The Indiana Pacers (21-14) will be the first ones to say it. Tuesday night’s 87-77 victory over the Miami Heat (23-10), the team that knocked them out of the 2012 NBA Playoffs en route to a championship parade, overall is just another regular season win in the regular season standings.
Still doesn’t mean the Pacers won’t savor this victory a little bit more than most. Led by Paul George’s 29 points and 11 rebounds, a player that seemed to disappear in and out during the series against the Heat last year, the Pacers looked like a team that could be a tough-out once again come May.
“I was looking forward to this game a lot,” said George who went 4-9 from beyond the arc. “I watched the whole series of the playoffs last year again, and this was how I prepared for the season. I knew a lot of areas where I needed to get better at, and tonight was being aggressive. I needed to attack and look for my shot.”
George led the team both offensively and defensively, giving Heat superstar Lebron James trouble all throughout the game. James turned the ball over seven times, only made it to the free throw line twice throughout the game, and finished below his season average with 22 points. Head Coach Frank Vogel believes that this game is the perfect example as to why George should be an Eastern Conference All-Star come February.
“When you look at (George) you can’t just look at his stat line,” said Vogel.
“First of all he is our leading scorer now in the fourth best team in the Eastern Conference. “I think everybody has to ask the question if Bruce Bowen was averaging 17 points a game, and leading his team in scoring, would he be an All-Star every year? There is no question he would. Paul George has become one of the best defensive wings in the game, and he attacks the game in a variety of ways. I think he has to deserve strong consideration.”
While George played well the rest of the team flourished as well, especially down low where the Pacers out-rebounded Miami by a margin of 55-36. David West scored 14 points and gathered 11 rebounds, while Roy Hibbert led the way on the boards with 13 rebounds and 6 points.
“They played some small lineups and we made them pay to a degree,” said West. “Roy has been huge on the glass, just hanging around the basket. Especially on most nights because we weren’t really shooting the ball that great, but we were able to just make plays with our defense.”
Heat guard Dwyane Wade led all scorers with 30 points on the night, having scored 23 at the half in which was tied at 42-42. Indiana took a ten point lead after the third quarter, and never looked back to finish their eighth straight victory at home.