TrueHoop: Paul George

Gone fishin'

May, 9, 2014
May 9
By Michael Rubino
Special to
Pacers clockAndy Lyons/Getty ImagesRoy Hibbert righted the ship in Game 2, but is time still running out on the Pacers' postseason hopes?
Basically, there are three kinds of fishing trips.

There’s the one where you lie about going fishing and instead drink beer. (This is the most common.) Then you have your "Andy Griffith Show"-style outing, where, pole slung over your shoulder, all problems melt away against an upbeat ditty that comes from a whistling, off-screen chorus. And finally, you have the one where things go horribly wrong -- like in "Jaws" or "The Godfather: Part II."

Although it’s unclear which type of outing Paul George was angling for when he invited teammates George Hill and Roy Hibbert to his Geist Reservoir pad Tuesday -- a day after the Indiana Pacers looked flat in a 102-96 Game 1 loss to the Washington Wizards -- this much is unmistakable: They caught a fish in the waters off the posh Indianapolis suburb, and no one got tossed overboard like Fredo.

We know this because George posted a picture to his Instagram account. In the photo, Hibbert, center, wraps one arm around Hill and rests the other on George’s shoulder. There’s also a fish, which looks quite small in Hibbert’s mitt. The image was accompanied by a caption that read, “These rumors have got to stop! Its [sic] getting old now and all you that believe them are ignorant! #Brothers”

The rumors and innuendo have plagued the Pacers in the postseason and throughout most of the regular season’s second half. At times, the tattle (cliques, insecurities and women are the most common themes) overshadowed their accomplishments and has only grown in Indiana’s eventful playoff run. In advance of Game 2, George finally addressed its existence: “I'm just getting tired of the media and these stories,” he said. “I’m just putting everything to bed and rest.”

The Pacers, though, have put themselves in this position -- being defensive instead of playing defense, which is the reason the team is the Eastern Conference’s top seed, and, for parts of the season, looked like it belonged among the NBA’s elite.

There’s never been a clear explanation or alibi for Indiana's woes, so this is what it’s come to for those on the outside looking in: cognitive theory from the living room couch and pub-stool psychoanalysis; trading in rumors and rumoring in trades; divining and mining Instagram pics for The Answer (not Allen Iverson).

Fans have been fishing, too.

Regardless, whatever happened (or didn’t) between Hibbert and his teammates, it worked.

In Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the enigmatic big man, who went scoreless in Game 1, had a season-high 28 points in an 86-82 win to even the series at 1-1. There were also nine rebounds, two blocks and no turnovers. He even smiled again.

All this coming after said fishing junket, social-media shots from all corners and public pleas from teammates begging for Hibbert to make his presence known. “I got to come out and be aggressive,” he said after the Game 1 loss. “I got to be a different Roy Hibbert than I have been.”

So now all’s well again -- until it isn’t. That’s what the Go Fish! approach has wrought: uncertainty.

No one knows what Game 3 will bring. Or which Pacers team will show. Or which players. Or which versions of which players. The team already has a “Good Lance” Stephenson and a “Bad Lance,” but based on Hibbert’s comments, there are now apparently multiple Roys. And that type of herky-jerky back-and-forth -- the kind that throws guys from boats -- is the reason the Pacers don’t inspire confidence right now.

No one would ever confuse 90210 with the 46204 ZIP code, but we’ve had what’s felt like our fair share of high school drama here. And while the Pacers have been mired in theatrics, the Heat continue to prowl. Miami swept Charlotte, then plowed through Brooklyn in Games 1 and 2. LeBron & Co. look like true predators.

If the Pacers hope to fend off the upstart Wizards and topple the Heat, then Hibbert, Hill and George are going to need a bigger boat.

Michael Rubino is a senior editor at Indianapolis Monthly.

Winners in Indiana's book?

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
By Michael Rubino
Special to
Roy HibbertAP Photo/Michael ConroyAfter looking like the best team in basketball, Indy has fallen on hard times. Hoosiers were prepared.
Hoosiers fret. Height of the corn. Length of the sermon. Width of the breaded pork tenderloin. You name it.

But this NBA season, the state pastime has grown into a preoccupation for fans of the Indiana Pacers.

In the beginning, we worried the national media wasn’t paying enough attention to the team’s 16-1 start. By the break, we overthought the All-Star snub of guard Lance Stephenson and gnawed on the notion that, at 40-12 (best in the Eastern Conference), the team hadn’t been on TV much. Then the departure of Danny Granger! The additions of Evan Turner and Andrew Bynum! And -- gasp -- the 11- 8 mark since the break (including a 7-7 beginning to March)! Fans here have been dying for someone to tell them what to think, and need that ordination of the Pacers' greatness or divination of what's gone wrong of late to come down from on high.

Hoosiers fret, but we also pay deference to authority (see Knight, Bob). And both conditions betray our flyover-country baggage packed with inherent self-doubt and a need for affirmation. Do we belong? Are we good enough? What do you think?

Despite the angst, it's worth noting, the team still has the top record in the Eastern Conference -- two games over hated Miami -- and third-best in the Association. Since the state went 0-for-the NCAA tournament, all hopes to prove our basketball superiority hinge on the professional squad.

[+] EnlargeRoy Hibbert
AP Photo/R Brent SmithAfter a 7-7 start to March, are things still looking up for Roy Hibbert and the East-leading Pacers?
In many ways, 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert is the perfect Pacer as the largest -- figuratively and literally -- manifestation of the Hoosier mindset.

It’s little wonder the All-Star center is a fan favorite. Off the court, Hibbert projects as a salt-of-the-earth guy who holds "American Idol"-style auditions to give blue-and-gold crazies a shot to sit in his "Area 55" of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. He’s active in the community and seems to genuinely enjoy being part of the Indianapolis skyline. Hibbert’s a plus on the court, too. He swats shots, grabs rebounds and, over the years, has developed a dangerous little hook. He hustles.

