All season long it was said that the Miami Heat’s biggest challenge in the Eastern Conference was the Indiana Pacers. The defending Champions went 1-2 against the Pacers in the regular season and it was very clear that Indiana gave Miami more matchup problems than any other team.
By the time that Miami and Indiana met in this year’s Eastern Conference Finals it was quite obvious that the Pacers had a good chance to defeat the Heat. Their biggest advantage was Roy Hibbert and David West down low where the Heat simply didn’t have an answer.
But the biggest surprise — and ultimately what will be most remembered by Pacers fans for years to come — was the show that Paul George put on, making him go from just another player for the Pacers to a perennial superstar in the league.
The 23-year old George still has a lot to prove in his young NBA career, particularly, will he be able to consistently play at the level he was playing in this year’s postseason. But as of now it seems that Paul is on his way to having a big career and being one of the premiere faces in the Eastern Conference.
Overall George had a very good year for the Pacers, with a regular season average of 17.4 points per game, 4.1 assists per game, and 7.6 rebounds per game. The Indiana star wasn’t a complete surprise when he was able to play with the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.
But I don’t believe that anyone would have predicted the level of play that George would be competing. George led his troops into Miami and split the first two games in South Beach while coming so close to also stealing game one with his miraculous three-pointer at the end of regulation and his clutch free throws.
In the Eastern Conference Finals George averaged 19.4 points per game and was the difference maker for the Pacers in all of their wins. He did struggle in games three and four where he only scored 13 and 12 points respectively, but outside of those two performances and his disappointing seven-point performance in game seven George played great.
He was able to rally his team and knock down some big shots repeatedly throughout the series. After every loss he was able to bounce back and lead his team to victory with excellent shooting and a pretty good defensive performance on LeBron.
Not to mention in game two when George was a part of one of the more memorable moments of the playoffs when he had an incredible dunk on Chris “Birdman” Andersen near the end of the third quarter. Immediately following that play LeBron hit a buzzer-beating three point shot from way out that answered George’s dunk, afterwards the two slapped hands at half court in a show of respect.
In the heat of the moment George got the respect of LeBron and the rest of the world. He truly elevated his game and put his name on the map. Earlier in the season the Pacers lost Danny Granger who was at the time their best player to injury, he is scheduled to return for next season, but if it wasn’t for him going down for nearly the entire regular season we might not have seen Paul George exceed expectations and move into superstar status.
Tyler Rollason is a Winder-Barrow High School graduate and mass communications major at the University of West Georgia. He writes a weekly sports column for the Barrow Journal. You can e-mail comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org.