Someone definitely served Paul George some rancid home cooking before his postgame press conference Monday night.
That's the only explanation after digesting George's erroneous insight.
Minutes after the Indiana Pacers fell 102-90 to the Miami Heat in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals and dug themselves a hole they're most definitely not going to climb out of, George was in a talkative, blame-the-referees kind of mood, per ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst:
It's just demoralizing when [the free throws are] lopsided. I mean, I'm sorry to say, but that was the case. How rare is it we shoot 50 percent, turn the ball over around 13 or so times, outrebound a team, and lose a ball game? I thought we did a great job. I just thought we did a great job. ... But, again, they made 30 free throws, and that put them over the edge.
The insinuations didn't stop there:
Paul George blamedHeat's win on officiating: "Home-cooking,'' he called a 34-17 FT margin. LeBron: "We had 5 steals, 20 pts off turnovers:"— Dave Hyde (@davehydesports) May 27, 2014
George's comments have a woe-is-me feel to them. Taken literally, they're representative of someone who didn't watch or play in Game 4, because the Pacers were anything but "great."
Indy's defense was bafflingly bad. It looked confused and lost, and visibly rattled whenever the Heat moved the ball, attacked or created mismatches.
Truthfully, the Pacers were also lucky. The final score in no way reflects the nature of this game. It should have been worse for the Pacers.
Update: Wednesday, May 28 at 12:25 p.m. ET
George knew he was going to be fined for his comments, and he was honest after he was popped $25K.
Paul George: "I knew I was gonna get fined.... It's just how I felt."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 28, 2014
--End of update--
The Heat had 30 free throws because the Pacers defense was slow to everything. I can't believe it's necessary to explain this point.— Eric Freeman (@freemaneric) May 27, 2014
More than 55 percent of the Heat's shot attempts (38) were uncontested, according to NBA.com. Most nights, that's a homemade recipe for a disastrous blowout. But the Pacers were fortunate because the Heat converted under 40 percent of their wide-open looks. That's not going to happen again.
And yet, we're here—George was there—talking about free throws?
In their Game 1 victory, the Pacers took 37 freebies to the Heat's 15. How's that for "home cooking?" They attempted more free throws than the Heat through Game 3 in Miami as well. Was that "road cooking?"
No complaints about the officiating or free-throw "discrepancies" were offered by the Heat following each of those games. They didn't bemoan the officiating after Game 1. There were no excuses, there was no displacing the blame.
More than anything, there was accountability, something Bleacher Report's Grant Hughes says the Pacers—George in this case—have yet to master:
And even more broadly, if the Pacers want to continue molding themselves into an elite team, they'll have to grow up, quit complaining and get to work.
Grousing about free-throw disparities is for 13-year-old superfans on message boards and irrational talk-radio devotees—not All-Star players who dream of someday winning a ring.
On some level, George has to know this. He cannot honestly believe what he's saying. His frustrations were mounting. Making excuses is part of the deflection process—a process that must be abandoned.
Game 5 is Wednesday night in Indiana. With the Pacers facing elimination, they can ill afford to wallow in their inferiority or disguise their struggles. To have a puncher's chance at completing this comeback, they, George included, must accept the truth.
"I thought we outplayed them," George said, via Windhorst. "They won this game at the free throw line."
No, Paul. The Heat won this game by being themselves.
They won this game by being the better team.