“They did a good job of double-teaming me the whole night,” explained George, who is extremely selfless. “I couldn’t get a shot or I didn’t want to shoot it because I had two to the ball. Anytime I bring two to the ball, I want to share it. It wasn’t about individual defense that helped me from performing well offensively. They just did a good job with bringing two to the ball.”
Making things difficult on George was obviously high on the list of priorities for Miami.
“We wanted to make it tough on Paul,” said Bosh. “He’s just one of those guys who can score a lot very quickly and we needed to really contain him, keep him in front of us and really just get back and not give him any easy transition buckets and to make him work for everything.”
This game was a blowout, one that the white-hot crowd could comfortably enjoy from the middle of the second quarter until the final buzzer sounded.
For the Indiana Pacers, having the chance to be blown out in this context could prove invaluable.
Re-signing free agent David West is crucial for the Pacers, as he’s brought vital maturity and leadership to the locker room.
“It would be a big difference,” said George of the possibility of losing West to free agency. “I think it would be a step back if David West wasn’t with us next year. I can’t imagine the team without him because he’s built the character for this team. He’s built an identity for this team.”
Figuring out what to do with Danny Granger – who could fit in very nicely with this group and prompts thoughts of what-could-have-been this season – is another priority.
“It would’ve just brought a lot of depth not just to our team, but for our bench” explained George. “It would’ve made it so Lance [Stephenson] could come off [the bench]. He’s great when there’s no pressure on him, when he can play with his flow. That would’ve given him a sixth man role that he would’ve flourished in, not to say that he didn’t do well as a starter. I got the Most Improved Player award but he was by far the most improved on this team. Adding Danny also brings experience, also brings another closer, so who knows where we would’ve been right now.”
Extending George, who is eligible for his rookie extension this summer, is high on the priority list, as well. George has blossomed into one of the most unique swingmen in the NBA because he’s able to play both sides of the ball so effectively.
Combine that with his confident yet humble and ever-improving nature and you get a star player who’s just scratching the surface of his potential.
“Well, he’s gonna go back to the drawing board, I’m pretty sure of that,” explained Paul George Sr., who knows his son as well as anybody. “Next season, you guys are all gonna see another, different Paul George.”
“He wants to be Number 1,” he continued. “He’s not cool with being Number 2. He’s always been that way. After he figures out the game then he tries to take it to the next level. Of course he’s gonna be down, but at the end of the day, he’s gonna bounce back.”
After speaking with George Sr., I beelined to the Pacers locker room.
There was George, pretty much echoing his father’s words from down the hallway.
“Honestly, I don’t know how long I’ll stick around Indiana,” said George. “But if I were to leave tomorrow I would probably be in the gym that next day.”
The Indiana Pacers didn’t reach the Finals, but they have found a nucleus that’s more than capable of giving elite teams a run for their money, and probably surpassing them, if they continue to improve, stay intact and get a healthy Granger back.
How wisely management spends money on their players will play a crucial role in how long and how brightly they’re able to shine.
Jeremy Bauman is an aspiring shooting coach and scout who writes columns and blogs for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.