Apr 28, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) during the first quarter in game five of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

Paul George Leading, Pacers Must Follow

Through the Indiana Pacers’ first five playoff games of 2014, All-Star Paul George has five double-doubles. The 23-year-old is playing like the future of a team should — leading the efforts against a pesky Atlanta Hawks team, the eighth seed and anonymous underdog heading into a quarterfinal series against the No. 1 seed Pacers.

Atlanta leads the best-of-seven series against Indiana, 3-2, after Monday night’s 107-97 drubbing in front of the Pacers’ home crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis.

Apr 24, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) dunks the ball against the Atlanta Hawks in the third quarter in game three of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

However, shining brightly during the darkest of days in recent memory for an Indiana Pacers franchise is the blossoming talent in Paul George. In just his fourth NBA season, George has already been selected as an All-Star twice (once a starter), led his team in scoring for two straight seasons and earned the league’s Most Improved Player award in 2012-13.

George is now in the midst of his fourth consecutive playoff appearance for Indiana. While the team has not played well as a collective group in the first five games against the Hawks, George has done his part to the best of his ability. If nothing else, he’s picked up the slack for his inconsistent teammates.

The averages for George thus far in the 2014 playoffs read: 22.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.8 steals in 40.4 minutes per game. He has shot 47 percent from the floor, including an astounding 51 percent from beyond the three-point arc.

This coming after he and his ‘mates struggled for the majority of late winter and early spring, nearly losing the top seed in the Eastern Conference to the Miami Heat (which, ultimately, may not matter in the long run if Indy never makes it out of the first round; Miami swept Charlotte 4-0).

Regular season and team performances aside, George’s surge thus far in the postseason is something Pacers fans should be excited about. No. 24 is the future of Indiana Pacers basketball and a likely perennial All-Star. George has the makings and the work ethic to potentially win an NBA MVP award and become a future first team All-NBA selection.

At 23 years old, George is still an extremely young professional ballplayer. His 26 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and six steals in game 5 Monday night was enough to be placed in the same sentence as Hall-of-Famer Michael Jordan:

The rest of the Indiana Pacers’ 2014 playoff story is yet to be told, but if Paul George has anything outstanding left up his sleeve, the blue and gold may still have a fighting chance heading into game 6 in Atlanta Thursday night.

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