Physically, Paul George could almost look like a younger brother of LeBron James. The reigning MVP is stronger, has more ink and has less hair than the leader of the Indiana Pacers, in addition to possessing seven more years of professional experience. But like any younger sibling playing his big brother, George has not backed down from the challenge of taking on the league’s best player in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Although he has three seasons under his belt, this is really George’s first year playing the role of Indiana’s top gun. In the absence of Danny Granger, the 2013 NBA’s Most Improved Player put up All-Star numbers of nearly 18 points and eight rebounds per game. He had already established himself as a tremendous defender, but George increased his offensive production by more than five points per game from last season (via ESPN).
When you think of superstars in the NBA, who do you think of? LeBron, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony—George really doesn’t come up in that discussion. After this season, however, that is going to change.
George is blossoming into a star, right before our very eyes, here in the playoffs. His Game 1 performance in the conference finals against the Miami Heat was unreal: 27 points on 7-of-16 shooting (3-6 from three-point territory), including a 30-footer to send the game into overtime and then three cold-blooded free throws with 2.2 seconds left to give his Pacers a one-point lead.
On the following play, George overplayed James on the inbound pass and allowed LBJ to surge in for the game-winning layup as time expired, 103-102 Miami. George is 23 years old, though; that’s going to happen. How he would respond to that kind of adversity is what mattered.
And boy, did he respond.
In Game 2 on Friday, George poured in 22 points (9-16 from the field) in 39 minutes while keeping his composure in the biggest game of his career. His smothering defense forced James into two turnovers with less than a minute left en route to a 97-93 victory in Miami.
Now that the away team has won on their opponent's home court, we have a series (as the saying goes). And you know what else we have? A rising star in Paul George, who is going toe-to-toe with one of the greatest players of all time and loving every second of it.
Game 3 will be played on Sunday, May 26 at 8:30 p.m. on TNT.