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    'Playoff P' resurfaces in Game 3. Or is it just a mirage?

    Jun 13, 2021
    PHOTO: AP
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    CHICAGO - In the aftermath of his putrid performance against the Jazz in Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference semifinals, the court of public opinion spoke harshly and accused Paul George with a few crimes against basketball.

    Among the charges include being MIA, or missing in action, after he stunk up the Vivint Smart Arena in Utah by shooting just 12-of-35 from the field and 5-of-14 from 3 while coughing up six turnovers.

    He was also pelted with chants of "overrated" following a modest two-game harvest of 47 meek points, an output that was too light for an All-Star caliber hooper who just reeled in a five-year, $190 million contract extension.

    George's performance was simply - to use a basketball term - foul. Heck, it may even be a flagrant 2 for unnecessary and excessive incompetence.

    And so right in front of a very judgmental public, the erstwhile stud who fancied himself as "Playoff P" was quickly melting into a laughed out loud playoff dud.

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    But that narrative took a sharp, swift turn today when PG turned himself in at Staples Center and acquitted his name with a 31-point explosion that quieted the doubters and rescued his team's spiraling season.

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    Clippers 132. Jazz 106.

    George looked like the Indiana Pacer star of old, finding his mark via 12-of-24 made field goals and 6-for-10 from long distance.

    He also scattered five assists, three rebounds and one steal as Los Angeles led by as many as 28 and seized control of Game 3 with a strong 37-point second-quarter burst.

    COACH LUE TWEAKS LINE-UP. After experimenting in Game 2 where he inserted Ivica Zubac in the starting lineup, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue went back to Nicolas Batum.

    It was a shift that made the Clips four inches shorter and 10 pounds lighter. But the unit made them faster, stronger and it paid dividends when Batum was able to spread the floor and nail four 3s on the way to 17 points.

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    Kawhi Leonard, meanwhile, assumed the normal role as smooth operator and promptly tortured the Jazz with an all-around fare of 34 points, 12 rebounds and five dimes.

    Lue's planned counter-attack went so well he even had the luxury of throwing in 16 minutes worth of playing time for Patrick Beverley who has been calcifying on the bench as of late.

    Donovan Mitchell, the leader of the Jazz band, continued to be an unstoppable force, this time with 30 biggies.

    Unfortunately, Utah's defense did not travel to L.A. for Game 3, allowing the Clips to shoot 56.2 percent from the field (50-of-89) and 52.8 percent from the 3-point arc (19-of-36).

    After avoiding an 0-3 hole, the Clips are suddenly looking like legit title contenders.

    But some mystery remains.

    Did Paul George really get his groove back for good or was Game 3 just a teasing mirage?

    I don't know but I'm seeing this series tied at 2-2 after Game 4.

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    THE SILENCE OF THE SBP. During a virtual prescon the other day, Chooks To Go CEO Ronald Mascarinas made a stunning revelation about why our Gilas 3x3 national team failed miserably at the OQT in Graz, Austria.

    Talks of blame, suggestions of sabotage, and downright ineptness hung in the air.

    What followed was even more stunning.

    The SBP stayed eerily quiet.

    To paraphrase Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven, there wasn't even a gentle tapping, rapping outside the doors that Mascarinas blew wide open, allowing so much stink to linger.

    But I can understand why SBP is mum amid the blame thrown in their lap.

    It must all be true. Or perhaps, the august body is feverishly hoping for the issue to die down.

    And besides, Mascarinas is a tough customer. He is agenda-free, commands most of the facts, and therefore, is difficult to rebut.

    In the 3x3 issue at least, SBP cannot win a public feud or popularity contest against a revered business executive who is not beholden to anyone, spends his own money to support sports, and is actually both credible and likable.

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    So I get why silence is the strategy.

    Still, I tried to reach Mr. Al Panlilio for an interview and had no success.

    Weekends are for "fam time" I was told.

    Fair enough.

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    PHOTO: AP
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