Has Indiana Pacers’ small forward Paul George elevated his game to superstar status over the course of the 2013 NBA Playoffs? If he didn’t in the first two series, he’s made a hell of a case in the current fistfight that he and his Pacers are currently involved in with the World Champion Miami Heat.
The former Fresno State Bulldog has gone head to head with the league’s elite and has held his own and then some. In the conference semifinals he led the Pacers over Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks.
Now, George has the Pacers on the brink of playing for an NBA championship. Monday, No. 24’s Pacers play in game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals in Miami against LeBron James and the Heat. Speaking of James, George has gone toe to toe with “The King” throughout the series and fans might agree that Monday’s game will ultimately determine who got the best of who. Not too shabby for a guy in his third year in the league.
One would think that just a year ago George probably wouldn’t be considered the guy to have pushed LeBron James and the 2011- 2012 World Champions to the edge of elimination in 2013.
George hasn’t done it all by himself and that’s not what I’m trying to convey here. Roy Hibbert and company have played a huge part in the Pacers success so far. But it’s hard to argue that Paule George is not the leader of this Pacer’s team.
George vs James
Let’s take a look at the head to head numbers from George and James in this series. James is averaging 28.5 ppg to George’s 21.5. James is shooting 52% and George is knocking down shots at a 50% clip. It’s worth noting that James has shot the ball 126 times in this series and George has put the ball up just 90 times. Both play a hybrid point forward with both players dropping over five dimes per contest. James has the edge in rebounds with 7.2 per game and George has pulled down almost six per game (5.8 ).
If it wasn’t the case in the first four games– which I say it has been– The two have been engaged in an all-out duel for the last two games.
Game five was interesting as George scored 13 points in the first quarter of his 27 point game, but only managed 14 in the entire second half. The first 29 points scored from the Pacers all came from Hibbert and George. He did have 10 in the fourth as he tried but failed to bring his team back for the win. James had 30 for the night, with 16 of those coming in the third quarter which gave the Heat what they needed to eventually put this one away; Advantage James.
The Heat clawed their way back in the third quarter of game six and were within four with 5:52 remaining in the game. George (28 points) hit a 27-foot three to put the Pacers up by seven. The Heat would not get any closer and James (29 points) could only muster four points down the stretch as the Heat fell 91-77; Advantage George.
Let’s not forget game two as part of the duel. As time was winding down in the first half, George blew by James and gave Chris Anderson, a click click you’re going to be on a poster moment, as he finished with a vicious dunk. James didn’t blink on the ensuing possession as he took the ball past half court and nailed a long three as time expired. After the shot, James turned around and slapped hands with George before they walked off the court; Advantage push.
Got Our Attention
George was an All-Star and he was given the league’s Most Improved Player award for the 2012-2013 season. This series against the Heat is the attention grabber though and George wasted no time with a gutsy performance in game-one.
With time running out in regulation of game-one and hope dissipating fast due to a badly executed play, George was able to salvage the mess, rise up and drop a three from way beyond the arc sending the game into overtime.
George was also big in the extra session of game-one as he once again managed late game heroics as time was dwindling down. George drew a foul from Dwyane Wade as he attempted a three. Good call or bad, George hit all three free throws like it wasn’t nothing but a thing, and gave the Pacers a one-point advantage with just over two seconds to play.
The three- pointer and the three shots at the stripe were great and all, but James broke the hearts of Pacers’ fans everywhere on the next possession as he went by George, who appeared to be pushing up a bit too much and James laid in the game winner as time expired.
Even with that kick in the gut loss, George had our attention and has kept it.
I asked earlier, has George lifted his game to superstar status throughout the 2013 playoffs and this series? I showed you his numbers against the NBA’s 2013 Most Valuable Player. George has had that “no game or moment is too big for me” look in his eyes. It’s not just a look; he has proven that nothing is too big for him. You be the judge.
Yes, we still have game seven but lets not forget they’re playing the world champs and Lebron James. So, will a loss by George and the Pacers change how we feel about whether or not he is a superstar? Has he done enough through six games, or does he need to win game seven or at least play like he has in the first six?
Clutch performances or the lack there of can go a long way in determining just how good you are. Especially in a game seven.