PG wasn't just playing when he showed up at the Fieldhouse, he was playing to win. Ready to go for the kill at both ends of the floor. Whew, I can get used to playoff Paul George if he can make that type of effort last throughout the postseason. When a game ends and the description of your effort includes "first time since Mark Jackson in 1998" (playoff triple-double) and "first time since Reggie Miller in 1993" (free throws made) then you know it was an epic performance.
When the playoff intensity ramps up, NBA teams have to be focused or they'll get overwhelmed in a hurry. But when a team comes out focused and ready to go like the Indiana Pacers did for 48 minutes in Game 1, then they can dictate the terms of the game.
A sure sign of focus is stepping up and knocking down free throws. Now a player or team can be focused and giving great effort but still miss free throws. But a team, especially this Pacers team, or a player, especially Paul George, doesn't have the success at the line like they did in Game 1 without laser sharp focus to get the job done. The Pacers made 30 of 34 free throws, which included PG's 17 of 18 freebies. The effort was a career best from George and only the second time in his three-year career that he's had both double-digit free throw takes and makes.
So now what? Game 2 holds as much importance as Game 1 and a let down by the Pacers to let one go at home would smudge an otherwise perfect start to the playoffs. What the PG gave the Pacers on Saturday, in focus and effort, has to be the norm for as long as the blue and gold keeps playing.
The scary part is that PG's big triple-double numbers could've easily been even bigger. His three of 13 shooting effort from the floor left more than a few points on the table. And after a second watch, I noticed at least four potential assists that weren't cashed in after PG set up a teammate with a solid look via the pass. I'm talking real good looks, including a couple of open mid-range jumpers for David West that he rarely misses.
But this is no time to be greedy...wait, yes it is. If we're going to lean on PG to play at a superstar level at 22 years old, then let's keep pushing for those superstar numbers. He delivered in Game 1 but that's now a pleasant, past memory.
What will Paul George do in Game 2?