Paul George Memes, Jokes Erupt After Crucial Free Throw Misses

The NBA playoffs breed heroes and villains in equal measure and Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday night was no different.

If Deandre Ayton was firmly in the former category after his alley-oop winner with less than one second on the clock clinched a 104-103 victory for the Phoenix Suns over the L.A. Clippers and gave them a 2-0 lead in the series, Paul George belonged to the latter.

The Clippers star missed two free throws with 8.2 seconds remaining, leaving the door ajar for the Suns to reclaim the lead. Had he sunk both free throws, Phoenix would have needed a three-pointer to send the game to overtime. Had George made even just one of the two, the Suns would have needed at least a basket to tie the game or a three-pointer to win it.

Instead, George's misses set up a dramatic finale that will live long in Suns' lore and could well go down as the kind of sliding-doors moment that decides playoffs series.

The misses were completely out of character for George, an 85-percent career free throw shooter, and overshadowed an otherwise brilliant performance. The seven-time All-Star finished with 26 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds, shooting 10 of 23 from the field and scored the Clippers' last six points, all within the final minute to put his team ahead, 103-102.

George's efforts ultimately amounted to nothing because of his two missed free throws and Twitter was predictably merciless as the Clippers star didn't live up to his "Playoff P" nickname.

all that redemption equity Paul George had built this playoffs.......

— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) June 23, 2021

paul george went from playoff p to pandemic p within seconds

— chicken (@nuggetdoyu) June 23, 2021

Clippers fans watching Paul George go from Playoff P to Pandemic P

— Jackson Lockhart (@_Jack_lockhart) June 23, 2021

Paul George finally putting an end to the Pandemic P jokes tonight:

— Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz (@LeBatardShow) June 23, 2021

George's free throw misses drew comparison with Ben Simmons' struggles.

Earlier this week, the Philadelphia 76ers point guard was the butt of Twitter jokes after scoring just 5 points in his team's 103-96 home loss in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinal against the Atlanta Hawks.

In the seven games against the Hawks, Simmons shot 33 percent from the free throw line, bringing his overall average for the 2021 playoffs down to 34.2 percent.

According to data from ESPN Stats and Information, that was the lowest percentage in NBA history for a player with at least 70 free throw attempts in the postseason.

Ben Simmons watching Paul George Miss 2 clutch free throws

— Luke Simpson (@Lukesimpson___) June 23, 2021

Paul George at the freethrow line in the clutch:

— Loul Embaye (@Loul_Embaye) June 23, 2021

Speaking to ESPN after the game, George acknowledged his error cost the Clippers the game.

"Obviously, it was an opportunity that was missed," he said.

"Pat [Beverley] made an unbelievable play that put me in the position to extend the lead. I am always confident at the free throw line. I have always been very successful in clutch moments at the free throw line. Tonight, I was just unsuccessful."

As the series moves to Los Angeles, the only solace for the Clippers can be found in their playoffs run this season, during which they have made a habit of digging themselves out of a hole.

The Clippers erased a two-game deficit in the first round against the Dallas Mavericks to win the series in seven games and repeated the feat against the Utah Jazz in the conference semifinals, coming back from 2-0 down to win 4-2.

On the flip side of the coin, the Suns have now won nine consecutive playoff games, a franchise record.

Game 3 is scheduled for Thursday at 9 p.m. ET at the Staples Center in L.A.

Paul George of the LA Clippers
Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers (L) controls the ball against Mikal Bridges #25 of the Phoenix Suns during Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena on June 20 in Phoenix, Arizona. Christian Petersen/Getty Images