INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Paul George had the perfect response to a crescendo of boos yesterday.
He silenced the crowd by making play after play and basket after basket.
The former Pacers star scored 36 points, grabbed nine rebounds, made a season-high seven three-pointers and had five assists in his first game in Indianapolis with the Clippers, leading short-handed Los Angeles to a 110-99 victory.
“It brings incentive when the moments are dead, it brings energy when moments are dead, it brings an aggression when moments are light,” George said. “I feed off it. It’s fun, it makes the game that much more fun to compete in.”
While George starred in the lead role, he got plenty of help, too.
Montrezl Harrell added 26 points and eight rebounds and helped keep the Pacers at arm’s length when they charged back in the final minutes. Patrick Beverley finished with 11 points, 12 rebounds and five assists, while Maurice Harkless snagged 14 rebounds as the Clippers earned their fourth win in five games.
But this night was all about George — and the fans, many of whom still haven’t forgiven him for forcing a summer trade three years ago.
And with Kawhi Leonard sitting out, George took charge of his new team and didn’t disappoint.
He turned the game with a quick scoring flurry late in the second quarter by drawing a foul, making three free throws and then knocking down 3s on the next two possessions to give the Clippers a 55-46 lead. Harrell and Ivica Zubac continued the flurry by making four straight free throws before Zubac capped the 14-4 run with a tip-in that made it 60-48 at the half.
“Given the circumstances, I always want to win here,” George said. “And I always enjoy playing here. You put those two together and I’m going to compete on every possession to try to get a win.”
George was just warming up.
His fifth three extended the lead to 18 early in the third quarter and when Indiana cut the deficit to 13, George accounted for all of the Clippers’ points in an 8-0 run to make it 84-65 and quiet the crowd.
“They got tired of booing when the fourth quarter came around and I cooled off a bit because they stopped booing,” George said.
Indiana, led by 20 points from Malcolm Brogdon, did make one last run. The Pacers got within 106-99 on T J Warren’s 13-footer with 1:46 left, but Harkless answered with a layup and the Pacers didn’t score another point.
“The last quarter, coach (Nate McMillan) just said go out and play, try to get it down to 10, put some pressure on them and try to make a run,” Domantas Sabonis said after finishing with a career-high 22 rebounds. “But we didn’t make enough shots at the end.”