Paul George couldn’t help but have a “what if” moment after his season ended on Wednesday night.
After the Suns sent the Clippers home, defeating them 130-103 in Game 6, George said things would’ve ended differently if Kawhi Leonard wasn’t injured.
“We’d be going on,” George said after Game 6, when asked the outcome of the series if Leonard played.
Leonard missed the entire Western Conference finals after he sprained his right knee in Game 4 of L.A.’s second-round series against the Jazz.
“This series would be a lot different,” George said. “Talk about one of the best players in the league being out, yet we were inches away from getting to the next round.
“So, definitely it’s a ‘what if’ on this. Fact of the matter is we didn’t do enough to win, and that’s the reason we’re going home,” George explained.
Leonard, meanwhile, has remained silent since suffering the knee injury. He didn’t travel with the Clippers throughout the conference finals, and instead stayed back in L.A. to receive treatment. He watched L.A.’s first two home games from a high-level suite in Staples Center before joining the bench for Game 6.
Despite how things ended for the Clippers, the team, led by George, had its moments in a hard-fought postseason. The Clippers are the only team in NBA history to overcome a 2-0 deficit twice in the same postseason.
Individually, George showed leadership without Leonard, as well as mental toughness while battling a narrative that he’s not a postseason player — something that followed him from the NBA bubble season, when he put on a lackluster performance that contributed to the Clippers blowing a 3-1 lead to the Nuggets.
Following Wednesday’s elimination loss to Phoenix, George said he “never understood” the narrative.
“I’m the same person. I’ve dealt with stuff, as we all do. Makes me no different than the next man. I came up short again,” he admitted. “I’m proud of what we did as a team. My good wasn’t enough.”
After the NBA bubble, George later revealed he was in a “dark place,” and opened up about experiencing anxiety and depression while isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As George and Co. reflect on a season of ups and downs, the Suns are headed to the NBA Finals — the first-ever appearance for 36-year-old Phoenix point guard Chris Paul.
The Suns will face the winner of the Hawks-Bucks series, which is tied 2-2.