(1) Indiana Pacers 93, (2) Miami Heat 90
Paul George: 37 points (15-28 FG,) 6 rebounds, 6 steals, 2 assists
Dwyane Wade: 18 points (7-14 FG,) 8 rebounds, 7 assists
With his team down 3-1 in the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals, and his season on the brink, Paul George took full responsibility in extending Indiana's season and forcing a Game 6 against the Miami Heat.
George registered one of the most stellar Pacer playoff performances in recent memory, as his 37 points (31 in the 2nd half,) 6 rebounds and 6 steals propelled Indy to a season salvaging victory.
21 of his 31 2nd half points came in the all important fourth quarter, where some legacies are molded or simply erode away.
Miami Heat superstar LeBron James was parked on the bench for majority of the game, as some iffy foul calls forced him to the sideline. James played only 24 minutes, scored only 7 points (2-10 FG) and had 4 assists and 2 rebounds.
James' 7 points is the fewest he's ever had in a playoff game.
With LeBron being strapped to the bench for the bulk of the game, Paul George drew the assignment of stopping the league's best shooting guard in Dwyane Wade. This task proved to be less tedious and strenuous on George, who looked fresh and engaged in the final period of the contest.
In the fourth, George had his legs and wasn't experiencing that crippling exhaustion that usually stems from having to contain LeBron James over the 48 minutes in a professional basketball game.
From 6:22 on in the 4th quarter, George had 4 of Indiana's 5 field goals and 13 of their final 17 points. This includes Paul nailing a huge three pointer with 46 seconds left after Heat big man Chris Bosh nailed a three the prior possession to cut it to a one point Pacer lead.
It was my belief, that if this game came down to big shot making and taking, Miami would march away victorious. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade would be too much to overcome, and the threats multiply as Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen all have the capability of making the dagger shot.
Usually, Indiana tends to cower away in the big moments, plagued by uncertainty and stagnation on the offensive end. Many become unsure of who will take and make the big shot, but Paul George put a stern dismissal to these notions tonight.
George was focused, fearless and fiery, countering every big Miami play with a dazzling maneuver of his own. George's dominance was not restricted to the offensive end, as his elite defense was in full throttle during tonight's contest.
George and Lance Stephenson refused to rest on their laurels, picking up Wade, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole at almost full court, forcing them to squander away the rhythm Miami had for the entire first half.
George's game was a blend of activity, assertiveness and bounciness. He imposed his will all over the court, borrowing some of that aggression and energy Lance Stephenson seems to have such a high dosage of.
Many fans question if Paul George has entered the realm of superstardom that LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul dwell in. George is one of the most debated figures when it comes to discussing top ten NBA players, and Wednesday night he showcased to the entire world that he's worthy of being mentioned amongst the NBA's elite.
For some eerie reason, their seems to be an unwritten rule that Paul George must accomplish what it takes some stars ten plus years to accomplish in the beginning stages of his career. George is only 24, his best days are ahead of him and he shouldn't be faulted for Indiana falling victim to an all-time great Miami Heat team.
Miami boasts championship experience, deep, poised veteran talent, an extremely skilled forward in Chris Bosh, the league's best shooting guard in Dwyane Wade and the world's best player in LeBron James.
Miami never seems panicked when Indiana starts to rally, or muster up a great deal of momentum. They remain unfazed, with their mind fixated on victory. Indiana eventually wants to mimic this strong mental makeup, the makeup that is usually associated with a championship caliber team.
As each grueling game unfolds, it's illustrated to George and these Pacers what's needed to have their name spewed out when mentioning the league's top tier teams. They want to abandon the inconsistencies that have hampered them for the entire second half of the season, for more gritty and brute play.
They want to develop that sense of calmness that Miami firmly grasps onto even in the most chaotic of situations. Showings such as this simply paint George as the reliable figure who can deliver a victory even when the odds seem to be stacked against you.
Now, Indiana must venture into Miami, and face an eager and angered Heat team who lost the opportunity to close this Indiana team out in Game 5. Despite LeBron James not leaving his usually massive imprint on this game, the Heat still had the opportunity to emerge victorious.
They only lost by three points, and will look to bury this Indy team once and for all on Friday in front of their sure to be hysterical home crowd.
But for tonight, the exciting Pacer play was led by Paul George who pushed himself one step closer into the elite player conversation with this performance. George is in the intermediate stages of shaping his legacy, and this game tonight was a mesmerizing start.
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