The NBA announced Friday that Paul George has been named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for April. This marks the third time George has received the East’s monthly honor. The last time the Pacers forward was selected as Player of the Month was back in November of 2015.
George was the driving force behind Indiana’s 5-1 record to close the season, averaging a league-high 31.8 points to go with 8.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting a blistering 54.8 percent from the field and 42.4 percent from three. George opened the month by scoring a season-high 43 points in Cleveland. Indiana’s forward eclipsed the 35-point threshold three times in April, which is nearly half the amount of times he had done so in the prior five months combined (8).
“Paul has played a big part in that,” Nate McMillan told the Indy Star’s Gregg Doyel in reference to the team’s five-game win streak to close the season. “Lance has played a part. We’re playing with a little more edge than we have all season. I’m seeing a little bit more sense of urgency, and a little more fight in our guys.”
Lance Stephenson was the match that lit Indiana’s sorely lacking sense of urgency on fire, but Paul George undeniably was the accelerant. The Pacers outscored opponents by 16 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor in the month of April but were outscored by 17 points when he was on the bench.
Along with George — or, perhaps more aptly put carried by George — Nate McMillan was also recognized for Indiana’s stellar play during the league’s final month of the regular season, being named the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month.
In all seriousness, as much as McMillan deserves his fair share of the blame for the way some of his odd lineup combinations contributed to Indiana’s season-long battle with consistent inconsistency, he also should receive due credit for the adjustments he finally made upon Stephenson’s arrival.
Finally, Indiana’s head coach tweaked the rotation to allow for the bench to play small, pushed Aaron Brooks off-ball to spread the floor, and put the ball in the hands of the superior playmaker, in this case Lance Stephenson.
Since his return, the prodigal point wing has only played 15.2 percent of his total minutes with both Lavoy Allen and Kevin Seraphin on the floor, per NBA Wowy.
Those adjustment matter.
They matter a lot.
Without the double-plodder lineups transforming the lane into a clogged toilet, Stephenson’s ability to find seams in the defense has the bench operating in the black. The Pacers are plus-10 in the 20 minutes that Stephenson, Brooks, and Seraphin have been joined by C.J. Miles and Paul George as interchangeable forwards as opposed to minus-8 in the 18 that Lavoy Allen has replaced George with the rest of that same group.
These moves were a long time coming, but better late than never, right?
With all-important All-NBA ballots being cast and the playoffs right around the corner, Paul George and the Pacers couldn’t have peaked at a better time.