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PG credits new mindset for ‘breakthrough,’ streak

Paul George‘s throbbing toe was not only limiting his performance on the court recently, but the LA Clippers guard could feel it dragging him down mentally.

So the All-Star reset his mentality, and the result has been the best week-plus stretch of the season for him and the Clippers.

“The injury allowed me to kind of make an excuse for myself,” George said Tuesday. “But then I put it in perspective … if I’m gonna play, then don’t let it limit me.”

“I feel like I’ve had a breakthrough because of that mindset.”

In his latest return to Indiana, George delivered 36 points, eight assists and seven rebounds to lead the Clippers to a 126-115 win over the Pacers on Tuesday.

The Clippers (38-18) won their sixth straight game despite not having Kawhi Leonard (sore right foot) in their past two wins. George has shouldered the load. This was the fourth straight game George has scored 30 or more points, tied for the second-longest streak of his All-Star career.

“He’s definitely in a groove,” Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. said. “He’s playing with a chip on his shoulder.”

“He is making an emphasis of really taking over and being the best version of himself.”

George came into this season inspired to make this a comeback season after his shooting struggles last postseason ended with a 4-for-16 dud in Game 7 as the Clippers squandered a 3-1 series lead and lost to the Denver Nuggets in the second round. And he opened the season playing like a man on a mission before a toe injury sidelined him for seven games in early February.

He returned but the injury flared up again and he said he could have to play with the injury for the remainder of the season. Before his current four-game tear, George had scored 30 or more points just once in the previous 15 games.

But now George has regained the form that has him shooting a career-high 47.7% from the field and 43.8% from behind the arc entering Tuesday. The guard has not only learned how to manage and play with the toe issue but he’s thriving again having won Western Conference Player of the Week honors.

Last Tuesday, George scored 36 points against Portland and Damian Lillard, who he traded words with after a game in the bubble last year. Then on Thursday against the Phoenix Suns and Devin Booker — another player he exchanged words with during a game earlier this season — George dropped 33 points and seven rebounds. After sitting out a game against Houston for rest, George remained red hot with 32 points, nine assists and a monster one-handed poster dunk over Isaiah Stewart on Sunday.

And George typically saves his best for his former team, averaging 25.9 points per game in seven career games against the Pacers — his most against any opponent, according to research from ESPN Stats and Information. He delivered vintage highlight plays like a double-clutch two-handed baseline dunk, stopping on a dime and hitting step-back jumpers, drilling four 3’s and delivering two perfect alley-oop passes to Terance Mann that helped keep the Pacers at a distance in the fourth.

George said he had “pop” back in his toe and it is showing.

“It hasn’t been flaring up, so that’s been working,” George said of his treatment plan. “And hopefully at some point it just goes away and it’s an afterthought, nothing I’m worried about going forward.”


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