Los Angeles Clippers star guard Paul George absolutely enjoyed playing in front of the Clipper fans on Friday night against the Utah Jazz. The Clippers, who entered the game needing a win to clinch their first-ever Western Conference Finals, beat the Jazz 131-119.
"This was my first time experiencing a crowd like this," said George, who grew up in Palmdale, a suburb just outside Los Angeles, and joined Kawhi Leonard in 2019 to take the Clippers further than they've ever been.
"It was just a special night. You felt it, the cheers, the excitement. You felt the monkey off of the Clippers' back in terms of getting out of the second round." Clippers guard Patrick Beverley said it was a special night.
"I was here when we were an eighth seed, celebrating just to get into the playoffs," said Beverley, who has been with the Clippers since 2017. "To finish a game like this, to make history, it's special because [I've poured] blood, sweat and tears into this s---.
Injuries, friends getting traded ... to be the last man standing and write history is special."
George and Terance Mann led the Clippers
George scored 28 points, while Mann scored 39 points. "I just had to lock in and do what I had to do," said Mann, the No.
48 overall pick in the 2019 draft. "They were leaving me open." Jazz star guard Donovan Mitchell, who was a game-time decision, scored 39 points but it wasn't enough. "It hasn't fully sunk in for me yet," Mitchell, who was a game-time decision, said of being eliminated from the playoffs.
"I'm still in shock. ... I don't know what the hell I'm going to be doing next week. I'll probably be sitting here, mad as hell, watching the games, and doing whatever. ... This is gonna eat at me for a long time watching the Clippers and the Suns play in the conference finals."
George gave credit to Mann. "You saw a full complete game from a second-year player," George said. "I mean, you saw him stretch the floor. You saw him defensively. You saw him rebound. You saw him muscle his way to the basket.
You just saw so many flashes of so many different things. He did it in the most crucial part of the game. I think that's what's most impressive. "Honestly, he single-handedly willed us back through that stretch where he just -- 3 after 3 to downhill attacks to defending. He did it all."