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Paul George introduces himself to much of America with breakout game… that got overshadowed

May 23, 2013, 2:08 AM EST

Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game One Getty Images

America, meet Paul George.

He’s the Pacer that hit the insane, dramatic three pointer that sent Game 1 against the Heat into overtime. He’s the guy that drew the superstar call on Dwyane Wade, then with ice water in his veins hit three free throws to give Indiana the lead with 2.2 seconds left in overtime. He’s the guy assigned the thankless task of guarding LeBron James and did a pretty good job — between the start of the second quarter and the end of regulation George held him to 6-of-15 shooting (which is pretty dang good against the two-time MVP). He’s the guy who led Indiana with 27 points, plus had 5 assists and got to the free throw line 11 times.

This was his national coming out party — he’s a big-time NBA star, not just a guy basketball people admire…

Except that his not how this game will be remembered.

What will be talked about is LeBron’s layup — a play where George overplayed LeBron and in doing so gave him a direct path to the rim. What’s going to be talked about is Miami escaping with a win in Game 1.

And George will be an afterthought. Which is too bad, because he was brilliant — and the Pacers wouldn’t have been anywhere near a position to win without him. Still, George knows how this will be remembered.

“I gotta understand, you make LeBron shoot a jumper at that point,” George said after the game of the final play.

“I grabbed him after the game and quickly told him to forget about the last play,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s a third year player, and he’s playing the best player in the world, someone that is arguably going to go down as one of the best players in the history of the game, and he’s just playing him toe-to-toe, playing his tail off, competing very hard. I’m very proud of his whole effort.”

George is not a guy that casual basketball fans knew — a lot of those fans can’t name any Pacers players — but basketball people have been admiring him all season. George was an up-and-coming player who got thrust into a much larger role this year with Danny Granger being out — George went from being the second option to the guy everybody counted on for points.

And he responded — he took on much more of the Pacers offense (23.7 percent usage rate) and earned 17.4 points a game, not to mention the 7.6 rebounds, 4 assists and being a key part of the NBA’s best defense. All that earned him the NBA’s Most Improved Player award this year.

That didn’t mean he was known. He’s a guy with two first names who played his college ball in Fresno and now toils in Indiana — not many people have seen him play, or really watched him if they have.

And their first half impression of him was not going to be great — he shot 1-of-4 with three turnovers. He struggled against LeBron in the first quarter but in the second played some good defense.

But in the second half and overtime he carried the Pacers — 25 points, he got to the line 11 times, and hit 3-of-4 from three. On defense he didn’t stop LeBron but he made the Heat star really work for his points. He made LeBron far less efficient.

George kept the Pacers right in this game. People noticed.

Next people knew his name after, with less than a second left in regulation, he hit a 29-foot three that sent the game into overtime.

Next people were screaming his name — with time running out in overtime and the Pacers down two the play in a scramble after Norris Cole knocked the ball free. But George got it, took a three again and drew the foul from Dwyane Wade. We’ll be generous and say it was a borderline call — certainly not a call you expect to see made at the end of games — but George got it. It was a superstar call and the refs gave it to him. Then he coolly sank all three free throws and had the Pacers up one with 2.2 seconds left.

But George made some mistakes on the night. Like the lime-green paisley shirt he wore to the press conference. Or the pass he threw late in the game to Sam Young on the bench (apparently mistaking him for a guy in the game).

Or when he overplayed LeBron’s entry pass with two seconds left in overtime and gave him a path to the basket and the game winner.

Like it was for the Pacers, for George this was a learning experience. A painful one.

But in three resilient NBA years he has shown he learns from his mistakes. And that could be trouble for the Heat because George almost lifted the Pacers to a Game 1 win.

  1. miamatt - May 23, 2013 at 3:11 AM

    He did play a great all around floor game and made some cold-hearted shots. Much respect for this guy.

    • heat256 - May 23, 2013 at 9:06 AM

      Agreed. I was as low as low could be when he made that three to send it to OT. I kept saying “No way”. Now, did we get the best games Hibbert and West have? That remains to be seen. If we have, then no matter what George does, they won’t win.

  2. brokerhenry - May 23, 2013 at 3:15 AM

    Here is the thing though about this game. The Pacers played their best game. The Heat clearly did not. And they still won. If you have been watching the Miami Heat since the big three came together, you know what to expect. They are going to come out incandescently hot in game 2. What are the Pacers going to do because you know LeBron and D-Wade are going to take it to the hoop 89% of game 2. Can the Pacers defend those guys without fouling? Don’t think so. I think this was the best chance for the Pacers to steal a game on the road. The Heat have taken their best punch. The Pacers are about to feel the wrath of an incensed Heat team. I also think Dwyane Wade is getting over his knee pain. He played better than I expected. This is going to be one knocked down dragged out series, but the Heat can win it in 5. I think they win game 2, most likely lose game 3 at Indiana, then come back hard and win game 4. Then they close out in 5 and the fat lady would have belted out her tune.

