Who: Paul George
What: Put the Pacers on his back and carried them into Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals (insert mental image of Roy Hibbert, David West, Lance Stephenson, and George Hill all climbing like toddlers on George’s shoulders and head)
When: May 28, 2014
Where: Indianapolis, Indiana
Why: Because he ain’t done yet
After a surprisingly fluid offensive game in Game 1, the Pacers suspect offense slowed to a crawl in Games 2, 3, and 4. Were the Heat unprepared because of the offensively-challenged opponents they faced in Round One (Charlotte) and Two (the elderly and isolation-based offensive of the Nets)? Game 1 showed the Pacers at their scoring best. Hibbert rolling. George Hill knocking down open looks. Lance Stephenson and Paul George taking the ball to the paint with force and making the right passes.
This series may have looked very different if not for the concussion Paul George sustained at the end of Game 2. Dwyane Wade’s knee knocking the back of George’s head impacted not only the final minutes of that game, but George didn’t play with the same level of intensity or aggression for most of Game 3 and the beginning of Game 4. The fact that he played at all in Game 3 is somewhat shocking when you consider this post-concussion timeline (Dr. Brian McDonald from Main Line Health’s website):
A Day After a Concussion: The disruption in brain metabolism is at its worst approximately two to three days after an injury, and remains that way for at least one week. This metabolism may not normalize until at least one month from the date of the injury.
A Week After a Concussion: The metabolism in the brain may remain unstable, even though symptoms have subsided. Just because a patient is no longer exhibiting symptoms does not mean that the brain is back to functioning normally, so continue to use caution and refrain from getting back into activities that could result in additional or increased injury.
A Year After a Concussion: The majority of individuals will experience symptom resolution within one to three months, but athletic head injuries typically resolve within one month. Rarely do patients continue to experience symptoms beyond one year from the time of their injury. For the small percentage of patients who do, there is probably some long-lasting brain injury, which may show up on imaging studies.
Now, not all concussions are alike in severity or scope, but the fact that George clearly blacked out on the court for a minute, and then admitted to having “blurred vision” for the remainder of the game is one indication. Just watching George in Game 3, it was clear he wasn’t right. Six days have now passed since the end of Game 2, and George’s 31-point second-half brought Indiana back from the brink. David West was the only other Pacer to score a point after Stephenson’s lay-up put the Pacers up 57-52 with 2:15 remaining in the 3rd. There were moments during that 4th quarter in which it felt like the rest of Indiana’s players were doing their best to let this one slip away. Missed free-throws. Sloppy play. But Paul George said, “No, no. I’m not quite finished with all of this. It’s not ending like this. And then he started draining three-pointers like this was the final game in which three-pointers would be allowed. George finished 5 of 14 from deep. He hit 3 of his 5 4th-Quarter attempts. Of equal importance was what the long-range attempts opened up for George: driving lanes. He went 10 of 14 from within the arc.
Of course, because James played only 24 minutes, George had more freedom than he’s had all series. Heat fans will rightly focus on LeBron’s foul trouble as the reason for the loss. What they would rather not focus on is the fact that Paul George has his own focus back. Game 6 should be fun.