Shootaround: Game 3 – Wade not suspended
[UPDATE: 2:33 PM] – The NBA has not suspended Dwyane Wade for tonight’s game for his hit on Lance Stephenson in Game 2. Wade’s foul, however, was upgraded to a flagrant-1.
More than seven hours before Game 3 tips off and Indianapolis and the NBA still hasn’t made a decision on Dwyane Wade’s blow to the head of Lance Stephenson in Game 2. The league says they are still reviewing the play.
At morning shootaround, both the Pacers and Miami Heat said they are preparing like no suspension would be handed out and for Wade to be available.
Paul George, who is averaging the most minutes per playoff game in this series, said Wade’s status isn’t of immediate concern. Even if he doesn’t play, the Pacers will continue to do what they do.
“We’re going to prepare like we’re going to get the 100 percent Dwyane Wade,” he said. “But still, whether he’s in or he’s out, it’s still a ballgame that we got to come out and play and make sure we’re crisp on our end.”
When pressed for his take on Wade’s action which was ruled a personal foul during the game, George paused to consider what he said, then offered: ”It was an uncalled for play … For what he did to Lance, it’s well deserved whatever the punishment is.”
The Pacers enjoy a physical brand of basketball. After all, that’s what Pacers coach Frank Vogel coined as smash-mouth basketball when he took over two and half seasons ago. It’s the unnecessary extra-curriculars, Vogel says, that can get you beat in a tight series like this one.
“If you get a technical foul for an extra-curricular, that’s a point,” he said. “In this series, that’s going to be a difference-maker. We’re not interested in anything after the whistle, anything during a live play that can be costly. We’re trying to play good hard, physical basketball. Every point matters.”
George Still Growing
Four-time MVP LeBron James welcomed Pacers swingman Paul George into the club of greats at the end of the third quarter of Friday’s Game 2. George beat James off the bounce and then jammed on Chris “Birdman” Andersen” with his right hand. James got him back by nailing a 32-footer for three points as the quarter expired.
As the two walked towards their respective benches, James extended his hand and said to George, “I got you back, young fella.” George said today that they are “cool” outside of this series, of course, but there hasn’t been much in-game chatter. But that moment, beating James and then posterizing Andersen, was special.
And the reactions are still coming in – via text, email, social media and even while he’s out grabbing dinner.
“People know me, they just know I’m playing within myself now (versus last year),” he explained. “I’m being confident, allowing the game to come to me. I understand you got to finish at the rim now. It’s just me growing up. I had to go through those highlight blocks to understand that you can’t lay the ball up around them no more. Now it’s just growing up strong.”
George, 23, has taken huge leaps in just his third professional season. In three playoff series, each time he’s been matched up with the opponent’s best player – Josh Smith (Atlanta), Carmelo Anthony (New York) and now James. He has been given a greater opportunity with Danny Granger being out, and George has elevated his offensive play. Last postseason he averaged 9.7 points per game compared to 19.9 this year.
“It’s just me wanting to be a better Paul George. I watched Game 1 and saw a lot of things that I still could’ve improved on. I came out in Game 2 with an aggressive mindset to attack off the bounce and make sure I’m comfortable out there.”
With 1-1 tie in this best-of-seven series,, the Pacers are happy to be playing the next two games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where they are undefeated in the postseason (6-0). The Heat, however, had the best road record in the regular season, 29-12, and they’re also 4-0 on the road in these playoffs. After tonight, only one team will keep its unblemished record in tact.
All season, the Pacers were more confident at home, and sometimes looked like a different, much better team. That’s part of what made the team’s split in Miami, where they were seconds away from wining both games, most impressive. Although they’re in the comforts of their own building and will have fans, decked out in navy and white white to resemble a checkered board, keeping their energy up, Vogel can’t allow any let up from his team.
“We’re very confident at home; we’ve done well the first two rounds,” he said. “But this is a different creature, this team. It doesn’t matter where they’re playing, they’re one of the all-time teams. It doesn’t matter where we play them, we know we have to play with every bit of urgency and effectiveness that we played in Game 2.”
The Pacers can always lower their turnover total and they can’t allow the Heat, who have a number of sharpshooters on their roster, to shoot uncontested threes. Spacing, rotations and staying in gaps will be imperative with the Heat’s spread offense.
Sam Young rolled his left ankle on Friday and didn’t return to the game but he said he is fine to go in Game 3. It was also the same ankle that sidelined him for almost all of January. Lance Stephenson hasn’t felt any after effects from Wade’s elbow to his head, and he is ready to go, as well.