When Big Roy hits the deck -- and this happens maybe once or twice a game -- you can hear the crowd draw its breath. Oh no! He climbs to one knee, gets the other leg underneath him, and then pushes upright. The whole process, it takes a while. He hits the floor harder and takes longer to get up than anyone I can recall, but he's 7-2, so I get it. Almost without exception, he's right back at it after the fall, protecting the rim, doing his thing.

Problem is, Hibbert takes big mental falls, too -- on-court plummets where he disappears for quarters and then strings of games. When the Pacers are going good, Hibbert’s teammates usually find him for early, momentum-building opportunities. But during the swoons, Hibbert becomes forgotten (or allows himself to fade into the background). Perhaps he internalizes too much. Maybe he’s too pensive. Could be a confidence issue. I don’t know. But what I do know is that it takes him a while to get up -- to bounce back. This happened last season, but, by March, Hibbert shook the crisis of confidence and was probably the biggest reason the team took Miami to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. He’s in the midst of another spring swoon, and until he picks himself up, fans will hold their breath and brood.

This type of anxiety doesn’t appear to wash over the fan bases of the NBA's blue-blood franchises. Knicks fans, for example, haven’t lost their delusions of grandeur even though their team is in the midst of another lost season. The mantra in New York isn’t Save us, Phil Jackson! -- it’s Phil Jackson will save us. That’s self-assurance. Misguided, maybe, but it’s certainty nonetheless.

Over the years, this neurosis in Indiana hasn’t been limited to professional basketball or even proficiency in the realm of athletics.

Even though the Peyton Manning-led Colts were the (regular-season) class of the NFL and brought Indianapolis a Super Bowl title in 2007, most fans were loathe to make bold pronouncements about their achievements. When it came to Manning’s place in the pantheon, the collective sentiment here seemed to be: He's great -- right?

A few years later, when Indianapolis hosted the Super Bowl in 2012, that lack of certitude was manifest in the civic sphere. With a big assist from uncharacteristic spring-like weather in early February, the city and its volunteers clearly put together one the most well-run Super Bowls in recent NFL memory, showcasing the vibrancy (and accessibility) of its downtown and the vigor of Indy’s local businesses. Yet, when it was all over, residents couldn’t stop wondering if we’d done OK. Part of that was simply Hoosiers hospitality -- the desire to please -- but it also spoke to a genuine lack of certainty. We looked to the Darren Rovells of the world to tell us what we (hopefully) already knew: We nailed it.

One could argue this is a byproduct of modesty, that Hoosiers don’t like to toot their own horn. But it has more to do with the idea that we’re somewhat uncomfortable playing that instrument in front of a big audience.

From the outside looking in, this may seem odd, especially in the context of basketball, a sport that Hoosiers perfected. But achievement has come in large part thanks to the high school and college game -- the smaller stages, not the grand one. Even the Pacers’ three championships came in the ABA, always a sideshow to the NBA.

From Hibbert to the way we feel about Hoosier Hysteria, none of this is a bad thing. It’s human and real, genuine. It’s part of our identity, and it’s become part of the way others see us.

Doubt and determination are variables in the narrative equation, ones necessary for true triumph. Succeeding against great odds is wonderful, but the victory is sweetest when attained while conquering something within yourself, and this idea is very much a part of the Hoosier sports experience, no matter the team or player.

[+] EnlargeLarry Bird
Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty ImagesLarry Bird, the pride of French Lick and the Pacers' president, is an embodiment of the Hoosier mindset.
Pacers president Larry Bird embodies this ideal, and it has always made me think of him as a kind of corncob Christ.

Today and throughout his playing days, Bird built a career on fail-safe skill and a cloak of confidence (he was a proto-s----talker) that hugged him tighter than those old thigh-high Celtics drawers. But even Bird had his moment of wandering in the desert before ascending to greatness, leaving Knight's IU program before his freshman season even began and returning home to French Lick. Whatever happened during that time, I'd bet it laid the foundation for the greatness that was to come: Indiana State, Boston, the Hall of Fame.

One of the all-time great Bird moments came late in his career against, of all teams, the Pacers during the 1991 playoffs where the darkness-dawn thing played out over four quarters. Back then, Bird was ravaged with a bad back. Instead of sitting on the bench, he'd lay on the floor in pain. With Bird prone, it was the perfect opportunity for the Pacers to steal a series and move on to the next round. During the first half of Game 5, Bird landed hard and whacked his head against the Garden's parquet. He was helped off the floor, led through the tunnel and into the locker room. It looked as if he was finished.

He wasn't, of course. Bird returned for the second half and the Celtics won on the strength of one his all-time great lines: 32 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, one concussion.

Pacers fans could use a doubt-determination moment of their own like that one. We're not agnostic -- we're just waiting for a sign.

Michael Rubino is a senior editor at Indianapolis Monthly.

East-leading Indy stays home for Christmas

December, 23, 2013
Windhorst By Brian Windhorst
NEW YORK -- When the NBA schedule came out last summer, the Indiana Pacers players first looked for their opener, then they looked at Christmas Day.

Surely they would've graduated to Christmas Day status -- a trademark sign of national respect in the league -- after going to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat last season.

But Dec. 25 was blank.

"No comment," Pacers center Roy Hibbert said. "I’m going to leave that one alone."

"We expect stuff like that," David West said. "It was the same reason that at the start of the season I saw us getting picked like fourth in the East."

"I wasn’t expecting to play that day, to be honest," Paul George said. "It’s just the way it’s been for us being here."

Ten teams were picked to play on Wednesday, generally the 10 teams the league expected to generate the most excitement on one of the season’s marquee days. The small-market Pacers didn't make the cut.

