George adjusts, Pacers rebound and pound Hawks

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: Paul George and the Pacers regain their composure and rout the Hawks in Game 2

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Forget the sticks and stones next time. Just go straight to the name-calling. And the bigger the name calling out the Indiana Pacers, the better.

The Eastern Conference No. 1 seed needed a wake-up call, apparently that Game 1 defeat at home to the Atlanta Hawks wasn’t quite enough. Neither was their mediocre, at best, finish to the regular season.

Getting called out by TNT’s Charles Barkley, however, seems to be just what the Pacers needed to find themselves before Tuesday night’s must-win Game 2 effort against the Hawks at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

A subtle reminder from the Chuckster that they were embarrassing themselves for the world to see (he called them “wussies”) served as inspiration for a Pacers crew that has tried a little bit of everything to get their groove back. The Pacers reacted and rebounded the way you’d expect the No. 1 seed to after being humbled in Game 1. Their 101-85 drubbing of the Hawks won’t be inconsequential if they continue to handle their business in this series, which resumes Thursday with Game 3 in Atlanta.

Paul George won’t have to answer those awkward questions about his team’s fragile psyche if he keeps working the way he did in Game 2. He’s the one who demanded Frank Vogel allow him to take the challenge of guarding Hawks point guard Jeff Teague. It was his energy, on both ends, that fueled the Pacers’ 31-13 third quarter clubbing that broke the game open.

No offense to Roy Hibbert or Lance Stephenson, but it’ll be George’s sustained play that will guide the Pacers this postseason. Yes, the Pacers will need contributions from all over, yeoman’s work like Luis Scola provided Tuesday night. But your superstars carry you in the playoffs.

George knows as much. He’s never been shy about discussing the lofty aspirations he has for himself and his team. He showed that he was more than capable during the Pacers’ run to the Eastern Conference finals last season. He showed it again Tuesday night, finishing with 27 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals, infusing the Pacers’ attack with just the right mix of swagger and grit (his barking session with Teague and the entire Hawks bench early set just the right tone).

“That’s why he was in the MVP conversation early,” Vogel said.

George’s 3-point dagger to punctuate the Pacers’ run didn’t hurt either.


VIDEO: PG punctuates the Pacers’ third quarter run with this buzzer-beating pull-up 3-pointer

“We put our print on this game in the third quarter, which we’ve done in November, December and January basketball,” George said. “We got back to that. I thought we did a great job of really just locking in, coming out in the second half, on what we needed to do.”

His teammates chasing him down after that 3-pointer to end the third quarter was a cathartic celebration, one that validated the Pacers’ return to the frame of mind that George mentioned they had in November, December and January.

“We’re together,” he said. “We’re together. If that’s what it took for everyone to understand how close this team is, that’s what it was. We’ve got each other’s backs. That’s what if felt like … that’s exactly what it felt like.”

That said, George and the Pacers need to be extra careful as the series shifts from their home floor to Atlanta. They still have plenty of work to repair the damage done to their brand since All-Star weekend. They haven’t even crawled completely out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves in this series.

They still have to snatch home-court advantage back from the Hawks and make good on their season-long yapping about the importance of securing that No. 1 seed in the East.

It won’t be easy. The Hawks are well aware of the matchup advantages they own in this series. Teague and Paul Millsap weren’t nearly as devastating as they were in Game 1, much of Teague’s struggles were due to George’s locking in on him on defense, but they’ll no doubt be energized by their home crowd and the huge opportunity that awaits in Game 3.

But even if his teammates are not yet up to the task, George seemed energized. Maybe that fishing trip the other day did wonders for the All-Star swingman. Perhaps getting away from the chaos in that way was just what he needed, and in turn exactly what the struggling Pacers needed.

George is the Pacers’ lone legit star, so he’ll have to carry the heaviest load the rest of the way regardless. As aware as any young star in the league of what needs to be done to become the sort of player he aspires to be, George knows better than anyone that this is a critical phase for the Pacers.

Had they gone down 0-2 to a feisty Hawks team, the “gone fishing” thing would have a completely different context. So that lack of urgency the Pacers exhibited in the first half, when the Hawks seemingly had control of the game, has to end now. There’s no room for that sort of lethargy from a team that claims to be focused on much bigger and better things.