    • moseskkim - May 23, 2013 at 3:33 AM

      If u think indianas 20 turnovers were their best game, u are mistaken. If u think all those offensive fouls were the best they could do, once again u are mistaken. If u think George hills gonna bring the ball down the floor everytime, u are mistaken. Indiana can play better and showed they can come back with runs of their own.

      • brokerhenry - May 23, 2013 at 7:08 AM

        You are talking out of your rear end without anything to back it up. Indiana averaged 15.1 turnovers per game during the regular season. The Heat averaged 13.9.

        http://stats.nba.com/leagueTeamGeneral.html?sortField=TOV&sortOrder=DES

        Do you seriously think the Heat are going to play as rotten as they did in this game again? Face reality. This was Indiana’s chance and they blew it. I’ll be goddamned if the Heat do not smack the shizznit out your team next time. Come back here and tell me you told me so if I am wrong. This was the best Indy could manage. It will not be enough by a long shot.

      • borderline1988 - May 23, 2013 at 9:31 AM

        I’m not so sure..this series will be hard-fought to the end. The Pacers are for real b/c they can defend as well as any team in the league. There will be no easy wins for the Heat, although I’m not so sure the Pacers can score enough to win.

        A couple of things I noticed:

        1) Even after 3 years together, it still seems like the Heat’s offense can get stagnant at points. Lebron takes too many dribbles, and then late in the shot clock he takes a jumper. Or they do a bunch of dribble hand-offs, or pick up their dribble at bad points in the shot clock.

        2) We can talk about Paul George, but the Pacers’ best player on offense was David West. Paul George can be shut down, b/c the Heat defense is incredible on the wing positions (basically just stick Lebron on George, and George will have a tough time). But David West has the ability to carve up Bosh, Andersen, or whoever they put on him. David West needs to continue to punish the Heat inside, or the Pacers simply will not score enough points to win.

        3) It’s time for Bosh to step up. It’s likely Hibbert will be guarding him..he needs to put Hibbert in foul trouble or draw Hibbert away from the rim. If Hibbert isn’t protecting the rim, Lebron and Wade will have a field day driving there, b/c the Pacers’ outside defenders give up a lot of weight and strength to Wade and Lebron. The Heat got lucky with the Birdman’s production…but you can’t rely on 7 for 7 shooting every game.

  3. louhudson23 - May 23, 2013 at 3:33 AM

    To,Too,Two.

    • deadeyedesign23 - May 23, 2013 at 8:31 AM

      I think he was saying there was too much of America with this breakout game.

  4. pistolpete0903 - May 23, 2013 at 5:25 AM

    It surprises me that teams still over play LBJ.
    If there is a weak point in James offensive arsenal, it is his jump shot.
    In a game ending situation, I would rather have the defense close the lane (or have the individual defender not take him off the dribble). If he shoots and makes the shot, you live with it.

  5. 1972wasalongtimeago - May 23, 2013 at 6:27 AM

    Game 2 of the 2012 ECF’s Rajon Rondo has company.

  6. jbeagles23 - May 23, 2013 at 8:06 AM

    Yup the whole game thy put up stats about Indys turnovers. That wa the fourth time this post season with more than nineteen and they have played an aggressive defence like the heats. Also there were about 8 to 10 shots just chucked up by Indy that just happened to go in and the heat miss so many free throws. I don’t know if anyone seen George’s press but he looked deflated. Like he knew that was their best chance

  7. gmsingh - May 23, 2013 at 8:29 AM

    Who the hell has trouble spelling the word “to”?

  8. chrismt79 - May 23, 2013 at 9:51 AM

    George is really coming into his own. I like his game much better than Granger, it will be interesting to see how that pans out when he returns. I can see George becoming a much better all around player than Granger, especially on the defensive end. He’s almost a Pippen type player, not quite a first option (yet), but can get points when needed. The Heat are just too good of a team, but it will be nice to see the Pacers compete for years to come with the group they have.

    • gostlcards5 - May 23, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      Agreed. The kid is already a very good 2-way player in his 3rd year. He is going to be great if he keeps working at it, and he seems like a humble guy that just wants to continue to improve. If he stays that way, he’ll be a top 5 player within a few years.

  9. bball1975 - May 23, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    “He’s a big-time NBA star”

    Is this the same guy that averaged 17 pts on 41% FG those other 82 games this season? OK, just checking.

  10. gostlcards5 - May 23, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    And by the way, the lime green shirt beats the bloody hell out of DWade’s man-pris….even thinking about them made me throw up in my mouth a little bit.

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