What Indiana Pacers Need from Paul George During NBA Playoffs

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What Indiana Pacers Need from Paul George During NBA Playoffs
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

If the Indiana Pacers hope to avoid an early playoff exit, they'll need Paul George to step up his game.

The Pacers are clearly in turmoil, having dropped their series opener to the Atlanta Hawks at home 101-93. George was just 6-of-18 shooting from the field in that game and has seen a steep decline in his stats since the beginning of the season.

Indiana needs George to return to his MVP-like form that we saw back in November and December when the Pacers were regularly blowing out opponents and began the year 16-1.

For Indiana to make it past Atlanta and beyond, this is what they'll need from their star.

 

Be a Playmaker

The Pacers offense has been abysmal as of late, with forced shots and long jumpers galore.

It's too late at this point to completely change the playbook, but that doesn't mean little improvements can't be made. The quickest way to bump up the offense? Move the ball.

George Hill has woefully underperformed at point guard this season with just 3.5 assists and a PER of 13.4. Lance Stephenson and George have also had their share of playmaking duties, but it's George who now needs to take on a bigger role.

For the season, George has averaged 3.5 assists to go along with his 21.7 points and 6.8 rebounds per game.

When George commits to getting his teammates involved, the Pacers are remarkably better. When he records five or more assists in a game this season, Indiana has gone 18-4. When George registers one assist or less, the Pacers are 3-6. George averages 3.9 assists in his team's wins compared to just 2.8 in defeats.

George needs to actively get his teammates involved early and often to jump-start the team's offense.

 

Selective Outside Shooting

George loves the three ball, even if it doesn't always love him.

For the 2013-14 season, George made 2.3 of his 6.3 attempts from behind the arc, good for 36.4 percent. The consistency wasn't exactly there, as George shot better than 40 percent from deep in November and April, but fell to just 29.7 percent in March.

The Pacers need George to keep up his solid April shooting (42.4 percent) into the playoffs to help stretch the floor. Indiana made seven three-pointers per game on 36.2 percent shooting in wins this season, but just six on 34.4 percent in losses. George himself makes 2.5 deep balls in wins compared to 1.9 when the Pacers lose.

For George, it's all about location.

NBA.com/Stats

When he lets it fly from above the break, he connects at a 33.6 percent rate. George is at his best when he shoots corner threes from either side, landing a cool 49.0 percent.

NBA.com/Stats

Despite this huge increase in success, George doesn't attempt nearly enough shots from the corners. While 28.8 percent of his entire shot selection came on above-the-break three-pointers, just 7.6 percent were attempted from corner threes.

George's three-point shooting has been inconsistent all year, but is something the Pacers need him to stabilize in the playoffs.

Taking more shots from the corners should help.

 

Defend Anybody and Everybody

At 6'8" and 210 pounds, George can guard multiple positions and is considered one of the better perimeter defenders in the game.

While this may be true, it's no secret George's defensive play fell off considerably in the season's second half.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Leading up to the Feb. 20 trade deadline, George was sporting a defensive rating of 93.8. Since then, his D-rating rose to 101.5. The Pacers suffered because of it, watching their team defensive rating go from 93.9 to 102.4 after the trade deadline.

Indiana needs George's strong defensive play to return, and quick.

In Game 1 against Atlanta, the Hawks did a great job of spreading their offense out while using Jeff Teague to attack the paint. Teague finished the game with 28 points to lead both teams.

Stopping him now becomes priority No. 1 for the Pacers on defense, something point guard George Hill struggled to do.

While Teague is a 6'2" point guard and Paul George is six inches taller and a small forward, he's already volunteered his services if it will help slow the Hawks offense down.

"I would love to, just to change it up a little bit and give him a different look," George said after the Pacers practiced Sunday, via ESPN.com.

While slowing Teague down would certainly help, the Hawks also have some strong three-point shooters in Kyle Korver, Lou Williams and DeMarre Carroll to guard as well.

George needs to be ready and willing to stop whomever the Pacers assign him to, regardless of position or skill set.

Defense, selective shooting and passing the ball will all be key for George as he looks to guide the Pacers past their recent struggles.

He's shown the capability to do all three in the past, and will need to again for Indiana to make it past the Hawks and beyond.

  

All stats via NBA.com/Stats unless otherwise noted.

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