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Tired legs may be to blame for Paul George’s recent shooting slump

Mar 22, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

Pacers' head coach Frank Vogel talks with player Paul George in the second half of Game 3 of the NBA Eastern Conference final basketball playoff series against the Heat in Indianapolis Reuters

Paul George logged a triple-double in the Pacers’ win over the Bulls on Friday by finishing with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists, but had another rough shooting night at the same time.

George managed to hit just three of his 13 attempts from the field, and went 1-of-5 from three-point distance — numbers that have been more consistent recently than he or his team would like to see.

When Indiana was in New York to face the Knicks on Wednesday, I asked Pacers head coach Frank Vogel about George’s offensive struggles that night, when he shot just 4-of-17 as his team took the loss.

“They tried to pack it in and give him threes, and I’d say probably seven or eight of them were open looks,” Vogel said. “Just a tough shooting night. If they’re going to give Paul George open threes, I’ll live with that.”

The thing is, it wasn’t an isolated incident. I immediately pointed out that George was just 4-of-21 from beyond the arc over his last three games, before hitting one late against the Knicks once things had already been decided. Was it just a mini-slump, or did Vogel need to begin to look elsewhere for some offense?

“Paul George open looks, I’m 100 percent good with that,” he said.

Over his last three games, George is shooting 11-of-44 from the field — 25 percent. And over his last four, he’s gone just 6-of-27 from beyond the arc — 22.2 percent.

Vogel may be right in wanting to stick with his star, and he might not have any other choice. But George’s numbers over his last four games would appear to indicate that something is going on, and it may just be simply that fatigue has set in more than usual during this recent stretch.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com pointed out that George had run the fourth-longest distance in the league this season — 172.4 miles. And this week was particularly rough, with Indiana finishing a stretch of playing five games in eight nights.

Rest might be in order before the playoffs begin, and Vogel said on Wednesday that he’s a believer in getting guys some time off if he feels it’s necessary.

“We keep an eye on our guys, how they’re looking with their rest, and manage it appropriately,” Vogel said. “We’ve got a pretty young team, and the veterans wouldn’t sit out if you held a gun to their heads.

“I agree with [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich's] approach to managing guys,” he continued. “I think there’s a compound effect, because you get some of your key players rest, but the other guys, (a) you get them work, and (b) you see when they rest guys, the other guys usually win games. And that’s because they’re excited about the opportunity to play extended minutes.

“I think it’s a very, very strong philosophy. We just haven’t crossed a bridge where it’s necessary for us yet.”

Indiana has won five of its last six, and still desperately wants that number one seed for the playoffs. But with the team’s best offensive player clearly struggling, the time to put that philosophy into action appears to be upon us.

  1. casualcommenter - Mar 22, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    Defense is half the game. A lot of stars like James Harden, when they’re asked to carry a huge burden on offense, choose to slack off on defense. Even LeBron’s defensive numbers are down this year, especially compared to his 2010-2011 season when he was a monster defensively.

    I think George is settling for jumpers on offense to save energy for defense. Defense is exhausting because it requires chasing shooters around the court, fighting through screens, and sprinting to close out on jump shots. A lot of times, a good defensive sequence for a player ends with not even a block or steal added to his stats, and the lack box score stats for good defense is a reason why I think a lot of stars prioritize offense over defense.

    When George has a 3 for 12 shooting night, everybody notices. When Harden allows Ray Allen to blow by him 4 times, leading to layups, that doesn’t show up on the box score.

    • ProBasketballPundit - Mar 22, 2014 at 1:19 PM

      You’re right, nobody counts defense equally with offense. I definitely think Paul George is a top 10 or 12 player in the league. Unfortunately, the Pacers are 20th in offensive efficiency. That has to improve if they want to win a championship.

    • antistratfordian - Mar 22, 2014 at 5:57 PM

      Okay – this is another Paul George myth (like when he was 6’11 back in 2012). George is not exerting himself so much more than other good two-way players to the point where its negatively affecting only his offense. He’s simply struggling to score. Sometimes there is no direct cause for it. He could have fresh legs and still enter a shooting slump. It happens all the time.

  2. metalhead65 - Mar 22, 2014 at 1:12 PM

    the pacers have won 5 of 6 so if George is struggling right now the pacers can live with that. the bench came through big time last night so you may see his minutes decline as the season winds down. there is no way they will sit him out games if getting the home court depends on them continuing to win.

  3. therooneyskilledwebster - Mar 22, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    I thought LaBron had copyrighted that excuse?

  4. cantonbound13 - Mar 22, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    Loos like LeBron is already mentoring him, the excuses for poor play are coming out.

    • legend30 - Mar 22, 2014 at 3:24 PM

      SHOCKING!! cantonbound, is talking about LeBron again… He’s not a true Knicks fan, he just hates on players.

      • cantonbound13 - Mar 22, 2014 at 4:47 PM

        Nothing bad to say about the Knicks? Won 8 in a row & have the greatest basketball mind running things now. I know you’re scared!

    • kinggw - Mar 22, 2014 at 4:49 PM

      The only excuse given was made by casualcommenter, not by George or Vogel. Try again.

