Paul George and the Playoffs: Why is Playoff P So Ineffective?

September 20, 2020 4:15 am

Paul George just got sent home from the Playoffs yet again. While he ended his streak of first-round exits, blowing a 3-1 lead in the second round cannot feel nice. Especially when people point at you as one of the culprits.

Paul George’s playoff form has been critiqued for years, while he tries to build a mythology around ‘Playoff P’. The great players elevate in the Playoffs, and PG13 has a self-awarded nickname for that elevation. However, the nickname is now associated with mockery.

PG13 struggled all Playoffs before finding a rhythm against Denver. That made no difference, as he collapsed in Game 7 and failed to make it to the Conference Finals. George had more turnovers (5) than made field goals (4) in his 10-point outing.

Paul George hasn’t seen the Conference Finals since the Miami Heat beat him in 2014. What has gone wrong? Why is Paul George ineffective in the playoffs?

Paul George and a disappointing resume of playoff failures

Sep 11, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) dribbles the ball against LA Clippers guard Paul George (13) during the first half of game five in the second round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

George faced four consecutive first-round exits prior to this season’s second-round loss, from the Toronto Raptors in 2015-16 to the Portland Trail Blazers last season. All of these performances see PG going missing in key moments. Even though he did well against the Raps in 2016, his Game 7 performance saw him fall short of qualification to the second round.

George also performed admirably when his team was swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017, but disappeared in an elimination Game 4. He scored just 15 points in that game, after averaging over 30 in the games before. That Game 7 also saw PG shoot under 25% from the field.

However, PG’s biggest playoff failure came for the OKC Thunder in an elimination game six against a Utah Jazz team with a rookie Donovan Mitchell. PG scored just five points, being suffocated by a defensive masterclass by Joe Ingles. MVP caliber players aren’t restricted to five points in elimination games, especially when someone who isn’t a superstar is on him.

He put up big but empty numbers for OKC against Portland last season, as he was eliminated in five games. His playoff woes continued into 2020, as he averaged just 18.5 points in their opening series against the Dallas Mavericks. He had a few big games against Denver, but still mediocre production for a supposed star. He averaged just 21.5 points in this series.

Why is PG13 unproductive in the Playoffs?

Los Angeles Clippers guard Paul George (13) handles the ball while Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris (14) defends during the second half in game seven of the second round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

So many high-profile failures may question the mental fortitude George has in these situations. We have seen him have almost MVP seasons, and that is due to his natural ability. Even after his leg break in 2014, George came back to be a high-level two-way player. That skill is already slowly regressing, as George struggled mightily this playoff run.

What is odd is that PG wasn’t like this. He was almost eliminating a prime LeBron James and his Miami teams from the Playoffs. They met in two Eastern Conference Finals, where PG13 gave LeBron James the battle of his life. Nonetheless, LeBron came out on top. You can’t fault George for losing to LeBron, but he has been beaten by too many as well.

Whether the injuries have created a mental block for George is unclear. However, we know he can still play at that level, considering the flashes we have seen. All we all are waiting for is a smidge of consistency in the Playoffs. He has another year on his contract, so he must hope to run it back next season and clear the doubts from around his name. It is Paul George, after all.

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