“Just the level at which they did it,” said Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel. “It definitely impacted us. You have to give them credit for their defensive pressure in terms of our turnovers. They’ve been doing that the last couple of games. We’ve handled it better than we did tonight. Obviously with their season on the line, they just brought a whole new level.”
Part of the problem, as my friend Phil Papiasvili (a Pacers fan who hails from NY) vented to me shortly following the game, is the team’s lack of a real creator from the point guard position, combined with relying heavily on starters for consistently steady production, because the bench has proven to be one of least potent (scoring and minutes wise) in the league:
“We don’t have a ‘creator’ on our team. George Hill isn’t bad, but he isn’t a starting point guard on a contender. Most of our points come from Paul George and Lance Stephenson using their physical gifts, or someone feeding West or Hibbert and letting them go one on one (that or working their butts off for offensive rebounds and 2nd chance points). We don’t have anyone to feed them the ball in scoring position, and so they have to create by themselves (which they are all pretty damn good at in different ways). But when you combine constantly having to create by themselves with having a thin bench leading to them playing a ton of minutes each, there are going to be stupid mistakes made. It wore on our starting five a lot as the playoffs progressed. Every game the Hawks took from us worried me because I knew it would end up affecting us down the line in this series.”
While the Indiana Pacers were so close to doing serious damage to the super team that is the Miami Heat, which would’ve been talked about for decades to come, there were still kinks in their armor that they must shore up to truly become an elite team, which they’re more than capable of becoming.
The experiences this team just went through – from playing without swingman Danny Granger to battling the Hawks in the first round to finding a way to oust the Knicks in the semis to taking the defending world champs the distance – should help to build this team from solid to elite.
“It’s something that we had to go through,” explained Paul George. “You look back at the guys that had the big moments and they didn’t overcome those [tough times] right away. It’s the same for me. This is something for me to learn from and to get better with.”
George, who had a playoff career-high 28 points on 11-for-19 shooting in the Pacers’ Game 6 91-77 victory, shot just 2-for-9 and added 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 turnovers in Game 7 before fouling out.
Moreover, George played just 34 minutes as a result of foul trouble; he fouled out with 7:43 seconds left, which sent the Miami crowd into a frenzy.
“It was sad that he fouled out like that but this is something that he’ll never forget,” said Paul George Sr. following the game. “I mean, he’s gonna take this with a grudge. I know him. This summer he’s gonna be working – maybe try to gain a little more weight – and come back in here and try to be stronger. He’s gonna get better at this game. He really wanted this, you know?”
So why didn’t he shoot more than nine times if he ‘wanted’ this, you ask … ?