Forward Paul George missed just five shots during a 41-point performance to help the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Phoenix Suns Monday night. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo
June 29 (UPI) -- Paul George continued his hot streak in the absence of Kawhi Leonard, scoring a game-high 41 points Monday night to help the Los Angeles Clippers stave off elimination in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
George was an efficient 15 of 20 from the floor and notched 14 rebounds, six assists and three steals in the Clippers' 116-102 win over the Phoenix Suns in Phoenix. He scored 30 points in the second half, was 3 for 3 from three-point range and scored 20 points in the third quarter alone.
"We thrive in this moments," George told reporters after the game. "We come together more so in these moments. This team is just made up of toughness across the roster.
"We are going to give it everything we've got and we will live with the results."
George is the first player in NBA history to get at least 40 points and post a shooting percentage of 75% with at least 13 rebounds and six assists in a playoff game. His point total also was his playoff career high.
The Clippers avoided elimination with the victory and narrowed Phoenix's series lead to 3-2. They scored 58 points in the paint and outscored the Suns 19-8 on fastbreaks.
Los Angeles jumped out to a 14-3 lead through the first three minutes and led 36-26 to end the first quarter. Marcus Morris Sr. and Reggie Jackson scored 13 and 12 points, respectively, through the first 12 minutes for the Clippers.
Los Angeles got cold from downtown in the second quarter, making just 1 of 9 three-point attempts. The Suns used a 12-2 run to cut the deficit to 46-42 midway through the frame and the Clippers led 59-52 at halftime.
The Suns got hot to start the third, using a 10-2 run to take a 62-61 lead. George made a layup on the next possession to retake the lead, and the Clippers never trailed again. George paced Los Angeles with 10 points over the final 12 minutes.
Jackson and Morris scored 23 and 22 points, respectively, and DeMarcus Cousins scored 15 points off the bench for Los Angeles. Suns guard Devin Booker scored 31 points and veteran guard Chris Paul chipped in 22 points in the loss.
"They came out and punched us in the face to start the game," Booker told reporters. "We showed it at spots and at certain times, but they are not going to go away easy.
"We have to be locked in from beginning to end."
George is averaging 30.2 points, 10.8 rebounds and eight assists per game for the series. His averages of 30.9 points, 11.3 rebounds and 6.1 assists per game since the team lost Leonard to injury on June 14 have helped Los Angeles stave off elimination.
"Different guys are stepping in, stepping up and playing well," Clippers coach Tyronn Lue told reporters. "They've been doing it all year. We are resilient."
Phoenix now returns to Los Angeles for Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals at 6 p.m. PDT Wednesday at Staples Center. If the Suns win, they would advance to their first NBA Finals since 1993. If the Clippers win, the series would return to Phoenix for a deciding seventh game on Friday.