LOS ANGELES (AP) — Paul George made history in his Clippers home debut even though he considered it mere practice after missing the first 11 games of the season.
George scored 37 points in 20 minutes, becoming the first NBA player to score that many in fewer than 21 minutes, and Los Angeles led all the way in routing the Atlanta Hawks 150-101 yesterday. “He knows I had him on a time limit, so he’s trying to get it all in,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
It was the Clippers’ largest margin of victory ever and their total points scored were the second-most in franchise history.
“We had another 30, 40 points that didn’t play tonight,” George said, referring to Kawhi Leonard.
The anticipated first game with George and Leonard in the lineup together didn’t happen when Leonard sat out with a left knee contusion.
But the Clippers didn’t need both of their new superstars on a night when George tied his career high with six three-pointers and made all 11 of his free throws.
“It’s a dream come true to be able to do this at home in front of family and friends,” said George, who is from Palmdale, north of Los Angeles. “I’m just happy to be playing basketball again.”
George was clearly having fun in the fourth when he stole the ball, dribbled down and tossed it off the glass, setting up Montrezl Harrell for a two-handed dunk that ignited the crowd and pushed the Clippers’ lead to 36 points.
“This is practice for me to get in time with my guys and a catch a rhythm out there,” said George, who spent the first couple weeks of the season rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgeries. “I got new shoulders. They haven’t felt this healthy in a long time.”
George started the fourth quarter and hit a three-pointer, having asked to accumulate more minutes since the team has had little practice time lately.
But when George tripped, Rivers had seen enough and removed him.
It wasn’t soon enough for the Hawks.
“You saw a guy step out on the court that had no rust,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said.
Two nights after scoring 33 in his debut at New Orleans, George scored 15 of the Clippers’ first 22 points in a six-minute span. They led by 17 and shot 59 percent in the opening quarter. George is the first player in franchise history to score 30-plus points in his first two games with the team.
The Hawks scored 11 straight to close within four early in the second quarter, the closest they would come the rest of the game. The Clippers answered with an 18-6 run, fuelled by George’s nine points, to go back up by 17 again.
George had 25 points at halftime when the Clippers led 74-62, shooting 52 per cent and making all 16 of their free throws. Leonard also sat out on Thursday when George made his Clippers debut in a loss to the Pelicans.
Trae Young had 20 points for the Hawks, who dropped their second in a row. They trailed by 52 points in the fourth.
“It was just bad effort,” Young said, “and you can’t do it in this league or you’ll get killed every night.”
The Clippers dominated in nearly every category, with their bench outscoring the Hawks’ reserves 81-35. Los Angeles made 17 three-pointers and hit 33 of 35 free throws.