They will play in the featured game on Thursday night only once this season, in mid-January. They are not currently scheduled to play in a Sunday afternoon national-television game. Of the four games they play against the Heat this season, two were not initially scheduled to be on one of the league’s national broadcast partners.

Monday night they took apart the injury-ravaged Brooklyn Nets 103-86. The Nets are the inverse of the Pacers. After their offseason of flashy moves, they received a huge amount of attention and were given a full slot on the national platform, kicking off Christmas Day against the equally disappointing Chicago Bulls.

The Pacers’ payroll this season is a little less than $70 million. The Nets are paying $80 million … in luxury tax. After blowing a late lead in Miami last week put them on their first losing streak of the season, the Pacers have now come back to win three in a row to improve to 23-5.

"We let our play do the talking," West said. "We understand who we are. We’re still growing our names. Even Paul, he’s getting some attention, but people are just starting to get to know him."

The Pacers, who are about five years into a plan that has seen them build primarily through the draft, may get a taste of revenge when the All-Star Game arrives, though. They might as well book a block of rooms in New Orleans for President's Day weekend now.

With the win over the Nets, coach Frank Vogel suddenly has a magic number of 10 to clinch being the All-Star coach for the East. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra is ineligible because he was the coach last season and the Pacers have an eight-game lead on the third-seeded Atlanta Hawks. Vogel could clinch the honor by the middle of January if the team keeps on this pace.

George appears headed to be voted in as a starter; he would be the first Pacer to get that honor since Jermaine O'Neal in 2003. Hibbert probably won’t get voted in -- the ballot no longer has a center designation -- but is nearly a lock to get there.

"LeBron can start at center," Hibbert said. "He can play all five positions."

West, a two-time All-Star, will get strong consideration, and even Lance Stephenson -- a player who would've drawn laughs when mentioned in All-Star talk a few months ago -- is gaining traction. Or at least the Pacers are trying to give it to him.

Indiana might not lead the league in attention, but it is among the leaders in confidence. Hibbert has been on his own campaign to win NBA defensive player of the year. Teammates have mentioned George as an MVP candidate. And now the vogue idea is to pitch Stephenson as an All-Star.

"He should be in the conversation," Vogel said. "He’s got to be in the conversation."

Stephenson had his third triple-double of the season Sunday against the Boston Celtics, then Monday he put on a show in his hometown in front of about 30 friends and family. He had a career-high 26 points with 7 rebounds and 5 assists.

With each basket, his buddies sitting above the Pacers bench would jump up and pump their fists. As the game got out of hand and Nets fans started leaving, the Stephenson section became more and more audible.

"I was pretty emotionally hyped for this game," Stephenson said. "I couldn't really sleep last night."

In the end, perhaps the Pacers ended up with the best deal in it all. The schedule has them off until Saturday, a break that allowed the team to give the players two days off over the holiday. Stephenson stayed in Brooklyn with family. The rest of the Pacers, at least according to Hibbert’s Twitter feed, spent their bus ride toward their Christmas vacation arguing over who has the better career: Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus.

Meanwhile, the Heat complained in a recent meeting with incoming commissioner Adam Silver that they had to travel to L.A. for Christmas when they’re the defending champs. Flying under the radar can, it seems, have its perks.

"Everything has played perfect for us. We didn’t get distracted with too much attention," said George, who had 26 points of his own in the win. "I feel like that’ll change in the future."

George, defense key Indy's unbeaten start

November, 5, 2013
By Alvin Anol, ESPN Stats & Info

ESPN Stats & InformationPaul George has connected on 14 of his 31 3-point attempts this season.
Led by Paul George and their trademark stingy defense, the Indiana Pacers held off a late Detroit Pistons rally to remain the NBA's lone unbeaten team.

George scored a game-high 31 points with 10 rebounds, becoming the first Pacers player with a 30-point, 10-rebound game since David West did it at the beginning of last season.

It was George's second 30-point effort of the season, after scoring 32 in the Pacers second game against the New Orleans Pelicans. He's already one 30-point game away from matching his number of such games last season just four games into the 2013-14 campaign.

One reason for his scoring boost has been greater efficiency from 3-point range.

So far, he's connected on 14 of his 31 attempts -- a 45 percent clip. He's attempting almost eight 3-pointers per game so far, almost two full attempts more than he averaged a season ago.

While George has the led the way for Indiana offensively, the team's defense has picked up right where it left off a season ago.

Indiana led the NBA last season by holding opponents to 38 percent shooting from the field. The Pacers have held three of its four opponents this season to worse than 40 percent shooting, with the Pelicans shooting exactly 40 percent.

Roy Hibbert
Roy Hibbert, who had seven blocks Tuesday, has been a major part of the defense's success.

Hibbert has averaged five blocks this season, and there’s been a marked difference in Indiana’s defense when he’s been on the floor versus off it.

According to, the Pacers have a 75.3 defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) when Hibbert is on the floor. But when he’s been off the floor, Indiana’s defensive efficiency spikes to 101.3.

Teams have shot just 48 percent inside the restricted area against Indiana so far, second-best in the league. The Pacers led the league in that category last season, holding teams to 54 percent in the restricted area.

Hibbert’s presence has essentially made a good defense an elite one.

The Pistons found rare success in the paint against Indiana (scoring 46 points), but Indiana had held its opponents to a league-best 30 points in the paint per game entering Tuesday.

Through four games, Indiana has a defensive efficiency of 86.1, best in the NBA.

This is the third 4-0 start in Pacers franchise history, with the team also starting the 1989-90 and 2004-05 seasons in such fashion. If the Pacers can get a win Wednesday, when they play the Chicago Bulls on ESPN (7 p.m. ET), it'd be their first 5-0 start as an NBA franchise.

