What’s Wrong With Paul George, Pacers?
Less than a week ago, the Pacers, coming off four-straight road wins, were feeling about as good as they’ve felt all season. They were just one win away from clinching the Central Division and a half-game back from New York for the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
The return of Roy Hibbert’s offensive game was a key ingrident, but Paul George’s play is a big reason why the Pacers are in position to battle for the second spot in the East below Miami. Remember, everything changed for George following his dreadful scoreless night in Golden State on Dec. 1.
Following back-to-back losses, the obvious question is — what’s wrong with the first time All-Star?
George averaged 22 points per game during the four-game Western trip, and he leads the team in scoring this season (17.7ppg). Friday, he was 3-of-11 from the floor with eight points. Afterwards, the thought was that George was worn out from defending Kevin Durant, the league’s best scorer who finished with 34 points.
However, after his performance on Saturday, which was his second-worst game of the season, it’s clear something is up. He missed all eight of his and had a measly two points.
So what does George, a rhythm shooter, believe is wrong? “I have to get my legs back under me and get my mental focus back,” he said. “There are some places I don’t play well at, but it’s nothing to worry about.”
Earlier this season at the Verizon Center, on Nov. 19. – and before he had taken on his new role – George finished with six points on 2-of-7 shooting.
Saturday night, George really struggled shooting the ball, but it wasn’t just him.
Lance Stephenson only took one shot, missed it, and he, too, had only two points.
George Hill was 4-for-12, D.J. Augustin was 2-of-6 and Orlando Johnson missed all but one of the six shots he fired.
As a team, the Pacers have struggled shooting the ball in the last two games, especially from 3-point range. They followed up their worst night of the season shooting the long ball – on Friday, against Oklahoma City when they were 2-of-21 – with their third-worst total: 3-for-20. Both nights, they failed to make one in the second half.
“They looked tired,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of George and Stephenson. “They need to rejuvenate. They need to do whatever they need to do to rejuvenate for Tuesday night – the whole team does. We shot 5-for-41 from the 3-point line in the last two games.”
The eldest player on the team, David West, refused to use “being tired” as an excuse.
“I don’t really buy that,” said West, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. “Some guys may be tired but all of us aren’t tired. If guys are tired, then they need to tell us that before the game so we can make an adjustment or something. Not everybody is tired so I can’t put that on our team.”
Added Paul George, who averages a team-high 37.6 minutes per game: “We have just been sluggish and the energy from this team just hasn’t been there. We have to find ourselves and get back into the rhythm we once were in.”
It’s no time to panic, but that Pacers certainly need to play the final five regular season games with a sense of urgency. West’s words that could be read on twitter last Saturday night summed everything up best: “Never too high never too low….Even Steven….”
The Pacers have Sunday off, with their next game coming on Tuesday, at home, against the Cleveland Cavaliers.