NBA

NBA playoffs 2021: Clippers keep series alive against Suns thanks to George's monster display

By Sports Desk June 28, 2021

Paul George posted a playoff career-high 41 points as the Los Angeles Clippers avoided elimination with a 116-102 win over the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.

George flexed his muscles away from home on Monday and in the absence of star team-mate Kawhi Leonard, scoring 30 second-half points to keep the series alive against the second-seeded Suns.

The win means the Clippers, who have come from behind to triumph in their past two playoffs series, trail the Suns 3-2 in the matchup ahead of Game 6 back in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

George and the Clippers had led at half-time for the first time in the series, up 59-52, but the Suns earned a 62-61 lead before the visitors launched a 10-0 run and never looked back.

Clippers star George entered the must-win game as the fourth player in NBA history to score 20-plus points in each of his first 17 games of a single postseason, joining Michael Jordan (1991, 1992, 1997, 1998), Kobe Bryant (2008) and Kevin Durant (2012 and 2018).

George also had 13 rebounds and six assists, dominating for the fourth-seeded Clippers, who were without injured pair Leonard and Ivica Zubac.

The Clippers continued their resilient playoff campaign, having trailed 2-0 against the Dallas Mavericks in the first round before winning 4-3, while they won four games in a row against the top-seeded Utah Jazz in the Western Conference semi-finals, having fallen 2-0 behind.

The Suns refused to surrender, with Devin Booker scoring 31 points and Chris Paul contributing 22 of his own, but the Clippers always had an answer to silence the home crowd.

George, who shot 15-from-20 from the field for the game, had good support from Reggie Jackson (23 points, including four three-pointers), while Marcus Morris Sr. finished with 22 points after scoring 20 in the first half.

The Clippers dominated with 34-8 first-half points in the paint and 58-32 for the game.

Suns center Deandre Ayton could not capitalise on Zubac's absence, only managing 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Paul missed all six three-point attempts for Phoenix, while he had eight assists.

 

Bucks at Hawks

The Milwaukee Bucks can claim a 3-1 lead over the Atlanta Hawks when they visit State Farm Arena for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday.

Related items

  • 'Welcome to reality' – Tuchel says Lukaku criticism is to be expected 'Welcome to reality' – Tuchel says Lukaku criticism is to be expected

    Thomas Tuchel can understand why questions are being asked about Romelu Lukaku's disappointing form is himself unsure why the striker is currently struggling.

    The Blues' club-record signing has scored just once in his last five appearances, with that solitary goal coming against non-league Chesterfield in the FA Cup.

    Lukaku's struggles, coinciding with his return to the side after being dropped in the wake of a controversial interview, have been laid bare in his recent Premier League outings.

    He had 21 touches in last week's 1-0 loss to Manchester City – the fewest of any starting player for either team – and 18 in Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion.

    From his three shots across the two games, the 28-year-old hit the target twice but could not get on the scoresheet, leading to some public criticism from Tuchel in the week.

    And ahead of Chelsea's home league meeting with Tottenham on Sunday, Tuchel said it is hard to pinpoint exactly what is going wrong for Lukaku in his second spell at the club.

    "Welcome to reality," he said at Friday's pre-match news conference when asked if Lukaku is perhaps unfairly targeted. 

    "We are in the spotlight, we are judged, all of us and that's daily business. It's like this. If you are a decisive player, if things go very well, people talk about you.

    "If not, the same people talk about you. This is part of the business, like it or not. Nothing more to say."

    Tuchel added: "I don't know if I can explain his form. It's very rare in football that you have a situation or a problem with a one-thing solution.

    "It's always a mix of a lot of influences. He was already more involved. He is struggling. We have already discussed the reasons.

    "But he is not the only one we rely on to win games. There is nothing special to it."

    Chelsea enter this weekend's London derby with Tottenham winless in four Premier League matches, leaving them 12 points behind leaders City having played a game more.

