Paul George, Pacers Putting Eastern Conference on Notice

Maxwell Ogden@MaxwellOgdenCorrespondent IIIJanuary 11, 2013

Dec 29, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Kyle Korver (back) and Indiana Pacers small forward Paul George (24) fight for a loose ball during the fourth quarter at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

Paul George and the Indiana Pacers are putting the Eastern Conference on notice.

In a battle between two of the Eastern Conference's elite, the Pacers defeated the New York Knicks by a score of 81-76 on Thursday night. George led the way with 24 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and six steals.

Indiana is now 22-14 overall and 14-3 at home.

Alongside George was first-year Pacer center Ian Mahinmi, who finished with 13 points in 20 minutes off the bench. Every minute was key from Mahinmi, as he replaced Roy Hibbert.

Hibbert tallied just 19 minutes on the evening after suffering two separate back injuries.

The second of two came as he swatted a Tyson Chandler field goal attempt. NBA" target="_blank">Mike Wells of theNBA" target="_blank"> Indianapolis Star had the report.


Roy Hibbert with a nasty block on Chandler's dunk, but it came w a price. He's in obvious pain because of his back

— Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNBA) January 11, 2013


Yet another example of perseverance from an undeniably tough Pacers squad.

As for the win itself, this is the second consecutive victory for the Pacers over a top-two team in the Eastern Conference. More impressively, it is the second straight game in which they've held an Eastern elite under 80 points.

On top of defeating the Knicks on January 10, they downed the Miami Heat 87-77 on January 8. The Knicks and Heat rank fifth and sixth in scoring offense, respectively.

The Pacers' defensive dominance is where we begin.


Impenetrable Defense

Coming into the night, the Indiana Pacers ranked second in the NBA at 89.5 points allowed per contest. They're now allowing just 89.2.

Through their first 36 games, the Pacers have held 20 opponents below 90 points. They've held 15 teams to 85 points or less, while eight teams have failed to score more than 80.

Furthermore, the Pacers rank third in blocks per game at 6.7. Most impressive of all, they're only forcing opponents into an average of 13.2 turnovers per game.

It is not scoring via defense that wins games for Indiana—it is their smothering defense that no team appears to be able to penetrate and score on.

No one.


Overcoming Injuries

The best days for the Indiana Pacers have yet to come.

Thus far in the 2012-13 season, the Pacers have faced as many debilitating injuries as any team in the NBA. For instance, Roy Hibbert recently injured his back and George Hill has bronchitis (via Official Indiana Pacers Twitter Account).

Oh, and some guy named Danny Granger hasn't played a single game.

For those unfamiliar with Granger's work, he has led the Pacers in scoring in each of the past five seasons. Let me repeat that: Granger has led the Pacers in scoring in each of the past five seasons.

Upon his return, look for the Pacers to improve upon their No. 29 ranking in terms of scoring offense.

Hottest Team in the NBA?

Barring the Los Angeles Clippers, the Indiana Pacers may just be the hottest team in the NBA.

During their first 17 games, the Pacers went just 8-9. Their downfall continued as they proceeded to reach 10-11 after 21 games. Since then, Indiana is 12-3.

In that time, the Pacers are allowing just 85.3 points per game. They've defeated the likes of the New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies and Milwaukee Bucks.

Their average margin of victory has been 10.1 points per game.

Even with their slow start, the Pacers have pulled into third in the Eastern Conference. They're 1.5 games behind the second-place Knicks and two behind the first-place Miami Heat (via ESPN).

The Eastern Conference is now a three-team race, folks. Do yourselves a favor and don't count Indiana out so fast.

They're on a fast track to the top spot in the East with Paul George leading the way.


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