George not planning on leaving Indiana

July, 22, 2013
Stein By Marc Stein

Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesPaul George has been linked with the Lakers, but the Pacers forward may not make it to free agency.

LAS VEGAS -- Paul George is well aware of chatter back home in Los Angeles.

He knows that edgy Lakers fans, already suggesting moves their team should make in the summer of 2014 with fistfuls of salary-cap space in the wake of Dwight Howard's departure, are lobbying L.A. to throw a max offer at George when he becomes a restricted free agent on July 1, 2014.

Only two problems with that fantasy.

No. 1: George confirmed Monday after Team USA's first practice of the summer on the campus of UNLV that his representatives and the Pacers have already opened discussions on a contract extension that could well prevent Indiana's All-Star swingman from ever reaching free agency ... even the restricted variety.

No. 2: George might have grown up worshiping Kobe Bryant, but he sounds like he's working for the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce when someone brings up his future with the Pacers.

Asked Monday if he's been following all the lobbying in Lakerland, George told "I'm happy, man. I'm happy in Indiana. It's overwhelming (to hear) that they would want a player like me to come play for their team. But right now I'm focused on Indiana. I'm happy to be in Indiana. Our future is bright in Indiana. I wouldn't want to leave something great."

The Laker chatter about George was inevitable after Howard bolted for Houston, given that the 23-year-old grew up in the Antelope Valley region of Southern California, recently purchased an offseason home in the San Fernando Valley and just had a breakout season with the Pacers that makes him one of the most likely participants in this week's 28-man Team USA minicamp to make it all the way onto Mike Krzyzewski's roster for the 2014 World Cup of Basketball in Spain.

But one source close to the process told this week that a max extension with the Pacers -- most likely before the Oct. 31 deadline for extensions for players from the 2010 draft class -- is a "foregone conclusion."

"It's no rush," George said Monday. "Me and the front office ... we're on the same page."

No surprise, then, that Pacers president Larry Bird and general manager Kevin Pritchard were in attendance Monday for the first minicamp practice in Vegas to watch George at work.

Proudly sporting a chain around his neck after practice with engraved confirmation of his All-Star breakthrough in 2013, George said of his hopes to make Coach K's Olympic roster for Brazil in 2016: "I give myself a high chance. I think I'm cut out for the international game."

Numbers favor ... in Game 7

June, 3, 2013
By ESPN Stats & Information

LeBron James (right) averages 34.3 PPG in three career Game 7s, the most in NBA history. Paul George (left) will try to lead the Pacers to their first-ever Conference Finals Game 7 win.
The Indiana Pacers visit the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. We give you the reasons to believe that each team will get to the NBA Finals.

Numbers that favor the Heat
Start with the fact that home teams are 89-23 all-time in Game 7s, a .795 winning percentage, and the Heat have been a different team at home in this series.

Though the Pacers manhandled the Heat in the paint in Game 6, Miami is shooting 59.8 percent in the paint at home in the series, nearly 10 percentage points better than Indiana. Overall the Heat have shot 48 percent at home and 43 percent on the road in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Heat are limiting the Pacers to 35.9 percent shooting from 3-point range at home (43.6 percent on the road) and are allowing 10 fewer points per 100 possessions at home (101.5 at home and 111.8 on the road).

That home/road split extends to Pacers big man Roy Hibbert as well --he's averaging 4.7 second-chance points per game and grabbing 14 percent of missed shots while he’s on the floor on the road, down from 9.3 second-chance points per game and a rebounding percentage of 20.3 at home.

The team that scores more points in the paint is 5-0 in the series (Both scored 40 in Game 2). In Miami this series, the Heat average 44.7 paint points per game and the Pacers average 40.0.

The Heat have not lost consecutive games since January 8-10. They’ve only lost two games at home in the same playoff series once in the last three postseasons (2011 NBA Finals).

LeBron James is averaging 32.0 points per game, shooting 55.7 percent and has a PER of 32.0 at home in the series, compared to 25.0 points per game, 46.4 percent and a PER of 26.9 in Indiana.

And the Heat have the experience edge in a big way, with 13 players on their roster who have played in a Game 7. The Pacers have just two -- David West and Sam Young.

Numbers that favor the Pacers
Home teams may have a great record in Game 7s, but they are not invincible -- the road team has won two of the past three Conference Final Game 7s.

In fact, eight (out of 24) road teams have won a Game 7 in any series since 2005, including the Chicago Bulls this season .

The Pacers have been better in the clutch this series, averaging 113.8 points per 100 possessions in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime with the score within five points.

The Heat are averaging just 78.4 points per 100 possessions in those situations, turning the ball over on more than a quarter of their possessions.

Not all of the home/road splits favor Miami in Game 7. The Pacers are allowing almost five fewer transition points per game on the road, limiting the Heat to 12.0 transition points per game in Miami (down from 16.7 at home).

Paul George is averaging 25.3 points per game and has a PER of 22.0 on the road in the series, compared to 17.7 points per game and a PER of 14.7 at home.

They are +28 in second-chance points in the series and have outscored the Heat on second chances in four of the six games. Indiana was +9 on second-chance points in Game 6.

As good as LeBron is, he’s only 1-2 in Game 7s, losing two with the Cavaliers and winning one with the Heat.

Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have provided little support for the Heat. Wade is averaging 13.6 points this postseason, his worst in any postseason in his career and the first time he’s averaged under 20 points per game since 2003-04 (his first postseason), when he averaged 18.0 points.

Likewise, Chris Bosh’s 12.5 points per game average is his lowest in any postseason. Bosh has scored fewer than 10 points in each of his past three games, his longest such streak since a run of four straight games in February, 2004.

Pacers pull role-reversal in 3rd quarter

June, 2, 2013
By ESPN Stats & Information

The Pacers shot lights-out in the third quarter ...

