In your first All-Star Game, you are supposed to get a few token minutes, defer to the vets and stars, and generally just be happy to be there. Paul George wasn’t about that though.
Instead, he logged 20 minutes (sixth-most on the East) and scored 17 points while hitting 7-for-13 shots (including 3-for-6 from behind the arc).
In his first stint on the court in the first half, he lived up to his reputation for versatility, doing a little bit of everything. On his first play in the game, he grabbed a rebound, for example, and he hit a jumper not long after.
Then the more interesting stuff started just as the second quarter did: George got the highlights flowing with a nice dish to Joakim Noah for the dunk then, on the ensuing defensive possession, grabbing a steal and racing down the court for a breakaway dunk.
Good stuff (no pun intended), but frankly, he needs to throw a windmill on that or something. It’s 1-on-none, buddy. Do something nutty.
Then came the sweetest play of his night: a savvy little bounce pass to a cutting Jrue Holiday, who threw down a sick little-man dunk with his off hand. Slick dish and Jrue did a nice KJ impersonation.
He followed these nice passes up with a pair of mid-range jumpers. All in all, he looked confident out there handling the ball and didn’t hesitate to find open space and pull the trigger on his shot. Very encouraging stuff to see from a 22-year-old playing alongside a bunch of Hall of Famers who have played in many of these midseason exhibitions.
That was just his first half.
George found his three-point stroke in his next stretch on the court and then almost turned the game for the East after getting some crunch-time minutes. With his team down 11 and only two minutes to play, George hit back-to-back catch-and-shoot three-pointers from the left corner to cut the West lead to just five.
They had life.
Unfortunately, his teammates mucked up a few possessions as Kobe locked up LeBron. There was still one chance left, however, and Eric Spoelstra drew up a play to get George, the hot hand, a look from behind the arc with the East down five and 20 seconds to play.
The play was well drawn up and executed. George got his look. But he — just barely — missed it.
Obviously, this is an exhibition game and borderline meaningless in terms of outcome.
But you have to believe that it will help Paul George’s rapidly increasing confidence. Not only did he come out and hang all game long, he finished with one of the better stat lines and was on the floor for the final minutes.
Plus, with the game on the line, the coach of the Miami Heat, who had LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo as options, drew up a play for Paul George.
Not a lot of people are ever put in that position, but tonight he was.
Who knows if such an experience will have any effect on him going forward, but if there was ever any shred of doubt left in his mind, it should now be erased: Paul George is a factor on any court alongside any player on the planet.
(Image via @Pacers)
(Image via @Paul_George24)
Tags: All-Star Weekend 2013