The Los Angeles Clippers will be without star Paul George for their play-in game against the New Orleans Pelicans Friday night as he's entered the league's health and safety protocols after testing positive for COVID-19, per ESPN. This is obviously a significant blow to a Clippers team with a shot at making the playoffs on the line against the Pelicans.
George put up 34 points in L.A.'s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves in its first play-in game on Tuesday, so losing him is incredibly detrimental to the Clippers playoff chances. Now without both George and Kawhi Leonard, the latter of whom has been out all season rehabbing from an ACL tear, the Clippers will face an uphill battle against a Pelicans team that caught fire in their first play-in win against the San Antonio Spurs earlier this week.
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With George now out, the Clippers will lean on guys like Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris to step up in George's absence. Though losing an All-Star player like George is never ideal, L.A. did play a portion of the season without George in the lineup as he dealt with an elbow injury that sidelined him for 48 games. During that time, head coach Tye Lue elevated guard Terance Mann to the starting lineup in place of the injured George, which we could see happen again. Another option is inserting Norman Powell into the starting lineup, who put up 16 points off the bench for the Clippers in their loss to the Timberwolves. Powell provides a better scoring threat than Mann, who can also defend on the other end.
Losing George is costly, but let's not write off the Clippers just yet in this game. They still have a slew of guys who can put points on the board, and L.A. employs the eighth-best defense in the league. It'll be tough, especially against a Pelicans team where CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram just combined for 59 points against the Spurs, but it's not impossible.
George will have to hope his team can carry on without him, because the winner of Friday night's game enters the playoffs as the No. 8 seed against the top-seeded Phoenix Suns, while the loser begins its offseason.