Paul George’s efficiency has ramped up in his last two playoff runs, and he scores more often on national TV — two facts that should scare the Raptors.
Paul George had an up-and-down season. He started off incredible, fell off for about half a season, and then finished off relatively strong after the All-Star break. While his overall shooting percentage was poor — a 41.8% rate for the season that was tanked by an awful 37.1% shooting month of December — this is a bit deceptive.
PG hurled the most triples of his career, putting up 7.0 shots per night from deep. He hit a lot. His 210 triples were the sixth most in the league this year, and he made them at a nice, 37.2% clip.
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There is criticism to be had here though.
Paul George settled for 3s too much, but he did drive enough to get to the free-throw line at a career-best rate, making 6.5 trips to the charity stripe per game. And his eFG% (which factors in 3s being worth more than 2s) was identical to his previous two seasons before he broke his leg. The consistency is almost baffling, with PG’s last three full-season eFG%s coming in at 49.1%, 49.0%, and 49.0%.
So, in short, his 41.8% shooting this year looks really bad. And it isn’t great. But his 49% eFG% is relatively fine.
And fortunately for Pacers fans, it should get better in the playoffs.
Paul George tends to be much more efficient in the postseason and play better in big games. In both of Indiana’s Eastern Conference Finals runs, PG shot less often than in the regular season but did more with those attempts.
Perhaps he locks in better. Perhaps he values each possession more. Perhaps he saves his energy for the playoffs and big games.
But the numbers tell a very nice story.
The raw, per-36-minute figures suggest that he has been at least as good, or better, in the playoffs in most significant ways. In his last playoff run, he scored less but he was shooting less frequently. His FG%, 3PT%, and eFG% were all substantially higher than his regular-season output, and he got to the line a bit more.
He also shot less often in the 2012-13 playoffs — while actually scoring a tick more. While his eFG% was identical to his regular-season accuracy, the improved scoring rate came as a product of him getting to the line way more often. PG took 5.9 free throws per 36 minutes in the 2013 run to the Eastern Conference Finals while only attempting 3.3 per-36 in the regular season.
Better still are his “point-per-shot” numbers.
PG raised his true-shooting percentage and points per shot numbers in each of the past two postseasons. His 1.17 points per FGA in the 2012-13 skyrocketed to 1.32 in the 2013 playoffs. And the following regular season number, 1.28, jumped to 1.36 when the postseason hit.
We also have some nice single-game, anecdotal evidence for PG stepping up.
Paul Georg’s Big Games
The Pacers were beleaguered heading into the 2014 playoffs. They had held down first place in the East, nearly wire to wire, all season, but were on shaky ground entering the postseason. Their amazing start had them at 34-8 (.810) on January 25. But they were barely above .500 the rest of the way, going 22-18 to enter the playoffs at 56-26 (.683). They were still in first place, but a squad that many thought might win the title (they had taken the Heat to Game 7 of the East Finals the prior year) was now nursing its wounds.
The Struggle, as we have come to call the second half of that season, didn’t stop once the playoffs began. The team barely got by the 8th-seeded Atlanta Hawks, needing a heroic performance by David West in the fourth quarter of Game 6 and a win in Game 7 back home to stave off elimination.
But in that series, and the next two, Paul George exploded in at least one game. He put up one monster performance in Game 7 against Atlanta, then added a 30-point outing in each of the next two series, to help ensure the Pacers made it back to the East finals to again challenge LeBron and the Heat.
Here were those lines:
First Round, Game 7 vs. Atlanta Hawks
May 3, 2014
30 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assissts, 2 steals
11-of-23 FG (47.8%), 1-of-8 3PT (12.5%), 7-of-8 FT (87.5%)
Second Round, Game 4 at Washington Wizards
May 11, 2014
39 points, 12 rebounds, 0 assists, 2 steals
12-of-20 FG (60%), 7-of-10 3PT (70%), 8-of-10 FT (80%)
Eastern Conference Finals, Game 5 vs. Miami Heat
May 28, 2014 vs Heat
37 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 6 steals
15-of-28 FG (53.6%), 5-of-14 3PT (35.7%), 2-of-3 FT (66.6%)
Paul George Playing Big on National TV
It isn’t just the playoffs either. Paul George just seems to shine in all spotlights. He knows that, playing for Indiana, a lot of people don’t see him night in and night out. Even before his injury, there was always a sense that he thought he was underrated for this reason. PG really thinks he is every bit as good as Kevin Durant and Kawhi and Chris Paul and LeBron. And he wants you to think that, too.
You can feel it in his big match ups. He has a different intensity and more focused approach during the rare games the Pacers get to play on national TV. It isn’t that he always goes out and drops 30, but he seems to have a disproportionate number of big quarters and his stat lines usually end up impressing.
Here is the full list of the 20 regular-season outings he has played on national TV since the beginning of the 2013-14 season.
There are two straight clunkers in there, a 13-point game against the Rockets during The Struggle and an awful 12-point performance against the Warriors this year.
Overlooking those two games, however, PG has averaged 25.3 points per game in his other 18 nationally televised games in the regular season. This is significantly better than his 22.3 ppg overall scoring average during those two seasons in all games. His FG% (43.9% vs 42.1%) and rebounding (8.1 per game vs. 6.9) are also markedly higher.
All this goes to show that, when Paul George is playing in big games, he plays bigger.
Given the way the team collapsed at the end of the 2013-14 regular season, plus all the games the team gave away in the fourth quarter this year, there are not a ton of people driving the “Paul George is clutch” bandwagon.
But the numbers — and his general demeanor when ESPN or TNT is in the building — all point towards a guy who gets up when the stage is at its largest. It doesn’t matter whether it is going head to head with those he views as peers and rivals, battling in the postseason, or appearing on ESPN.
When Paul George knows people are watching him play on national television, he makes sure it’s Must See PG.