A rough stretch for the Indiana Pacers which also cost them the top spot in the Eastern Conference might be coming to an end with a 101-94 win over the Detroit Pistons, in which Paul George finally played like the superstar he hinted he might be at the beginning of the season.
So after three consecutive losses and five out of six that have dropped the Pacers to second in the Eastern conference, finally some sort of comfort for Pacers fans and especially the team. The chemistry problems weren’t there, and Paul George’s awful offense, which radiates on the entire team, also wasn’t there to see. The Pistons gave Indiana some trouble all the way through mosty because of their offensive rebounding (17), but the Pacers played well enough to overcome that and a bad game from Roy Hibbert.
Paul George scored 29 points on 9-of-19 from the field, and hit a three point shot from almost the halfcourt line to pretty much bust the game open, giving the Pacers a late four point lead. It was all by mistake – the Pacers grabbed an offensive rebound and got the ball back to George, but the shot clock didn’t reset for some reason.George noticed, and simply launched something close to a desperation shot, turning out to be probably the biggest of the game.
It wasn’t all George though. David West was solid as ever with 15 points and 8 rebounds. Lance Stephenson was just the opposite, but a short spurt of brilliance from him at the end of the first half helped the Pacers come back from behind against a persistent Pistons team that on paper has nothing to play for anymore. Stephenson scored 11 points.
The surprise of the game was Ian Manhimi, scoring 10 points. The Pacers looked better with him on the floor than with Roy Hibbert, who also had to leave after being dragged down to the floor and hitting his head, courtesy of Charlie Villanueva. Hibbert did score 11 points but really struggled on the boards.
Seeing the Pacers look mostly comfortable on offense isn’t something to scoff at, even if these were the Pistons. They averaged only 96.5 points per 100 possessions during March, 2nd-fewest in the league. Each of the other teams that rank in the bottom 4 of that category have already been eliminated from playoff contention. The Pacers were averaging 102.5 points per 100 possessions heading into March.
Paul George happened in this game. He had 13 rebounds and 7 assists to go with his impressive scoring tally, and showed that he can be good enough as someone who lets the entire offense go through him. Obviously, this won’t happen every time, and the Pacers need to start finding ways to let George play a bit off the ball as well. Whether it means David West holding on to it in the post while players move around him or George Hill starting to act like a real point guard. The Pacers need to do something, because things will get much harder in the near future compared to the Detroit Pistons.