    However, the Blues have already won three games against Spurs in all competitions this term, including twice in this month's two-legged EFL Cup semi-final.

    The last Premier League team to win three games against a single opponent in the same month were Aston Villa against Blackburn Rovers in January 2010.

    Tuchel does not believe his side's recent cup success against Antonio Conte's men will act as any sort of psychological advantage on Sunday, however.

    "We play now three matches in such a short time which is pretty unusual, uncommon normally," he said.

    "That's why I think they know what we do, and we know more or less what they do. It’s again for us to show up in games like this.

    "They come from a late victory, that gives them a boost. We come from two wins in the cup.

    "We play the match – it's not about having advantages and being philosophical about it. It's about delivering, being in the right mood and attitude to deliver a top performance."

  • Rooney 'flattered' by Everton interest as Ferguson praises his work at Derby Rooney 'flattered' by Everton interest as Ferguson praises his work at Derby

    Duncan Ferguson hailed the work Wayne Rooney has done at Derby County as the former England captain acknowledged he is "flattered" by reports of Everton's interest.

    Rooney, England's record goalscorer who had two spells at boyhood club Everton either side his trophy-laden stint at Manchester United, moved into management in 2020 at Derby, where he played out his final year as a player.

    In his first half season at the club, Rooney kept Derby up on the final day. However, the Championship club's financial woes came to a head in September when they filed for administration, which was subsequently followed by a 12-point deduction and then a further nine-point penalty.

    Yet against the odds, Rooney has Derby off the foot of the table and eight points from safety. 

    Everton, meanwhile, sacked Rafael Benitez on Sunday after a defeat to lowly Norwich City capped a dismal run of just one win in 13 Premier League games. They sit 16th, six points above the relegation zone.

     

    Ferguson, as he did in 2019 before Carlo Ancelotti arrived, has taken interim charge and will oversee Saturday's clash with Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa, but Rooney – along with Frank Lampard and Fabio Cannavaro – is a reported candidate, with Belgium having rebuffed an approach for Roberto Martinez.

    Asked about the rumours during Friday's media conference ahead of Derby's contest with rivals Nottingham Forest, Rooney said: "I'm the same as everyone else. I see the speculation on social media and in the papers.

    "Of course, Everton is a club I grew up supporting and I'm flattered to be brought up in those conversations. But I know Everton will know for them to have any communication with me, they have to go through the administrators.

    "I think it's all hearsay as there has been no approach. My focus is on Derby."

    Rooney was brought up in Ferguson's own media conference, and the Scot said: "I'm not going to drag on too many names who would be a good fit, but certainly Wayne's done very well at Derby, he's an Evertonian.

    "He could be one candidate of many and he's proved himself as a very good manager."

     

    Ferguson – who revealed Real Madrid manager Ancelotti had contacted him this week to offer advice – was pressed on whether he would like the opportunity to manage Everton.

    "Maybe, down the line, one day – I always dream about becoming Everton manager – but I've not quite got that experience," he answered.

    "My job at the moment is to take the upcoming games, steady the ship and the club will go through a process of identifying the new manager. 

    "You never know in football, but my job at the moment is to focus on the next game and that's it. 

    "We need a winning manager. A manager who can come and win games of football, build something and get us back up the league."

    Everton have taken just five points in their last 12 Premier League matches (W1 D2 L9), the fewest in a 12-game span since earning four points between August and October 1994, and asked about Benitez's departure, Ferguson replied: "I think the results weren't there, we weren't too surprised, I don't think Rafa would be too surprised."

    Saturday's game with Villa has plenty of side stories. Liverpool great Gerrard was on the winning side against Everton more often than he was against any other opponent in the Premier League (16), while Lucas Digne is returning to Goodison Park just over a week after he left due to a falling out with Benitez.

  • The Numbers Game: Can Moyes pull off a Man Utd double for first time since Mourinho's Chelsea? The Numbers Game: Can Moyes pull off a Man Utd double for first time since Mourinho's Chelsea?

