And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why Paul George is your Eastern Conference starting forward. PG24 scored 36 points, converted on a four-point play to send the game into overtime, and stripped the ball from Isaiah Thomas with the Kings down by 3 in the final seconds of OT, then converted two more free throws to ice the game, 116-111.
I knew it wasn't going to be an easy night for the Pacers, whose renowned defense fell into a funk of sorts with that blowout loss against Phoenix a couple of nights ago. Even though the Kings were without their two leading scorers, DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay, it gave the lesser known players on the Kings — who must have felt they had nothing to lose and a lot to prove — the green light to shoot. Plus the Pacers hammered them in Indy a week or two ago, so there was the added incentive of revenge.
Sure enough, Marcus Thornton and Isaiah Thomas was unconscious, hitting crazy shots with defenders draped all over them. It was similar to what the Suns did the other night, except this time the Pacers responded in time to pull out the win. Thornton had 42 points and hit 7 threes, and Thomas had 38 and 6 assists.
The Pacers would go down by 11 at the end of the first quarter, 10 at the half, and 5 entering the fourth quarter. With the team down by 4 with 15 seconds to go, Paul George curled around a David West screen, drew the contact (hands on hips, I believe) and launched a three that hit nothing but net. He hit the free throw to tie the game, and the Kings missed on a final opportunity at the end of regulation. In OT, George would score 8 of the Pacers' 13 points and assist on another basket to Lance Stephenson. The only other points came from an unexpected three-pointer from David West.
Despite George's heroics, it was a team effort tonight. Lance Stephenson had 24, 10 and 6, David West had 22, and Roy Hibbert had a double-double with 10 and 11. George Hill also had 10, but closed in on a triple-double of 8 rebounds and 8 assists, and had a crucial steal in OT that lead to a PG dunk and a 4-point Pacer lead.
The OT win could cost the Pacers tomorrow night as they head to the high altitude in Denver, especially given that George, Hill and Stephenson all played 40+ minutes, and West and Hibbert both came close to 40 minutes of playing time as well. It will be an opportunity for the bench to really step up to ensure that the Pacers finish this pivotal 5-game road trip with a positive record and improve that iffy second-night-of-a-back-to-back record.
The 34-8 Pacers still have the best record in the league and a 3.5 game lead over the Miami Heat in the East. They remain the only team in the NBA with less than 10 losses on their record.