of this run. A shout out to people that stood behind me and were in my corner.”
George said he is now using mental tricks to raise his level of play.
“It was hard to get into playoff mode with no intensity, no fans, and no atmosphere,” he said.
“We created the energy. I came in with the attitude that this is Staples arena and the place is packed. I had to create my own energy.”
Game six is Thursday.
The Clippers shot a spectacular 63.1 per cent from the floor and 62.9 percent (22-of-35) from beyond the arc.
Leonard finished with 32 points and Montrezl Harrell added 19 points and 11 rebounds off the bench for Los Angeles.
Mavericks top scorer Luka Doncic finished with just 22 points after scoring 43 and nailing the game winner in overtime in game four.
Tim Hardaway scored 19 points and Trey Burke had 15 for the Mavericks, who were without star forward Kristaps Porzingis.
Also, Jamal Murray scored 42 points and Nikola Jokic had 31 as the Denver Nuggets avoided elimination with a 117-107 victory over the Utah Jazz in game five of their playoff series.
Denver looked tired in game three, but they bounced back nicely in games four and five and now trail three games to two in the best-of-seven Western Conference series.
Canada’s Murray scored 33 of his points in the second half, taking over the game with four minutes to go and the score even at 101-101.
Michael Porter had 15 points and Jerami Grant added 13 for the Nuggets, who swept the regular season series over the Jazz.
The Nuggets also figured out how to slow down Donovan Mitchell, who finished with 30 points on Tuesday.
The third-year guard scored a career-high 57 points in the overtime loss in game one and was averaging 39.5 points heading into game five.
Mike Conley and Jordan Clarkson had 17 points each, and Rudy Gobert had 11 points and 12 rebounds for Utah. Joe Ingles added 13 points, and Royce O’Neale scored 10.
With 80 seconds to go in the fourth, Murray drained a step back jumper to put the Nuggets ahead 110-101.
Mitchell knocked down a three-pointer with 18 seconds left, but Grant helped seal the victory by hitting four free throws in the final 14 seconds.