Paul George turned 23 years-old earlier this May, but you wouldn’t know it by his poise and decision-making in Friday night’s Game 2 victory over the Miami Heat. Frank Vogel has got to be relieved his Pacers played so well in Game 2 that the avalanche of criticism he received in Game 1 will be mostly forgotten by Game 3. The Pacers were led by Roy Hibbert’s 29 points (10 of 15 from the field) and 10 boards (6 on the offensive end), but it was Paul George (+17) who had the greatest impact of any player in this game. As a team, the Pacers took great care of the ball, turning it over only 13 times, the lowest number against Miami in this year’s playoffs, seven fewer times than they did in Game 1. The turnover number is critical. In Chicago’s Game 1 victory against Miami, they kept it to 15. In Miami’s 94-91 Game 5 win against Chicago, the Bulls turned it over 14 times. Miami is unstoppable in the open court, and the court becomes wide open after turnovers. By limiting that number, and finding creative ways to get the ball to Roy Hibbert, the Pacers were able to keep the game in the half-court, and let their excellent defense go to work. Miami’s poor free-throw shooting (18 of 26, 69% helped). Ray Allen missed two technical free-throws in the first-half, in a shocking turn of events. Allen is a career 90% free-throw shooter. Let’s chalk those misses to Ray Allen’s conscience (he knows he shouldn’t have left Boston). George Hill’s 18 points on 8 shots, 2 of 3 from distance and 3 steals were a huge boost for Indiana as well.
Fans will be talking about Paul George’s dunk on Chris Anderson, after beating LeBron off the dribble in isolation, near the end of the third quarter. And the dunk was nasty! certainly worthy of an exclamation point! More importantly though, it was George’s decision-making that led to Hibbert getting the ball in the paint, which propelled Indiana in Game 2. LeBron’s crunch-time turnovers will be blamed for Miami’s loss, and they certainly didn’t help, but give Paul George praise. Not only did he play excellent defense on LeBron (helping force LeBron’s five turnovers) but he also scored 22 points on 16 shots (all taken within the flow of the offense), and dished out 6 assists to only 2 turnovers. A statistic that tells the biggest (and yet overlooked) story: 2 turnovers on 31 impact touches. Those touches are listed below:
Before the game, I decided to chart George’s impact touches (possessions in which his shot, pass, or drive were critical in the possession. Next to each touch you will see a “Y” or “N” to indicate whether or not he made the best decision. This doesn’t automatically mean the Pacers scored, but that he made the right choice, given the scenario. Without any background in this kind of charting (which takes a while, by the way), I thought it would take a 70% success rate from George for Indiana to win this game. He finished 24 of 31, 77%.
#1: Great up-fake, George drives for a hoop in traffic. (Y)
#2: With Wade defending him, George was unable to back Wade down, resulting in eventual shot-clock violation. (N)
#3: Good, early entry pass to Hibbert, who made a 7-footer. (Y)
#4: Drives lane, good patience, takes a 13-footer and misses. (Y)
#5: Makes a quick pull-up 18-footer over LeBron in semi-transition. (Y)
This was a good sign, as George’s jump-shot is not quite consistent enough, and when he misses early, it can change the way the next three quarters play out.
#6: Great early entry pass to Hibbert under the hoop. (Y)
As Zach Lowe and others have pointed out, the Pacers need to make smart entry passes against the excellent Miami defense. Sometimes the smartest entry passes are earlier in the post-up-fight.
#7: Transition lay-up on a long pass from Stephenson. (Y)
#8: Pick-and-roll with West gets West an open 18-footer. (Y)
#9: While in isolation on LeBron, George’s entry pass to Hibbert was hurried and low, resulting in a kicked-ball turnover. (N)
First-quarter decision-making summary: 7 of 9, 77%. Indiana led with 2:53 remaining in the first quarter, 24-14.
George got his second foul with 2:53 remaining in the 1st quarter, and then sat out the first 6 minutes of the 2nd quarter. When George re-entered the game, Indiana led 37-35.
#10: George was double-teamed by Wade and Bosh, and tried to split the double, but was called for travelling. (N)
#11: George cuts underneath, receives a pass, and has his shot-altered by a swiping Wade and no foul is called. (Y)
#12: George finds Mahinmi, who hits a 20-footer. (Y)
#13: Excellent drive and dish to Hibbert who gets the foul called and hits two free-throws. (Y)
#14: Pick-and-roll, George makes a good over-the-top pass to a cutting Hibbert, who scores. (Y)
Second-quarter decision-making summary: 4 of 5, 80%. Indiana led 53-47 at the half.
#15: Pass from the wing to West for an open jumper. (Y)
#16: George drives and misses a running lay-up, but Bosh is forced to contest, and Hibbert gathers in an offensive rebound for a dunk. (Y)
#17: Nice drop-off pass to Hibbert. (Y)
#18: In the two-man game, with the other three Pacers clearing out, Hibbert receives the post-up from George with 4 seconds on the shot-clock, drops it back to George, who fakes on a corner-3 and turns it over on the shot-clock violation. (N)
#19: George makes a nice back-door cut and Chalmers doesn’t switch, giving George the open lay-up. (Y)
#20: Isolation on LeBron, knocks down a tough 21-footer. (Y, given the shot-clock)
#21: Has a mismatch, with Norris Cole defending on the block, but George passes out and forces West into a contested jumper. (N)
#22: Travelling violation when George takes a third step on a drive. (N)
#23: The highlight-reel tomahawk dunk on Chris Anderson, after beating LeBron easily off the dribble. (Y!)
Third Quarter decision-making summary: 7 of 10, 70%. After three quarters, Pacers lead 76-74.
#24: Top of the key-George drives, double-pumps, and doesn’t realize Battier’s long arms are behind him, gets blocked. (N, but this is a tough “No” as most help defenders can’t make this block)
#25: Transition pull-up 17-footer from wing. (Y)
#26: Open 3-pointer (24-footer) off George Hill penetration and great pass. (Y- and it goes in)
#27: Given ball with 4 on the shot-clock in bad possession, takes a double-teamed 3-pointer, a 26-footer. (Y, not his fault)
#28: Hill puts George in bad position, misses an off-balance 20-footer. (Y, not his fault)
#29: Pick-and-roll from wing, George makes the over-the-top pass, and Hibbert hits a tough lefty hook. (Y)
#30: George finds West off the pick. West has a mismatch with Ray Allen, and West hits the jumper, his first since the 1st quarter. (Y)
#31: George misses an open 25-footer from the wing. Tough miss with game tied at 93, but Stephenson gets the offensive rebound. (Y)
#32: In the biggest defensive possessions of the game, in the final minute with the Pacers leading 95-93, Paul George played great defense on LeBron James, staying in James’ way as LeBron drove, both times leading to LeBron passes that were deflected and stolen.
4th Quarter decision-making summary: 8 of 9, 88%. Indiana wins 97-93.
Congratulations to Paul George. Let’s hope you’ve got three more of these in you over the next ten days.
Total summary: 24 of 31, 77%.
Pacers passing: 18 assists, 13 turnovers. Pacers offensive efficiency rating for the game (123.3 – best by a Heat opponent since Indiana on February 2nd)
Heat passing: 14 assists, 14 turnovers.
Jonah Hall writes The Darko Index so he can rewind every Paul George decision and give credit when credit is due. Just imagine how good George might be if he can expand his range by a few feet. Contact Jonah at email@example.com and @darkoindex on twitter.