And the Heat could not match them.

The Miami Heat had won each of their previous six games when they had a chance to close out a postseason series. But they couldn’t get that lucky seventh, falling to the Indiana Pacers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

LeBron James did not get much help from his teammates in this one, save for a couple of late 3-pointers by Mike Miller. The Pacers got plenty of contributions, most notably from Paul George and Roy Hibbert. They also held the Heat to 36 percent shooting from the field, Miami's worst field-goal percentage in any game this season.

Game 7 will be Monday night in Miami, but before we get to that, let’s run through some of the statistical highlights in Game 6.

Difference in the Game: Third Quarter
The Pacers outplayed the Heat in the third quarter similar to how the Heat outplayed the Pacers in Game 5.

The shot chart atop this story and the graphic on the right tell the story pretty well.

The Pacers dominated in the paint, outscoring the Heat 16-0 within the paint in those 12 minutes. They outscored the Heat by 22 points in the paint for the game, Miami's worst paint-points differential this postseason.

James did not score in the pivotal period until scoring six points in the final 93 seconds of the quarter.

Indiana’s starting frontcourt dominated the game, outscoring the Heat frountcourt 63-34 (with 29 of those 34 coming from James).

Chris Bosh scored only five points for the Heat, his lowest scoring total in any postseason game.

Elias noted that the 15 combined points by Dwyane Wade and Bosh are the fewest for the two of them in a game together since becoming teammates (regular season or postseason).

Their previous low was 17 done twice before (Nov. 14, 2012 in a 107-100 loss against the Los Angeles Clippers, as well as two days ago in the Game 5 win).

George’s Turnaround, Hibbert's impact
George scored more points in Game 6 (28) than he did in Game 3 and Game 4 combined (25). Since those two games, in which he shot 35 percent from the field, George has had back-to-back games in which he shot an identical 11-for-19 from the field.

Hibbert surpassed 20 points for the fifth straight game, but made a big impact on defense too.

The Heat only made nine field goals inside of five feet, their second-fewest in a game so far this season. The only other time they made fewer field goals from this distance was on January 8, also versus the Pacers.

Looking to Game 7
This will be the second Game 7 of this postseason. The road team (Chicago Bulls) won the last one, but home teams have a significant edge in Game 7s, winning 89 of 112 (79.5 percent).

The Heat are 3-3 all-time in Game 7s. The Pacers are 2-3, with all five games coming on the road. The two wins came against the New York Knicks in 1995 and the Boston Celtics in 2005.

The Heat are 3-2 all-time in home Game 7s, including a win vs the Celtics in last year's Eastern Conference Finals

This will be James' fourth career Game 7. His teams are 1-2 in those winner-take-all games, losing two on the road with the Cavaliers before winning at home against the Celtics last season to advance to the NBA Finals.

James is averaging 34.3 points in those three Game 7s. Elias notes that he has the highest Game 7 scoring average in NBA history, for those who played in multiple Game 7s.

Paul George key for Pacers on the road

May, 30, 2013
By ESPN Statistics & Information

Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images
While the Indiana Pacers have underperformed on the road this postseason, Paul George has played well away from home.

Heading into Game 5 in Miami on Thursday, the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat find themselves tied 2-2 in a playoff series for the second consecutive season. Last season, the Pacers and Heat were tied at two games each in the Eastern Conference Semifinals before the Heat won games 5 and 6 to advance to the Conference Finals.

Game 5 will be pivotal for both teams. When a best-of-7 series is tied 2-2, the winner of Game 5 goes on to wins the series 83.4 percent of the time.

Despite winning Game 2 in Miami, the Pacers have underperformed on the road this postseason. They are 3-5 on the road and 7-1 at home.

Paul George will be one of the key players to watch. While the Pacers have underperformed away from home as a team this postseason, George has been hot on the road. In this series, George is averaging 24.5 points per game on the road, compared to 12.5 PPG at home.

George was the one who forced overtime in Game 1 in Miami with 0.7 seconds remaining. Entering that game, George had been 0-of-9 on game-tying or go-ahead shots in the final 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime this season.

George has also performed well against LeBron James. He was 6-of-7 with 16 points when guarded by James in Game 2, and is shooting 62 percent against him in the series.

One aspect of the Pacers’ home form that they will need to bring back to South Beach is their play on the boards. The Pacers grabbed 49 rebounds in Game 4, 19 more than the Heat. According to Elias, that ties Miami’s second-worst rebounding margin in any postseason game in team history. They were outrebounded by 23 against the Bulls in Game 2 of a 1992 playoff series (the second postseason game in Miami’s NBA history) and by 19 by the Bulls in Game 1 in 1997.

Roy Hibbert has been a major factor in the Pacers’ success on the boards. He has had three consecutive games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, a career-high for both regular season and playoffs. In this series Hibbert is averaging 12.0 RPG, compared to 8.0 RPG in three regular-season games against the Heat.

The Heat will need to shake off Game 4 and turn things back around in order to regain the upper-hand. Miami has not lost consecutive games since January 8-10. They are 1-1 at home this series and have not lost two home games in a single playoff series since the 2011 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks.

The Pacers will need to continue to focus on shutting down LeBron when he is close to the basket. James was 1-of-6 on post-ups in Game 4 after shooting 5-of-9 with 14 points on such plays in Game 3. He was double-teamed on three of his field goal attempts in the post last game, compared to only one attempt in Game 3.

Haslem opens up lane, Heat take advantage

May, 27, 2013
Simon By Mark Simon

Udonis Haslem's shooting was huge in the Heat's win.

The Miami Heat’s answer to the Indiana Pacers’ performance in the first two games was fairly simple: Just don’t miss any shots in the first half, and don’t let the Pacers make many in the second half.

