INDIANAPOLIS – For someone who has had his fair share of athletic plays, you’d think that Lance Stephenson wouldn’t have been caught so off guard by what he saw late in the fourth quarter.
“Man, that was incredible,” said the Pacers guard-who goes by “Born Ready” but wasn’t really ready for what Paul George did against the Clippers.
It started simple enough. A loose ball around mid court. A charging George grabs it and heads to the rim. He makes his plant around the middle of the lane.
That’s where it gets interesting.
“It was natural,” said the Pacers forward of what he was about to do next.
He took off in the air and spun the opposite direction, performing the rare 360 degree reverse. Then he got all the way around and then with the right hand went across his body to slam home two of his game-high 38 points.
“Ooooohhhh yeah! PG!,” screamed Pacers analyst Quinn Buckner at the top of his lungs when the dunk was complete.
The crowd rose to its feet in a hurry while Pacers players hugged with some dropped jaws and big eyes. Of course, Twitter broke for just a few minutes.
“I’ve never seen that in a live NBA game,” said Stephensons after the Pacers’ 106-92 victory that was overshadowed by George’s aerial acrobatics. “That dunk was off the charts.”
Head coach Frank Vogel was in the same state of awe as Stephenson after the game as he watched his young star pull off perhaps the most memorable moments of his career to date.
“Unbelievable,” said Vogel, which was followed by a few seconds of silence. “It’s unbelievable. The reverse 360 in a game. I’m just glad he made it or he was coming out.”
George insists that the dunk was simply off instincts and not any previous planning. While he’d pulled it off in practice before, the forward said it was the first time he’d executed it in a regular season game at any level.
“I had a fast break. I usually go for something simple but we’ve got a great crowd tonight and I just wanted to put on a show,” said George leading up to the dunk.
While that highlight figures to be played for the remainder of this NBA season, George’s focus now turns to a difficult five-game west coast road trip for the team over the next week-and-a-half. It begins Monday against the Warriors in Oakland and will stop in Phoenix, Sacramento, Denver and to Los Angeles to face the Lakers and is a key stretch if the Pacers hope to continue to establish themselves as the NBA’s top team.
“We’ve got to pack our defense. The west is another beast,” said George of the west coast trip. “Every team plays well at home and the whole west in general is tough so we don’t have no nights off. It’s going to be a tough road trip.”
At least the highlight of the dunk will make for something to watch when the team is hopping across the country from city-to-city. While the dunk caught some by surprise, others have come to expect greatness when George takes to the air.
“I think everyone else is like ‘Wow’ but I’ve seen him in practice do crazy stuff like that too so I’m like ‘Ahh, another one of Paul’s amazing but ‘Paul-ish’ dunks,'” said forward Danny Granger. “His dunk was very ‘Paul-ish’. Call it that.”
There are many out there that just might-even those who you think may have seen it all.