Paul George: "Looking at the stat sheet, we outplayed them. You got to give them credit. They won this game at the free throw line."— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) May 27, 2014
I'm confused. I was sure a 12-point win, by definition, meant the Heat had actually outplayed the Pacers—and not the other way around.
UPDATE: Tuesday, May 27, at 5:25 p.m. ET by Grant Hughes
In a move that should come as no surprise, the NBA dug into George's wallet for his postgame comments.
Pacers F Paul George fined $25,000 for public criticism of officiating, it was announced by Rod Thorn, President, Basketball Operations.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) May 27, 2014
---End of update---
But maybe George is onto something here. Maybe he's crafting a way to understand basketball in a different way. After all, Indiana shot 49.3 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from long distance, figures that topped Miami's 46.4-percent accuracy rate from the floor and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc.
And the Pacers also out-rebounded the Heat, 37-34.
Unfortunately for George's credibility, he focused on every delusional fan's favorite statistic in his analysis: free-throw disparity.
Paul George on the free-throw discrepancy: "It's just demoralizing when the game is lopsided."— Joseph Goodman (@JoeGoodmanJr) May 27, 2014
OK, before we all jump down George's throat for some unbecoming postgame whining, let's acknowledge Indiana attempted just 17 foul shots on the night, while the Heat got to the line 34 times. If that's all we knew about Game 4, maybe there'd be some support for George's contention.
But there's a simple, rational explanation for the free-throw gap in Game 4, and it has nothing to do with biased officiating, conspiracies or whatever other excuses typically crop up in situations like this:
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
Need corroboration for the more reasonable approach espoused above? Try this on for size, courtesy of a person who actually took part in the same game George is complaining about:
LeBron: "We had 20 points off their turnovers. That has nothing to do with the free-throw line."— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) May 27, 2014
Hard to argue with that point. Especially if you actually watched the game.
Miami was faster, more precise and generally more skilled in its execution on offense. And Indy's defense was a step slow all night long. That's a recipe for a whole bunch of free throws if I've ever heard one.
More important than discrediting George's (probably) emotional postgame stance, though, is acknowledging the way his reaction to a loss points to a larger failure of Indiana's young roster.
You can sum up the last 10 Pacers quotes (about officials & each other) that I tweeted with 3 words: they're not ready.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 27, 2014
The Pacers fancy themselves championship contenders, but as long as they continue their troubling trend of blame-shifting and finger-pointing, they're not going to reach the heights they seem to think they're entitled to.
With potentially only one more game left in this series, it'll be critical for the Pacers to be honest about who they are and what the real source of their struggles is. The Heat already have a massive talent advantage, and if Indy is going to beat itself mentally, there's really only one way for this series to turn out.
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.