The Heat took back home-court advantage with a decisive win over the Pacers. Those waiting for the Heat to drop consecutive games will continue to wait. They haven't done so in more than five months.

Let's recap the statistical highlights.

Stat of the Game
The Heat are the first team in NBA history to win five straight playoff road games by double digits.
Only four other teams have done it four straight games.

The most recent of those was another LeBron James team: the 2009 Cleveland Cavaliers.

The last before them were the Tim Duncan-led San Antonio Spurs in 1999.

Unsung star: Udonis Haslem
Udonis Haslem found his sweet spot on the left baseline, as his shooting chart for the game shows. Haslem finished 8-for-9 (the best single-game shooting effort in Heat history), 5-for-6 on shots from 15 feet and beyond. He entered 6-for-19 on those shots this postseason.

Haslem and Chris Bosh were a combined 8-for-11 from that range, including 7-for-9 with Roy Hibbert as the primary defender.

Hibbert noted after the game that he was forced to contest jump shots, leaving the paint free. The Heat shot 70 percent, their best effort of the series, from inside the paint.

Setting the Tone: Heck of a half
The Heat set a playoff franchise record with 70 first-half points.

That was the most points the Pacers have allowed in any half this season. This was the first time a team scored 70 points in the opening half of a playoff game since 2007, when the Golden State Warriors did so against the Utah Jazz.

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that it was the first time the Pacers allowed 70 points in any playoff half since yielding 71 to the Boston Celtics in the second half of a playoff game in 1992.

Beyond the box score: James posts-up George
LeBron James went to a different approach in matching up against Paul George in Game 3.

James was 2-for-5 for five points when posting George up in the first two games of the series, but was 5-for-7 for 12 points in the Game 3 win.

James finished 7-for-13 against George for the game. George, who went 10-for-13 in the first two games when guarded by James, was mostly guarded by Dwyane Wade on Sunday, but James held him to 1-for-4 shooting from the field.

Difference-maker: Pacers struggles at the rim
The Pacers went 12-for-17 on shots from inside 5 feet in the first half, allowing them to keep the game close.

But when the Heat pulled away, the Pacers could not score them inside to match. They missed 11 of their 13 second-half shots from inside 5 feet.

Unsung reserve: Andersen’s streak still going
Chris Andersen was 4-for-4 from the field, making him 13-for-13 in the series with only one turnover (and 15 straight makes overall). The rest of the Heat's bench is a combined 10-for-49 from the field against the Pacers.

Looking ahead
In best-of-seven playoff series that are tied 1-1, the Game 3 winner goes on to win the series 77.0 percent of the time (151-45).

George, Hibbert get better of James

May, 25, 2013
By ESPN Stats & Information
The Indiana Pacers were able to finish the job against the Miami Heat this time, knotting their Eastern Conference finals series at a game apiece.

It was a contest that appeared to be headed toward an ending similar to that of Game 1. But this time it was the Pacers who came through and LeBron James who did not. Here's a look at some of the key stats we tracked from Indiana's victory.

Plays of the game: The turnovers
James had two turnovers in the game’s final minute, which is extremely unusual for him.

This was the first postseason game in his career in which he had two turnovers in the game’s final 60 seconds.

In 125 previous playoff games, James had turned the ball over only seven times in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime.

Roy Hibbert was on the court when James drove into the lane and turned the ball over with eight seconds remaining. James has one basket and four turnovers on drives to the basket in which Hibbert is on the floor in these two games. When Hibbert is off the court, James has four baskets (on five shots) and no turnovers on drives to the hoop.

James finished with three assists and five turnovers. The last time he had more turnovers than assists in a game was March 27 against the Chicago Bulls, a 101-97 loss that snapped the Heat’s 27-game winning streak.

Inside the James-George matchup
James was 10-of-14 shooting against Paul George in Game 2 with 25 points, but was unable to score against him in the final 2:43.

James is shooting 18-of-31 (58 percent) against George in the series.

On the other end, George shot 6-of-7 against James with 16 points in Game 2. He’s actually been better against James than James has been against him through the first two games of this series.

The chart on the right shows how each has performed in that matchup.

Hibbert’s offensive impact
Hibbert finished with 29 points, one shy of his career high, and scored a postseason career-high 20 paint points in Game 2, with five of his 10 paint field goals as the pick-and-roll man.

Hibbert finished with 14 points as the pick-and-roll man Friday, including two baskets in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.

Hibbert is only the second Pacers player to have at least 29 points and 10 rebounds in a playoff game. Jermaine O’Neal did it twice, in 2002 and 2006.

A few thoughts about Roy Hibbert

May, 23, 2013
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
Mornings like these make the NBA so much fun, especially when the debate touches on concrete strategy rather than abstractions.

On the surface, whether Pacers coach Frank Vogel should have left Roy Hibbert on the floor during crucial, late-game defensive possessions is a binary decision, but several factors govern Vogel's strategy in that situation. Although I'm strongly with the majority opinion that says when defensive possessions matter most you have your best defenders on the floor, the doubts implicitly expressed by Vogel when he left his 7-foot-2 center on the sideline must also be addressed.

