Paul George had another nice game against the Heat last night, finishing with an uber-efficient 14 points on 7 shots (he was 4/7 from the floor and 3/3 from the line) in addition to 5 boards, 2 assists, 1 steal and just 1 turnover in 31 minutes. That’s a fine line for any rookie, but as we praise him, we need to also stay grounded in reality.
For example, he had one rather poor stretch that directly followed his trip to the line for three free throws after Eddie House fouled him while taking a three midway through the third.
The next trip down, he was guarding Dwyane Wade, who it should be noted was fairly unguardable for most of the night on his way to 41 points on 29 shots. Dwyane utterly abused him off the dribble with a vicious crossover that he was able to set up so well because of George’s highly aggressive pressure on the ball. Again, getting smoked off the dribble by Wade isn’t the worst offense in the world, but it was how amateurish Flash made PG look.
On the other end of the court, Paul then committed one of the worst — yet least-often condemned — sins an NBA player can make: he passed up a really good shot. Rather than taking the open 10-footer he could have had, he stalled and passed off. The Pacers did not score on the play.
Then, making the prior play seem even worse, Paul pushed the ball in transition soon after and made a poor decision to try to finish the play himself. He went to the rim while being challenging by two defenders. And he didn’t go strong, instead up-faking and trying some double-clutch, dippity-do nonsense that was punched into the stands.
On back-to-back plays, he didn’t take a shot he should have and then took a shot he shouldn’t have.
With better decisions on these two offensive possessions — or simply a better move in transition on the second one — the Pacers may have gotten four points at a time when the game was feeling highly up for grabs. I’m not trying to overstate what happened on a few possessions, but when we’re talking about a team with an offense that has been as shaky as Indiana’s, every missed opportunity is significant. And after the second straight poor decision, I was thinking “Dunleavy please.” (Frank Vogel stuck with the kid, which was something that I thought might hurt the Pacers win this game but might help George long-term. It’s a tough balancing act to manage. And I think it’s safe to say that the previous coach would have made a move at this point.)
Let’s just keep our expectations realistic for the kid is all I’m saying. He’s far from perfect even as he improves everyday. He’s a rookie. Stuff like this is par for the course. There will be ups and down. Peaks and valley. Phillip Seymour Hoffmans and Nic Cages. It’s just what rookies not named Blake Griffin go through — both within the context of a season and the context of virtually every game.
On the other hand, we sure do enjoy noting Paul George’s fantastic accomplishments along with his growing pains. And this tweet from Tom Haberstroh shows just how encouraging the young’n's game has been at times. Scoring 14 points on 7 shots while slowing down one of the three best players (and perhaps the best penetrator) in the NBA on a night said player was out of his damn mind?
Yeah. That’ll work.