Paul George played 18 minutes, it only seemed like he played the whole game.
The Indiana Pacers rookie came off the bench this afternoon to play his first significant minutes since the start of the season and he stole the show, helping push the Pacers to a 95-86 win over the Washington Wizards.
While the win was nice, breaking a three game losing streak, the fresh storyline of George coming in ready to play and taking advantage of his minutes was equally important. The Pacers maintained a double-digit lead throughout thanks their best shooting night in some time, but this game wasn't exactly a thing of beauty considering both teams combined for 45 turnovers.
So I'll get to those details shortly, but first I have to finish up with George, who brought the Fieldhouse faithful to their feet on a few occasions. George focused on defense and let everything fall into place after that, which it did and then some.
George finished the game with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 5 steals, and according to Jim O'Brien the rookie logged 19 hustle stats which is a season-high for the team. Not bad for 18 minutes of playing time.
The rook also sprinkled in highlights with those numbers. After picking John Wall for one of his steals, George cashed it in at the other end with a windmill dunk. Later in the game, he finished off another of his steals with a dunk off a lob pass from Darren Collison. Good times at the Fieldhouse, for sure. For the record, George thought the windmill was his best highlight. At least, we won't need any grainy, post-practice highlights to remind us the rookie is still on the team.
So now what?
After the game, JOB indicated that George had improved his play in practice and they've been looking for a way to involve him. Now with the team's "anemic offense" (JOB's words) he expects to start playing Danny Granger at power forward more which should open up the time for George. Today, Brandon Rush and Mike Dunleavy donated some minutes to the cause and then when Granger picked up his third and fourth fouls 23 seconds into the third quarter, there was more than enough time for George to play.
Even though Paul George was the story from this game, there were plenty more keys to the Pacers win. More thoughts on those after the jump.
- Darren Collison came out strong, attacking John Wall right from the start of the game and then T.J. Ford followed up with a strong effort of his own. Collison threw 10 points at him early (finished half with 12), then T.J Ford was dealing as he put up 9 points of his own with a couple of assists and 3 steals in the first half. The two fueled the Pacers to an early lead.
- The Wizards only shot 27% in the first half while the Pacers were over 50% at the break, yet the Pacers only had a 15-pont lead which kept the game dangerous. That's where the sloppy play comes in.
- Also, while the Pacers didn't give up the volume of offensive rebounds to the Wiz that they did on Wednesday (21) they did allow 13. But at the other end, the Pacers grabbed 11 offensive rebounds of their own and out-rebounded the Wiz 45-39 for the game.
- Even though the Pacers didn't play a tight game, the effort and execution was much improved. One third quarter play was symbolic of that difference. Brandon Rush missed a three-pointer but Josh McRoberts tracked down the offensive rebound and found Rush in his corner for a second attempt which he splashed. The Pacers had started the second half slowly and that play got them back on track.
- Jeff Foster was inactive again today, despite the glaring need for rebounding help prior to the game. A bruised sternum was the excuse although I have a feeling he was good to go if needed. Before the game, JOB mentioned he wanted the same guys who played on Wednesday to get it right today. Not exactly how it played out, with George in the mix and Hansbrough out, so we'll see how long Foster is on ice.
- After watching the Wizards play twice in a row, I mush say there is nothing more comforting than an Andray Blatche perimeter shot. It's like seeing a waitress set a plate of meatloaf and mashed potatoes in front of you. He started out 0-6 today and as an added bonus the Pacers were able to clear the rebounds today.
- Roy Hibbert had a much more productive game today, although I guess that wasn't too high a bar to clear. His game kind of mirrored the game as a whole. He finished with 17 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks, but he also had 7 turnovers, struggling in the paint with the ball at times. He also took a few nasty spills, but was able to log over 30 minutes with only 2 fouls, so it was definitely a step back in the right direction for the big fella.
- Danny Granger struggled with fould trouble which was a byproduct of his effort to take the ball to the basket. The Wizards were able to draw a couple of offensive fouls on Granger and his two quick fouls to start the third quarter limited his minutes. But he ended the game with an efficient 18 points on 8 of 12 shooting from the floor with only 1 3-point attempt. Nice change of pace for Granger.
- With Paul George's emergence and JOB's interest in going small, Tyler Hansbrough may have slipped back into the black hole. Hansbrough was the first player off the bench today, but only played 3:38 and never returned.
- John Wall had a tough day for the Wizards but was still really impressive. In fact, at one point in the third quarter it looked like he may bring the Wiz back all by himself. He certainly threw the team on his back, but just couldn't get enough help to make a serious run at the lead. Wall finished with 25 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds, but also coughed up 7 turnovers while dealing with several different Pacers taking turns guarding him.
- Wall also took two tough hits in the lane that were far worse than anything Josh McRoberts did to him in Washington. Solo Jones collared Wall on one trip through the lane and then later, James Posey made sure to shut off his route to the buckets sending him sprawling to the floor. No T's today for Wall, though, he just got up and kept going at them.
- The Pacers play again on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden against a strong Knicks team. Should be interesting to see how the playing rotation fleshes itself out since it appears JOB is ready to tinker with his lineups.