Paul George: the Pacers closer

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

As Paul George continues to develop into an offensive force, the Pacers have relied heavily on him to close out quarters.

Looking at Indiana in the final minute of quarters, George has been asked to perform as though he is a bona fide offensive superstar.

The Pacers have had 17 half court possessions in the final minute of quarters this year. (This excludes the fourth quarter against Orlando and Cleveland, as both games were in hand by then, and the possessions against New Orleans that were immediate fouls by the Pelicans.) In those 17 possessions, George has touched the ball 20 different times and at least once on every possession. The Pacer with the second most touches is C.J. Watson with 11, although nine of those were as the point guard initiating the offense.

George has turned those 20 touches into 12 points on 4-8 shooting from the field. He has gone 1-3 from three, and drawn four fouls, which have resulted in 3-3 free throw shooting. George, who has a career turnover percentage of 14.6, has no turnovers in the final minute of a quarter this season.

Indiana has played hero ball with George. Although, they aren’t completely isolating him on a wing, he has gotten some screens, and Indiana has run some action for other players. (George Hill’s big three in the final minute against New Orleans was off of a pick-and-roll with Roy Hibbert.) But it has mostly been some form of an isolation for George.

Despite the general inefficiencies of late game isolations, George has succeeded. In fact, he is leading the NBA in points per possession on isolations with 1.46 on 11 possessions, per Synergy Sports. (Small sample size!)

Indiana has gone to George and only George late in quarters. The other starters for Indiana have barely touched the ball. The Pacers aren’t feeding the post in the final minute; Roy Hibbert and David West have just three touches apiece. Lance Stephenson isn’t getting the opportunity to slice his way to the goal, he only has one touch. Hill does have seven touches, but four of those have come from starting the offense. The Pacers have tried their dribble handoff that they used to close out quarters last season just once.

Indiana is hardly considering their other players. It is all on George. He has scored 71 percent of the Pacers points in the final minute of each quarter, while taking eight of the 12 shots, and all three free throws.

And drawing fouls could be what makes George isolations effective throughout the season. Defenses have picked up four fouls while defending George on 17 possessions, which is 24 percent of the time. (One of the fouls was when the defense was in a foul to give situation.) George is a 79.6 percent career free throw shooter and can boost his efficiency by getting to line during isolations.

Also, his lack of turnovers is key. (Small sample size!) George has touched the ball 20 times in these late quarter situations and has yet to throw it away or dribble it off of his foot.  He’s averaging 3.3 turnovers through three games, so he still hasn’t eliminated that issue in his game.

Despite being a team built without a supposed hero, Indiana has been using George like one. So far he has delivered, and if he can keep it up, maybe he can bail out the Indiana offense when it becomes stagnant and make late game isolations effective. If it remains effective, this may be the blueprint that Indiana turns to when they are looking to win a game on the final possession.

(These numbers do not include a free throw David West shot as a result of a delay of game technical foul, or two turnovers Roy Hibbert committed after grabbing loose balls on the defensive end. Also, small sample size!)

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