If Vogel decides to not match down to the Heat's smaller lineup, here are a few fun counterfactual strategies to consider -- some more sensible than others.
  • With 2.2 seconds left, an NBA defense is immune from a defensive 3-second call and can effectively zone up against any play. A zone defense is vulnerable to all kinds of hazards, open shots most prominent among them, because the goal is to guard space rather than individuals. Not having a specific guy tasked with defending specific scorers is risky, especially if one of those scorers is named LeBron James. But the Pacers are uniquely equipped to run a matchup zone for 2.2 seconds. Place Hibbert inside the circle, match up Paul George on James and zone the back side of the floor. The Pacers have some of the most capable, long-armed gap defenders in basketball and close space on shooters better than any team in the league. Zoning up would take away just about anything at the rim, though it would leave the Pacers vulnerable to a potential midrange shot from Chris Bosh -- a pretty reasonable trade-off, if not an ideal one.
  • Too dangerous, especially since the most prolific long-distance shooter in history is licking his chops on the weak side? Then how about not guarding the inbounder, Shane Battier, leaving Hibbert underneath and going with a man-to-man defense on the other four Miami players? It's a tough call, because ball pressure is essential and, as every coach at every level preaches, somebody must account for the inbounder once the ball is put in play. But let's replay the possession with Battier passing the ball in to James as he did Wednesday night. James is a willing passer and could conceivably return the ball to Battier, who stands 30 feet from the basket, with 1-point-whatever seconds remaining on the clock. It's safe to say that's a shot the Pacers can live with.
  • If you're not feeling the zone strategy and you also believe, as Vogel did, that Hibbert's lack of mobility was too much of a liability against a fast-moving, screen-heavy set with multiple shooters on the floor, then consider assigning Hibbert to cover the inbound pass. Approximately 2.5 million people were in Miami-Dade last night. If you asked Battier to list in descending order those he'd least like to see standing in front of him as he prepared to throw the ball inbounds to a Heat teammate, it's a good bet Hibbert would have been at the top of that list. The best use of Hibbert is still near the basket, but if he makes you nervous at the top of the circle when you know a back screen for Bosh is on the way, why not put him to some use by allowing him to disrupt an inbound pass then race after the ball for a possible block from behind?
  • Let Hibbert sink or swim. Those defending Vogel's decision have a point -- a down screen for Bosh is a tough switch for Hibbert. But there are creative ways to play it: (1) Have Lance Stephenson switch on to Bosh, as he did. (2) Have Hibbert drop immediately to the paint. (3) Have David West, who was guarding the inbounds pass, switch on to Allen as he sprinted to the sideline since he was effectively there. Again, Battier would be the open man, but at 30 feet or so.

The Pacers outlasted their rivals in the East because they brought length, speed and versatility to the defensive end and had the rim protection provided by Hibbert. For nearly 100 games, Vogel has stayed true to that formula, but he had a crisis of faith when it mattered most. On Wednesday night, perfect defense was the enemy of the good defense.

It didn't help that his best man defender, George, got annihilated so quickly and absolutely. Had Hibbert been standing at the rim, it's easy to imagine James shuttling a pass to Bosh for the duck-in or kicking the ball out to another shooter. Credit James for presenting that kind of challenge. For years, critics have killed him for not wanting to take the last shot, but ask yourself this:

If James were an I'm-shooting-at-all-cost player, would Vogel have been so concerned about the supporting cast that he would leave his rim protector on the bench out of fear of an open shooter?

Pacers take away strengths of LeBron, Heat

May, 22, 2013
By ESPN Stats & Information

Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images
LeBron James (left) was a different player with Paul George on the court this season.

Experience advantage rests with the Heat
Players on the Miami Heat roster have combined for 194 games of Conference Finals experience.

The Indiana Pacers roster features one game of Conference Finals experience -- Ian Mahinmi played one minute for the Dallas Mavericks in 2011.

Best offense vs best defense
During the regular season, the Heat had the best offensive efficiency and the Pacers had the best defensive efficiency. This is the first playoff meeting between the most efficient regular-season offense and defense since the San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns met in the 2005 Western Conference Finals. The Spurs, the team with the most efficient defense, won in five games.

The Heat ranked second in transition points per play and first in isolation points per play, but the Pacers ranked second in transition points per play allowed and fourth in isolation points per play allowed.

Inside the Heat’s struggles
The Heat were 1-2 against the Pacers during the regular season and really struggled to score.

Miami averaged 90.3 points per game against the Pacers, its lowest scoring average against any opponent. The Heat were unable to score effectively in the paint and in transition, two things they excelled at all season.

Miami struggled to get easy baskets, averaging 30.7 paint points per game against Indiana, its fewest against any opponent.

That's no surprise -- Indiana allowed the fewest paint points per game (35.5) and the lowest paint field goal percentage (48.1) in the league and was the only team to hold opponents under 50 percent shooting in the paint.

LeBron vs the Pacers
LeBron James played 121 minutes against the Pacers in the regular season and Paul George was on the court for 116 of them.

James averaged 21.0 points per 40 minutes with George on the court in those three games, down from his regular season average of 28.3 points per 40 minutes.

The Pacers also did a nice job keeping James away from the basket -- only 12 of his 46 shots came within five feet of the basket with George on the court.

During the regular season, James took 41 percent of his shots from that close.

James actually shot the ball well when specifically guarded by George (16-for-27), but getting his shot was a challenge. George forced James into 11 turnovers.

James averaged 21.0 points per game in three games against the Pacers, his fewest against any Eastern Conference opponent.

The Pacers were the only team that James averaged fewer than 10 paint points per game against during the regular season.

The Transition Game
The Heat shot 60.5 percent in transition this season, second in the NBA, but averaged only 9.3 transition plays per game against the Pacers (14.5 plays per game against all other teams).

The Pacers shot 63 percent in transition in the three regular-season meetings and outscored Miami 32-25.

The Heat have been dominant in transition during the playoffs, averaging 15.6 transition points per game, the most of any team remaining in the postseason.

Pacers could slow it down
No team played a slower pace against the Heat than the Pacers did this season (87.3 possessions per game). Indiana had the second-highest rebound percentage of any team against the Heat this season (58 percent), outrebounding them in all three meetings.

The Pacers played a slower pace, rebounded better and scored more efficiently against the Heat than they did against all other teams this season.

Pacers trio makes significant impact on 'd'

May, 5, 2013
By ESPN Stats & Information

Paul George was one of the big keys to the Pacers win in Game 1.

