Paul George and the Indiana Pacers refused to back down from the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers, but George’s 43 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists weren’t quite enough as the Pacers fell in double overtime by a final score of 135-130.
This was another game that felt like it could have been won numerous times by the Pacers who had leads both in regulation and in the first overtime with under a minute left.
At one point, the Pacers had Paul George at the free throw line down just one with two seconds left, but George missed the first before making the second to send it to double overtime.
Everytime the Pacers seemed to have the game in the hand, LeBron James would either make a play himself or find an open teammate for three as the Cavs seemed to rarely miss down the stretch. No plays bigger than James finding JR Smith for 3 with just 2.3 seconds left that gave Cavs the lead or his assist to Kevin Love in double OT that pushed the Cavs lead back to four and sealed the game.
George scored 13 points in the second overtime alone, becoming just the second player ever to do so in a loss according to ESPN Stats & Info.
James somehow topped George’s fantastic day with a 41-point triple double, adding 16 rebounds and 11 assists.
George and James went back and forth throughout the night bringing back memories of the playoff series between them as both superstars played out of their minds tonight.
James and George had a long discussion after the game ended that was reminscient of James giving George props after the Birdman dunk and then James answering with a 3-pointer. Game respect game.
Speaking of 2014, Lance Stephenson made his re-debut for the Pacers and while his line of four points, three rebounds and three assists may not sound like he had much of an impact on the game, it’s clear he’ll be an asset to the team for the rest of this season and potentially the next two.
The Pacers essentially gave Lance the keys to the offense with the bench unit and we saw glimpses of the bully-ball drives and smooth passes that make Stephenson a challenge to defend. He took a few too many midrange jump shots and picked up five fouls while guarding James but this was a good first step for Stephenson integrating into the team.
James and Stephenson were even constantly yapping at each other especially at the free throw line. Even while Stephenson wasn’t in the game, James was still talking to Stephenson.
Early in the season or if the Pacers had solidified their playoff spot, this would have been an encouraging, moral victory. Instead, it’s another game that the Pacers might be wishing that they had back if they end up on the outside looking in.
The loss puts the Pacers behind the Bulls by a full game after they beat the Pelicans and tied with the Heat after they lost to the Nuggets.
The Pacers saw great performances from Thaddeus Young, who had 17 points and nine rebounds after just three quarters but was mostly shackled to the bench with McMillan mostly going with Monta Ellis and CJ Miles against the Cavs smaller lineup down the stretch, and Miles, who scored 11 points in the fourth quarter on his way to a season-high 27 points and six rebounds. Both Miles and Young were often making the hustle plays and finding ways to get loose balls that they had no business getting.
Jeff Teague struggled with holding onto the ball early but played well with 17 points and 11 assists.
Myles Turner still seems reluctant to shoot the ball when open as the instructions from the Pacers coaching staff to “distribute more” even had him hesistating to shoot a potential game winner at the end of regulation, but he was as solid on defense as ever. He led the Pacers in minutes at 47, but took only eight shots. He retweeted this after the game.
The Pacers can still sneak into the playoffs if they bring this type of effort the rest of the way, but if the Pacers fail to make the playoffs, we still got to see playoff Paul George tonight. And man, it was glorious.