West All-Stars win again over the East, but certainly not because of Paul George.
As has been the theme for Paul George across the regular season, he followed up a lackluster performance again with something worth talking about, making his All-Star Game debut after finishing last in the Three-Point Shootout, scoring 17 points off the bench and nearly carrying the East All-Stars back from the dead to put them in position to win the game. George not only represented the Indiana Pacers well, his play giving the TNT crew plenty of opportunities to squeeze in a few mentions of the blue and gold after he would make a play, but representing his own game well by showcasing his skill set on both ends.
George not only led all scorers off the bench with 17 on 7-13 shooting, including two late game corner threes in the final two minutes, but had three rebounds, four assists, and two steals (with no turnovers) to go along with it. George's highlight play was one Pacers fans have seen all season; he intercepted a pass and went the length of the court for a big dunk. That play got rid of his early jitters and let him really play at a high level, even gaining trending attention on Twitter along with Kyrie Irving as the two biggest surprises of the night, with plenty of wondering aloud as to why Chris Bosh was playing in the game, much less in place of George.
The game itself was mostly defined by the West All-Stars, but the bench play of the East, led by George and Irving, really gave the East a fighting chance. George was substituted out of the game halfway through the fourth, seeming to end his night, but returned in the final two minutes to score six points and assist on a Carmelo Anthony three pointer, before missing a three that would've made it a two point game. To clarify, the biggest play of the game was set up for Paul George. Not a bad way to make an impression on the game at all.
What really worked for George not only tonight, but moving forward when you start looking at someone who can be a representation for the Pacers on the national stage, is that his style of play really works well on the big stage. It's no surprise to Pacers fans that he's a great player to watch, but the smoothness of his play really does look effortless when he's playing with the biggest names in the league.
As a result, Paul's 17 not only looked easy, but was also the highest point total ever by a Pacers player in the NBA All-Star Game, topping Jermaine O'Neal's 16 in 2004, and the highest for a Pacers player in an All-Star Game since Billy Knight scored 20 in the ABA's final All-Star exhibition in 1976. Reggie Miller's All-Star career high was 14. To pile on more fun numbers, Paul's +9 in the plus/minus was second only behind the All-Star Game MVP, Chris Paul, who had a +10.
Paul George made a splash as one of the best players tonight for the East All-Stars, and will hopefully extend that play into the return to regular season basketball, when the Pacers host the New York Knicks on Wednesday, with the Pacers looking to pull within half a game of the second seed in the Eastern Conference.