The Indiana Pacers won Game 1 against the New York Knicks with defense and did so thanks to three players in particular- Paul George, Roy Hibbert, and Lance Stephenson.

Here’s a thorough breakdown of the numbers that best illustrate that.

George’s impact
George led the NBA in Defensive Win Shares and showed why with his Game 1 work against Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith.

The shot chart above shows how both of those Knicks fared when George was their primary defender. That duo was 9-for-19 against the Pacers other defenders, but only 5-for-24 combined against George.

Hibbert’s impact
The Knicks were held to 43 percent shooting from inside five feet with Hibbert on the court on Sunday (league average on such shots: 59 percent).

The Pacers have outscored opponents by 50 points inside five feet with Hibbert on the floor this postseason and have been outscored by 22 with Hibbert on the bench.

You can see a more detailed breakdown in the cHart on the right.

Stephenson’s impact
Stephenson provided an unexpected spark Sunday, scoring 11 points and grabbing a career-high 13 rebounds.

The Pacers defense has been better with Stephenson on the court throughout the playoffs, allowing 90.8 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor and 112.0 with him off the floor.

On Sunday, they outscored the Knicks by 17 and held them to 38 percent shooting in Stephenson’s 39 minutes.

In the nine minutes Stephenson was out, the Knicks outscored the Pacers by 10, and shot 69 percent, including 4-for-7 from 3-point range.

Looking ahead: Something has to give
The Knicks are 0-5 all-time in playoff series’ after losing Game 1 at home, including 0-3 in best-of-7s.

Sunday marked their first such loss since the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals, when they lost Game 1 on Reggie Miller’s eight-point late-game outburst.

The Pacers have actually lost the last three playoff series in which they’ve won Game 1 on the road since that 1995 series.

Knicks, Pacers struggling with isolation

May, 4, 2013
By Ernest Tolden

Carmelo Anthony did not have a "hot spot" on the floor against the Celtics.

The New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers will renew their postseason rivalry beginning with Game 1 on Sunday at 3:30 ET on ABC.

This marks the seventh postseason meeting all-time between the Pacers and Knicks. The teams split the previous six meetings, 3-3.

The interesting thing about this matchup -- it should be a matchup of strength vs strength-- the Knicks isolation offense against the Pacers 1-on-1 defense. But recent developments have made it a matchup of weakness vs weakness.

Knicks Isolation issues
The Knicks are shooting an NBA-low 41.2 percent from the field and averaging just 96.9 points per 100 possessions this postseason.

This was an area they excelled in during the regular season, averaging 108.6 points per 100 possessions, which ranked third in the NBA.

However, in four regular season meetings, the Pacers held the Knicks to just 91.8 points per 100 possessions, the lowest output by New York against any single opponent this season.

One of the main reasons for the Knicks’ offensive issues was that they relied heavily on their isolation game this postseason.

During the regular season, an NBA-high 16 percent of the Knicks plays came in isolation. This postseason, the Knicks have ratcheted that up even higher- to 27 percent of their offensive plays.

With more usage came less success (particularly when they nearly blew their big lead in Game 6). The Knicks averaged a league-postseason-worst 0.73 points per play in isolation against the Boston Celtics.

1-on-1 defense was a Pacers strength, but not in 1st round
On the other hand, the Pacers were one of the best teams at defending isolation during the regular season.

They allowed just 0.75 points per play in that offense, which ranked fourth-best in the NBA.

But they had trouble defending isolation against the Atlanta Hawks.

Atlanta scored at an average of nearly a point per play in isolation against the Pacers and scored on nearly half of their isolation plays.

Anthony vs George
Carmelo Anthony will likely spend much of this series being hounded by Paul George.

George, who is regarded as one of the top on-the-ball defenders in the NBA, recorded a league high 6.3 Win Shares (an advanced metric that estimates defensive value) this season.

Anthony saw plenty of George in his three games against the Pacers during the regular season. Of his 66 total field goal attempts in three games against Indiana, over 70 percent of them came with George as the primary defender.

Anthony went 19-for-49 (39 percent) with George defending him in those meetings. He was actually worse against others the Pacers threw at him (5-for-15).

Anthony shot under 38 percent from the field overall against the Pacers during the regular season, well below his season average of 45 percent.

George did everything he could possibly do

April, 21, 2013
By ESPN Stats & Information

Ron Hoskins/Getty ImagesPaul George excelled in getting to the basket, getting points for himself and others.

Paul George was a do-it-all player on both the offensive and defensive ends for the Indiana Pacers in their Game 1 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday afternoon.

This was the second triple-double in Pacers history (the other was by Mark Jackson in 1998).

It was also one of the more unusual triple doubles, statistically speaking, in NBA playoff history.

The scoring
The Elias Sports Bureau confirmed that George was the fourth player in NBA Playoffs history to have a triple-double in a game in which he had three field goals or fewer.

The others were Lenny Wilkens (1966 Hawks), Wes Unseld (1971 Bullets) and Magic Johnson (twice for the Lakers in 1982).

George is the only one of those to score more than 13 points in his triple-double. He finished with 23, 17 of which came from the free throw line. That tied Reggie Miller’s record for free throws in a playoff game.

The passing
As for his passing, George's 12 assists led to 27 Pacers points, eight of which were points in the paint. Roy Hibbert, Lance Stephenson and David West were the beneficiaries on 10 of George's 12 assists.

George got three assists from drive-and-kicks (all leading to 3-pointers), three when posting up, three feeding the roll man in the pick & roll, two in transition, and one on a pass into the post.

The defense
Lastly on the defensive side, the Hawks were 4-for-11 with 11 points and three turnovers with George as the primary defender.

Kyle Korver and Josh Smith were a combined 2-for-7 from the field when defended by George.