Last year in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Paul George blew by James at the top of the key and threw down a vicious tomahawk dunk right over the 6-foot-10 Andersen plus the foul. After the game, James acknowledged his respect for George because “he was a going to be a great player for a long time”, highlighted here.
On Wednesday night, George did it again – exploding to the rim and finishing a powerful two handed dunk with James failing in his attempt to block it. From that moment forward, the Indiana Pacers fed off the playoff atmosphere at Bankers Life Fieldhouse en route to a one-point win over the Miami Heat.
George also accepted the challenge of guarding James the whole game. As one of the NBA’s elite defenders, he ranks fifth in total steals and has the best defensive rating among perimeter defenders (96.2)
Wednesday’s Fourth Quarter
Through three quarters, James had 31 points. In the one-on-one matchups against George in the fourth quarter, James shot 2-for-4 from the field and committed two turnovers. The first turnover came when James tried to turn the corner on George and get to the rim, but George stayed with him and James dribbled the ball off his foot. The other turnover came when he was isolated against George just outside the block as he attempted to rip the ball to his left and attack the rim, but George stripped him clean.
There was a stretch during the fourth quarter when the Heat ran the pick and roll with James as the screener, having him roll softly to the block for isolations against George. Earlier in the game, he was able to get to his spots in the paint and hit the fall away jumpers over George, whom he outweighs by about 40 pounds.
In the last five minutes down the stretch, the Heat ran the pick and roll, this time with James as the primary ball handler with Rashard Lewis setting the screen. George fought over the top of the screens and the Pacers’ big men did a solid job of hedging and not letting James get the step on George.
The Pacers held on for the gutsy win, and it started with George taking the responsibility to defend James the whole game. He may not have the strength or play with the physicality that’s needed to stop James on the inside, but George is one of the few perimeter defenders who can limit James’ ability to get to the rim from the outside.