Paul George gets hot as Pacers cool Heat
by Mike Wells, USA TODAY Sports
Indiana Pacers swingman Paul George didn’t have Tuesday’s game against the Miami Heat circled on his calendar. He didn’t have a note taped inside his locker, either.
George didn’t need a reminder.
He knew he’d have to carry the Pacers offensively while also trying to slow LeBron James and his freak-of-nature scoring ability.
For all George has done this season in becoming one of the NBA’s best all-around players, nothing was as special as the performance he put on in front of a sellout crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
George outdueled James in their head-to-head battle by scoring 22 of his 29 points in the second half to lead an 87-77 victory over the defending NBA champions.
That’s right, the same Paul George who vanished in the national spotlight of the playoffs last season against the Heat outplayed James, a three-time league MVP.
“Paul George was sensational,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said, “carrying us for a large stretch of the game offensively. He played 43 minutes of great defense on LeBron and/or (Dwyane) Wade. Just a solid all-around game, one of the best all-around players in the game.”
James finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and seven turnovers in 43 minutes. George added 11 rebounds and only one turnover in 44 minutes.
“I just think it’s all about confidence and opportunity,” James said. “The simple fact that Danny Granger is hurt has given him an opportunity to showcase what he’s capable of doing. He’s going out there and doing a little bit of everything.
“He’s rebounding, he’s scoring, he’s making plays. It’s not like he hasn’t been there. He was that player last year, but he wasn’t able to come out of it because he wasn’t as featured as he is now.”
George was supposed to have his coming-out party last season in the playoffs against the Heat.
But the magnitude of the stage, coupled with Granger being hobbled with an ankle injury in Games 5 and 6, were too much for George.
The Pacers’ third-year forward was only 19-of-52 from the field (36.5 percent) in the series.
George watched every second of every game of that series during the offseason and … [For more on Paul George gets hot as Pacers cool Heat, click here.]