  5. jzone954 - Mar 22, 2014 at 2:14 PM

    Heat in 7

    • miamatt - Mar 22, 2014 at 2:47 PM

      6

  6. jzone954 - Mar 22, 2014 at 2:17 PM

    Canton, even in an article about Paul George you still find a way to sneak your envious hate towards Lebron in?!?!
    Son you have ISSUES

    • sportsfan18 - Mar 22, 2014 at 5:48 PM

      yes, he does mention LBJ a lot…

      But come on! This one was a layup…

      Paul George has SAID he wants LBJ to be his mentor.

      It did NOT take anything to mention LBJ in an article about Paul George due to this. Paul George pretty much has brought this on himself by saying he want’s LBJ to mentor him…

  7. 1972wasalongtimeago - Mar 22, 2014 at 2:18 PM

    Any of you ever see the movie Micki & Maude? Dudley Moore had tired legs too.

  8. 1972wasalongtimeago - Mar 22, 2014 at 2:28 PM

    Gotta name the kids John and Ringo right? John, Paul George, and Ringo? Get it?

  9. 1972wasalongtimeago - Mar 22, 2014 at 2:33 PM

    Wait, you mean there’s a whole different thing out there people are making fun of Paul George about?

  10. bballhistorian - Mar 22, 2014 at 3:16 PM

    You do know Paul George was a trending topic on twitter for being catfished by a tranny, right?

    • 1972wasalongtimeago - Mar 22, 2014 at 3:30 PM

      I did not. I admit I do a poor job following things like tranny catfishing

      • bballhistorian - Mar 22, 2014 at 4:07 PM

        well…at least I was here to inform you!

    • davidly - Mar 22, 2014 at 4:23 PM

      That was you?

      • bballhistorian - Mar 22, 2014 at 6:06 PM

        @davidly no but im sure your mother would know from experience…

  11. xli2006 - Mar 22, 2014 at 3:51 PM

    Hmm, you realize he just had a Triple Double last night right?

    Pretty sure you need legs to pull that off.

  12. cruzan80 - Mar 22, 2014 at 3:58 PM

    Tired? Really? He’s 23 years old. The guy he was trying to guard Wednesday night (Carmelo Anthony) is 29 years old & averages more minutes per game as well (38.8 vs George’s 35.9). It’s not like we haven’t seen this anemic type of offensive output from George before. Twice in last year’s playoffs we saw this kid disappear in clinching games. In game 6 vs the Hawks, he went 2-10 from the field, 0-5 from 3 & finished with 4 points in 44 minutes of play. In game 7 vs the Heat, he went 2-9 from the field, 1-4 from 3 & finished with 7 points in an elimination game.

    The media has made this kid out to be better than he actually is in my opinion. He’s very good but not “superstar” good. In November the media was ready to anoint him as the second coming of LBJ. In my opinion he’s closer to Andre Igoudala than he is Lebron James. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. George is a VERY good player playing on a very good team. “Superstars” have the ability to carry bad to average teams….I don’t think George has that ability. These kind of performances shouldn’t be blamed on “tired legs”…..It’s just Paul George being Paul George.

    • sportsfan18 - Mar 22, 2014 at 5:57 PM

      Cruz,

      Are you talking about Paul George or Melo?

      You say “He’s very good but not “superstar” good.” Does that apply to George? Check. Does that apply to Melo? Check…

      Then you said that ““Superstars” have the ability to carry bad to average teams…” Can George do this? Nope. Can Melo do this? Nope.

      Check out Melo’s playoff stats for his ENTIRE career. Like how far his teams have NOT gone in ANY of them…

      Check out his stats too… they DROP in the playoffs… In his 21 playoff games as a member of the Knicks, he’s shooting .297% from 3 pt range… NOT GOOD.

      Why did I just mention that? Because you said George has disappeared, including in the playoffs.

      You’re RIGHT, George HAS disappeared as you said. So HAS Melo in the playoffs… clink, clank, clunk go his shots. LESS than 30%… not good…

      Melo’s career playoff winning percentage is like 38%… For players of his caliber, he’s the worst… so says who? So says this article… http://content.usatoday.com/communities/gameon/post/2012/05/carmelo-anthonys-playoff-record-is-nbas-worst-in-20-years/1#.Uy4G5ahdV2U

      You know, it’s just Melo being Melo…

      • antistratfordian - Mar 22, 2014 at 6:12 PM

        Whether his numbers warrant that or not is irrelevant. Melo has long been one of the most popular players in the league, with one of the most recognizable names and faces in the league – top 5 in jersey and shoe sales, a top endorsement earner, all of that. At this point you can only beg that people stop considering him a superstar, because he’s been one for years.

      • cruzan80 - Mar 23, 2014 at 1:56 PM

        YOUR Bulls disagree with everything you just said……sorry….but I truest their opinion just a little bit more than I do yours.

  13. antistratfordian - Mar 22, 2014 at 5:34 PM

    Recent!? He’s been in a shooting slump since late January.

    Through his first 42 games (thru Jan 24) he shot 46.4%, with 18 games over 50% and 6 games over 60%. In his last 27 games he’s been shooting 37.8%, with only 6 games over 50% and 0 games over 60% (including one 0% effort vs Charlotte).

    He’s been struggling for a while now.

    • adamsjohn714 - Mar 22, 2014 at 7:04 PM

      He is having a great year from the free throw line. I have no idea how he’s shooting 87% from there. It’s pretty much the only thing keeping his TS% up.

    • abchome - Mar 22, 2014 at 9:40 PM

      Yes, PG has been struggling with offense since January. His FG% by month:
      November .472
      December .468
      January .410
      February .401
      March .388

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