Is this the year Clippers star Paul George finally shakes his playoff demons?
Old habits are hard to shake, and so are old labels.
But if his performance this season is any indication, he might be on the verge of shaking that title in a major way.
George is enjoying a career year from an efficiency and playmaking standpoint, averaging 23.6 points while shooting a career-high 47.3% from the field and 42.1% from 3-point range. His 5.2 assists per game are also the highest of his career.
These are lofty marks for a player who is already a seven-time All-Star and five-time All-NBA selection.
What makes this run even more special for George is that it comes on the heels of his disappointing inaugural season with the Clippers.
He fought through multiple injuries last season, playing in just 48 regular-season games, then shot 39.8% from the field in the playoffs as the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals.
Now it appears George has used last year's disappointment to fuel this season's breakout.
With the point guard seemingly reaching new heights at this point in his career, Skip Bayless believes this postseason will be the one in which George exorcises playoff demons of the past. He explained why on "Undisputed."
"He looks like he's grown up right before my eyes," Bayless said. "He looks like this has forced him, forged him into becoming a man. And whatever manhood is in there, it's out right now."
But not everybody is ready to put their faith in George just yet, with Shannon Sharpe taking a wait-and-see approach.
He noted that we have seen this type of dominant play from George in the regular season before, only for him to fall short when it matters most.
"He was third in MVP voting in 2019, averaged 28, eight and five, and what did he do against Portland? Gone."
Sharpe has a point, given that it isn't just last season's playoff disappointment that haunts George. He has on his record multiple instances of not living up to his superstar billing in the postseason.
He has career playoff shooting percentages of 41.9% from the field and 35.6% from 3-point range, down from his regular-season marks of 43.7% and 38.4%.
With the Clippers now sitting third in the Western Conference, expectations are high for a franchise that has never played in the Western Conference finals.
If George can finally break out in the postseason, the Clippers could finally break through.
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