    Not many would have predicted before the season that Manchester United versus West Ham represented a key game in the battle for the top four, but that's where we are.

    The Red Devils' win over Brentford moved them to within two points of the Hammers in fourth, with a game in hand, meaning Saturday's clash at Old Trafford offers a good chance to make some headway in the race to finish behind Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.

    It also gives David Moyes the chance to end a pretty rotten record at the home of his old club – and that's not including the nine months he was in charge there – as well as the chance for West Ham to avenge their defeat in the reverse fixture.

    Let's not forget they have already won away against United in 2021-22 – and not many teams manage to do that twice in a season. The last one, in fact, was managed by Jose Mourinho.


    BEDEVILLED

    United have won 20 of their 25 home games against West Ham in the Premier League, their last defeat coming in May 2007, when soon-to-be Red Devil Carlos Tevez secured a 1-0 win for the visitors.

    Yet their record when London clubs come calling hasn't been so strong of late: they have lost three of the previous eight home games against teams from the capital, as many such defeats as they suffered in 38 matches at Old Trafford between 2013-14 and 2019-20.

    West Ham, of course, boast the rare feat of being above United in the table: while they sit fourth, United are seventh. Only four times previously in the Premier League era have the Hammers faced them while being placed higher in the standings; interestingly, they failed to win any of them, losing 2-1 in August 1995 and September 2014, drawing 0-0 in August 1998 and losing 3-1 in December 2020.

    'PLAY LIKE FERGIE'S BOYS...'

    Moyes has done a quite brilliant job at West Ham since being parachuted in to rescue them in December 2019. Since the start of 2020-21, he has managed 30 wins from 60 league matches, accruing 102 points in that time. The only sides with more victories and more points are United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City.

    Old Trafford, though, is not a happy hunting ground for the former United boss. He has drawn four and lost 10 of his away games at the stadium as a Premier League manager; only Harry Redknapp (15 games) has visited more often in the competition without a single win.

    That being said, Moyes did lead West Ham to victory on this ground in the EFL Cup back in September, and they could become just the fourth team to beat United away twice in the same season after Aston Villa (1919-20), Tottenham (1989-90) and Chelsea (2004-05).

    BOWEN'S ROAD RAGE, HAMMER TIME FOR RONALDO

    Cristiano Ronaldo scored in United's dramatic 2-1 win in the reverse fixture in September, in which he was also denied a couple of pretty strong penalty shouts before Mark Noble's injury-time spot-kick was saved by David de Gea.

    The Portugal great has always quite enjoyed facing the Hammers, with six goals and one assist in his five league appearances against them. He was directly involved in seven of the 10 United goals in those matches, in fact, so you wouldn't bet against him keeping up that record – assuming, of course, he isn't having a strop on the bench instead.

    Jarrod Bowen, arguably West Ham's most in-form player, is another who will be hoping to make an impact.

    He has scored six and assisted seven goals in his past 18 league appearances, including goals in his most recent two, but the former Hull City man has only scored three times in 43 top-flight matches on the road, converting a meagre four per cent of his shots (3/69).

    Bowen has played seven times against United from the start, but he's never scored, and only twice has he even lasted the whole game.

    SATURDAY SLUMP

    It's a minor novelty in itself that United are playing a match at 15:00 local time on a Saturday. Such is their global appeal that broadcasters are usually quick to shift them to a more viewer-friendly kick-off time.

    Ralf Rangnick might actually have preferred a different slot. United have lost their most recent two games to start at this time on a Saturday, both of which were this season: 4-2 at Leicester City, and 4-1 at Watford, a result that ended the reign of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Never before have they lost three in a row when playing at this time.

    United's opening league game of 2022 ended in a 1-0 loss to Wolves at Old Trafford. They have not lost their first two home league matches in a year since 1985, when Ron Atkinson's side were beaten by Sheffield Wednesday and Coventry City. They did go on to finish fourth, though...

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.