Paul George is the key to the Indiana Pacers beating the Miami Heat and forcing game seven. There’s no doubt that he’s wearing down as the playoffs last longer. But look at what he’s had to do on defense for the past playoff games. First round, he gets the task of guarding Josh Smith, and doing it one on one most of the way. Smith is a big burly guy that can take it to the post when need be. I believe George got the better of that match up and hence the Pacers won that series even after a rough couple of games. Then who does George get to defend next up, Carmelo Anthony.
Now Anthony is a tough guy to guard because he can shoot or drive it in the lane to score. Plus, he’s an offensive guy, so you have to always keep an eye on him when on that end. He’s a guy that as he goes, so goes the New York Knicks. Once again, Paul George steps up to the plate, plays him tough throughout the series, and has to do it all alone. Sure, he had help if Anthony got by him. But pounding away on the defensive side against Carmelo Anthony throughout that series, and trying to do as much as you can on the offensive end has to wear even the best defender down.
Then we come to the Miami Heat series, where George gets the joy of guarding Lebron James. Even putting two guys on James is a tough task as he can find that open man. So George goes at it, and defends James the best he can. Until last night, and probably game three, George has done a solid job of making James work for his shots. Game three, James took it down low most of the way, and the Heat ended up walking away with a decisive victory. Last night, I don’t even think a freight train would have stopped James with the way he was playing. I was nervous about the Lebron James signature game, and that’s what we got last night. That third quarter might as well been a high light reel of the whole game. James was the catalyst on just about every one of the 30 points in that third quarter scored by the Heat. Just think if he was able to do that all series, this series would have been a sweep by the Heat, and we’d already be talking Heat Spurs in the NBA Finals.
In this Heat series, George has guarded Lebron most of the way. But there have been times that Lance Stephenson and even Sam Young has took it to task. But Lance is still finding his way into what he wants to do on the court, so he’s not able to fully defend James. And well, Sam Young, just isn’t that good. Young is good for defensive purposes here and there. But on the offensive end, he’s a huge liability that the Pacers can’t afford to have out there. So George has got the brunt of the work defensively on James, and he deserves credit for holding his own as much as he can.
But tomorrow night, George is going to have to get this second wind and really clamp down on James. He might have to deliver just as much as he did last night offensively if the Pacers want to stay alive. If we see a Paul George signature game, then the Pacers win tomorrow and get to game seven. There, it might take an even bigger effort. But first, it’s all about game six. That could set the tone for this franchise for years to come. Game six needs to be Paul George’s night.