As Lances Stephenson advanced the ball up the court early in the fourth quarter, a murmur in the Fieldhouse turned into a audible buzz as everyone realized Stephenson just needed to make the right pass and he'd have his first NBA triple-double.
Paul George knew as well, so he cut off a screen as hard as he had all night, took a pass from Lance, 18-feet from the bucket, then rose and released with a purpose to drain the jumper to give his teammate the 10th assist. As the Fieldhouse erupted and the Grizzlies called a timeout, PG joyfully celebrated the play with Stephenson as if HE had surpassed some special milestone.
Well, as it turns out, while all of the attention was on Stephenson's 10th assist, PG's bucket put him over the 20-point mark for the eighth consecutive game to start the season. Combined with the Pacers 8-0 start, that put George in some exclusive company, as Elias pointed out.
From Elias: Paul George is the 3rd player in NBA history to score at least 20 points in each of his team's first 8 games while winning all eight games. The others are Wilt Chamberlain in 1960 for the Philadelphia Warriors (first 9) and Dave Bing in 1970 for the Pistons (first 8).
On Friday, PG can keep pace with Chamberlain and surpass Bing. Both the '60-61 Warriors and '70-71 Pistons won their ninth games with Chamberlain logging 38 points in the ninth win (he only averaged over 38 points and 27 rebounds that season), although Bing only scored 19 points in Detroit's win. Both teams would lose their 10th game of the year, but we'd be getting way ahead of ourselves to begin talking about PG standing alone by Sunday if the Pacers are 10-0.
After all, the Pacers take 'em one game at a time and the team is still just 8-0.
Looking back at PG's impressive scoring improvement this year, let me point you to a nice piece by Drew Garrison of SB Nation which focuses on George's improved mid-range game. While they aren't the most efficient shots in the gym, great scorers can always get mid-range buckets and PG has improved in this area quite a bit. It also helps make room for Lance Stephenson and George Hill to operate, as Garrison notes.
Comparing his (PG's) mid-range shooting to the Pacers' other starting lineup wings reveals how he fits perfectly in this role. George has made 52 percent of his field goals taken between 8-24 feet of the basket, going 26-for-50. Lance Stephenson and George Hill, on the other hand, combine for five made field goals on 32 attempts in the same area, according to the NBA's stats-only website. The three players therefore balance each other out; George gets his space, and Hill and Stephenson can play to their strengths as three-point shooters and drivers.
The improvement seems natural since PG has such better command of the ball and is drastically better at creating space for himself to lift and shoot with plenty of room to focus on the bucket, even while operating in traffic.
Hard work pays off and some times in historic proportions.