Clippers coach Lue hails 'unstoppable' George after inspiring win over Lakers

By Sacha Pisani 23 December 2020 15
Clippers coach Lue hails 'unstoppable' George after inspiring win over Lakers

Los Angeles Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue lauded Paul George following his dominant performance against NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers.

George fuelled the Clippers' season-opening win over city rivals the Lakers, posting a game-high 33 points in the 116-109 victory on Tuesday.

After a forgettable playoff campaign in 2019-20, George provided a reminder of his All-Star quality as he scored 26 points in the second half.

George's haul is the second-most by any player in a season opener against the defending champions in the last 30 years, according to Stats Perform.

The six-time All-Star only trails LeBron James – who scored 37 points against defending champions the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 season opener.

"We just told him to be aggressive and he was unstoppable," Lue, who replaced Doc Rivers in the offseason, told reporters following his first competitive victory in charge of the Clippers.

The Lakers unveiled their championship rings pre-game, but Lue said: "Our focus was on us. The Lakers, they deserved that ring. They had a great year, and you can't take nothing away from them.

"Our focus wasn't really on the Lakers. They were the best team last year, so congratulations to them again, but now we're moving on."

Kawhi Leonard put up 26 points for the Clippers, who raced out of the blocks and led by as many as 22 points against the Lakers.

But it was the George show behind closed doors in Los Angeles amid the coronavirus pandemic after he was 13-of-18 from the field and five-of-eight from three-point range in 36 minutes.

George also finished with six rebounds, three assists and a steal as the Clippers earned early bragging rights against their neighbours.

Tuesday's result marked the second successive season the Clippers have beaten the Lakers in their season opener.

The Clippers are the first team to beat the Lakers in back-to-back season openers since the San Antonio Spurs did so in three straight campaigns from 1988 to 1990, per Stats Perform.

"I had a heck of an offseason coming into this year where I was able to train and get back on the floor and play basketball coming into the season," George told TNT.

"I'm just in a good headspace. I'm in a good physical space, and I put a lot of work coming into this year."

Last season, the Clippers sensationally surrendered a 3-1 series lead against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semi-finals, but Leonard added: "We're not thinking about last year.

"It's a different team. I'm just happy that we kept playing basketball the right way. Even if we lost the lead, we turned around and kept playing our basketball. We ran our offense, and that's what we take pride in tonight. Everybody had each other's back and was staying positive."

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Sacha Pisani