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Paul George had just wrapped up his brilliant night in Phoenix, scoring 41 points to keep the Los Angeles Clippers’ season alive. He shared some hugs and fist bumps with teammates and assistant coaches before he finally got to head coach Tyronn Lue.

There were some words of encouragement. They were also apparently too hot for TV.

“I can’t share that,” George said with a grin, recalling the conversation. “Bleep this and bleep that.”

George set his playoff career high in scoring, Reggie Jackson added 23 and the feisty Clippers staved off elimination by beating the Phoenix Suns, 116-102, on Monday night in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals.

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The Clippers have been counted out multiple times in this postseason. That continues to be a mistake.

“The group of guys we’ve got, I love those guys. They compete every single night no matter who is on the floor,” Lue said. “The work’s not done, but we came into a hostile environment and got a gritty win.

“We’ve got to do it again two more times.”

The series moves back to LA with the Suns holding a 3-2 advantage. Game 6 is Wednesday.

The short-handed Clippers were playing without two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and center Ivica Zubac, who missed his first game of the season with an MCL sprain in his right knee. They’ve already fought through two grueling series wins in these playoffs, coming back from 2-0 deficits to beat both the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz.

Now they’re trying to claw back against the Suns. Game 5 was a good start.

George was fantastic after a tough shooting night in Game 4, pouring in 20 points in the third quarter. He finished 15 of 20 from the field, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range and added 13 rebounds and six assists.

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“If they were going to finish this series, they were going to have to work for it,” George said. “That’s just the mentality we had. We weren’t going to back down. We weren’t going to throw in the towel. The fact of the matter is they’ve got to beat us.”

Marcus Morris Sr., who played for Phoenix earlier in his career, added 22 points on 9-of-16 shooting.

The Suns trailed by as many as 15 points during the first half but took their first advantage in the third when Chris Paul knocked down a 16-foot jumper for a 62-61 lead. The Clippers responded with the next 10 points and then started sinking 3-pointers. George hit back-to-back 3s and Patrick Beverley added one to push LA ahead, 82-70, gesturing to the Suns crowd as he jogged back down the court.

It was the common theme of the night: Every time the Suns got some momentum, the Clippers were there to squash it in a hurry.

The Clippers took a 91-78 lead into the fourth. The Suns pulled within 98-94 with 6:58 left but LA responded with a 10-2 run and pulled away for the win.

Devin Booker led the Suns with 31 points. Paul — who is trying to go to the NBA Finals for the first time in his 16-year career — added 22 points and eight assists. Deandre Ayton had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

“We’ve got to be better,” Paul said. “They came out and they were the aggressors. They looked like us in Game 4. They hit us, they were too comfortable and we’ve got to be better.”

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Portland announces Chauncey Billups as coach

The Portland Trail Blazers have hired Chauncey Billups as their new coach.

Billups, a five-time NBA All-Star over a 17-year playing career, has never been a head coach. He has served as an assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers for the past season.

“Portland is a special place and a unique franchise,” Billups said in a statement Sunday night. “As a player I always loved playing here because the passion and knowledge of the fans brought out the very best in me as a competitor. Now I’m looking forward to being on the other side of that energy and engaging with the Portland community on a whole other level.”

The Blazers have scheduled a Tuesday press conference to introduce Billups, 44. He becomes the 15th head coach of the franchise.

“Chauncey is a proven leader with an elite basketball IQ that has won everywhere he has been,” said Neil Olshey, Portland’s president of basketball operations. “He is prepared for the challenge of developing the Championship habits and strategic approach we need to achieve the expectations and goals for our franchise.”

The Blazers were also interested in Brooklyn Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni, as well as San Antonio Spurs assistant Becky Hammon.

Mavericks introduce Jason Kidd, Nico Harrison

The Dallas Mavericks welcomed back former point guard Jason Kidd as their coach along with new general manager Nico Harrison.

Kidd returns to the Mavericks nine years after backing out on an oral agreement to re-sign in free agency for what ended up being his final season as a player in 2012-13. Kidd finished his career with the New York Knicks.

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The floor leader for Dallas’ only championship in 2011 is replacing his coach from that team, Rick Carlisle. The winningest coach in franchise history resigned June 17, a day after general manager Donnie Nelson’s departure was announced.

The 48-year-old Kidd inherits a team with a young superstar in point guard Luka Doncic, but without a playoff series victory since the 2011 NBA Finals. Dallas lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round for the second consecutive season.

Ben Simmons withdraws from Australia’s Olympic team

Ben Simmons has withdrawn from Australia’s Olympic squad in order to spend time working on his individual skill development following a disappointing NBA post-season for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Basketball Australia issued a statement early Tuesday local time to confirm Simmons’ decision to pull out of selection for the Tokyo Olympics.

“It is a pretty rough time for him right now,” Australia’s head coach Brian Goorjian said. “Going to the Olympics “is something that he wanted to do, but the timing just hasn’t worked.

“The best thing for everybody right now is for him to go on and develop that skill package and improve in a couple of areas for his next season in the NBA.”

Goorjian left the door open for Simmons to rejoin Australia’s men’s national team in future.