Clippers' George has to prove Jazz crowd can't affect him, says Ian Eagle


The Los Angeles Clippers haven't reached any new heights just yet, but they may finally be ready to shed their long-standing reputation as playoff chokers.

On Monday, the Clippers erased an 0-2 series deficit for the second time this summer, defeating the Utah Jazz, 118-104, to knot their West semifinal series at two games apiece. And the stars lived up to their billing, as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George (62 points combined) became just the fifth duo since 1976 with 30 points each in back-to-back playoff games.

NBA on TNT broadcaster Ian Eagle joined The Zach Gelb Show on Tuesday to discuss whether the Clippers' surge is sustainable, and how home cooking has significantly impacted George's performances.

"The difference, as we know, George on the road -- with 18,000 screaming fans in Salt Lake City getting on him and making him a focal point -- can change matters," Eagle said. "And I do think it has affected PG-13 in the past, and I think it affected him in the first two games of the series. It was raucous in Salt Lake City. It was the first time that it really felt, for me, like a legitimate playoff atmosphere, pre-pandemic. Pent-up energy, and these fans just let loose. And I expect it to be a madhouse tomorrow night, once again."

In Games 1 and 2 at Vivant Arena in Utah -- the Clippers lost both games by single digits -- George scored a combined 47 points, but made just 12 of 35 total field goal attempts. The sellout crowd mercilessly taunted him whenever he touched the ball, and although George didn't take issue with the heckling, the numbers suggest his play was partially poor due to it.

Based on George's winning stat lines in Games 3 and 4, perhaps he's now dialed-in and hungry to take charge. But Eagle believes the Utah crowd can exert influence on George once again in a pivotal Game 5.

"Until he proves that it can't, you have to believe it's something that enters the equation. So, that's the one thing I would keep an eye on," Eagle said. "There were concerns. PG-13 didn't shoot it all that well in the first two games. He looked much sharper in Games 3 and 4. And even when Kawhi went to the bench with what appeared to be a knee issue for precautionary reasons down the stretch, who took over for the Clippers to secure it? Paul George did.

"So, I think all of those steps along the way helped him and helped him in this process. But you've still got to do it on the road, and you've still got to do it in front of 18,000-plus."

Game 5 of their best-of-seven series will take place on Wednesday night in Utah, with tipoff scheduled for 10 p.m. ET. According to FiveThirtyEight, the Clippers currently have a 46-percent chance of advancing to the West Finals.

The entire NBA conversation between Eagle and Gelb can be accessed in the audio player above.

You can follow The Zach Gelb Show on Twitter @ZachGelb and Tom Hanslin @TomHanslin.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Stringer / Getty Images