The Pacers must finish this series and continue in these playoffs, by any means necessary, with George taking up whatever assignment needed to get his team back on track. That’s non-negotiable for a team that spent months building a bridge back to the Eastern Conference finals, a bridge that begins and ends on their home floor …

Provided, of course, George can lead them there.


VIDEO: Paul George and Luis Scola meet the media after the Pacers’ Game 2 win

10 Comments

  1. okc2014 says:

    I’m a Hawks fan too. But c’mon, The Pacers will win this series. The Pacers are just being lazy and obviously have issues. They better not sleep w/ the Wizards though. They are on a serious mission.

  2. clew2020 says:

    The Pacers still have to prove themselves to me, they only get up to play against Miami, and that is null and void if you dont make it to them. This series shouldnt even be close, Atlanta doesnt have any talent, they dont have a star on the rise let alone someone who was in the MVP convo. Its not about players its about coaching Frank has to get these up for their opponents because besides David West, Scola, and C.J. this is still a young team. The Pacer bigs will have a hard time guarding the stretch four and five of Atl. so Hibbert will pretty much be a non factor in this series but thats not suprising being that he only averaged 5.4 in the season series.

  3. pasigiri says:

    Air tight defense. That’s what the Pacers have to get back to. Just like last night. Hibbert needs to check in too.

  4. ApexPredator says:

    I have to see if Paul George can really live up to his hype. In the 1st half of the season I had him running 3 to 5 in the MVP race then fell out. I think he’s great but put extra stress on himself instead of just playing basketball. Remember LBJ did this in his early days and the 1st year with the Heat then finally realized I just need to play basketball (look 2 rings).

    Back to PG and the Pacers. He’s not a superstar (vs LBJ, KD, Melo, Blake, CP3, Parker to name a few ahead of him) he’s an all-star and is the best player on his team. Prior to PG, the Pacers was Danny Grangers team until he got hurt and Granger wasn’t a star.

    Can the Hawks beat the Pacers? Yes they can. Season match ups are out the window. Playoffs are a whole new level. If Horford was playing this may be even better topic. The question really is can the Pacers step up and set their egos/differences aside.

    Consider if the Pacers beat the Hawks. They may take on the Wizards if that goes that way since the Bulls really have no offensive threat, only defense w/o Rose. Wall and Beal are better than Lance and Hill. Nene and Gortat are pretty big bodies. So the end result is the Pacers bench and Paul George. Of course Lance is a liability, yes I feel that he was snubbed for all-star but he is the Nate Robinson of the team. Lots of energy, takes bad shots, can cause your wins and loses.

  5. thespectator says:

    i have to see pacers beat atlanta twice on their floor to name them as legit contenders…i recall pacers winning against okc during the end of the regular season…albeit it wasnt a playoff game but this pacers team rarely comes up with wins..so lets see how they handle hawks in atlanta…but it was very impressive to see pacers go off on the hawks in the third quarter…lets hope they stay consistent now..

  6. Tripps says:

    First of all, Charles Barkley had absolutely NOTHING to do with this victory, so let’s skip that nonsense.

    Pacers were playing with a fire up under their @s$. I think the taunting by Jeff Teague in the 2nd quarter did it. This fire, energy, that we have was obviously visible earlier in the season. Hibberts performance has dropped drastically; however, the rest of the team, including the bench, have stepped up. We will only need Hibbert during the Miami series. He’s a good defender AT BEST. On O, he should see as many touches as Kendrick Perkins unless he can prove otherwise.

    Lance and Copeland need more playing time IMO. I suggested in multiple threads that PG should guard Jeff Teague. Looks like the Pacers will recover. Time will tell.

    GO PACERS.

  7. jdub455 says:

    This is barkley’s fault! Callin’ them wussies. Hawks shldnt be discouraged though coz they still have the upperhand in the series. Just believe. Well of course, if hawks’ outside shootin’ (particularly antic and millsap) won’t fall then they don’t have a chance against the pacers whose lineup is just deep. Let’s go hawks!!! Make history and score the upset! Sir Charles, I hope that he keeps his mouth shut for the sake of the Atlanta fans… lol!

  8. Davante says:

    Nice 3rd quarter performance, Pacers did really good tonight!!!

  9. I AM PATRICK THE FLAME says:

    WOW GO PACERS!

  10. Fight says:

    Fight Me