George is Back

Paul George sizes up Chicago Bull small forward Tony Snell—one of the better defenders on the Bulls—just inside the three-point line. He establishes his right foot as the pivot foot. With all of his momentum going to the baseline, George hesitates giving the illusion to Snell he can plant the right foot and spin back to right, either for a jump shot, or a drive to the basket in the middle of the lane.

Snell overplays the middle of the lane, rather than respecting baseline. George reads this and explodes to the open baseline, power dribbling his way to the hoop as Snell tries to use his left forearm to knock George off his path. It didn’t work. George absorbed Snell’s left forearm and used his left foot to springboard himself into the air as he uses his right hand for the easy layup. Score: 93-89 Bulls with 3:52 in the fourth. This basket almost helped the Pacers complete a comeback against the Bulls; however, the Bulls won the game 96-95.

While a win over a Central Division foe is pertinent, for Pacers fans, the most important conundrum answered is whether or not George is back to form. Oh Paul George is certainly back, and in a big way. And with his stat line of 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists against the Bulls, and a season average of 24.5 points, 4.6 assists, and 8.6 rebounds, he has entrenched himself as one of the best players in the NBA, again.

Paul George suffered an open tibia and fibula fracture to his right leg in a team USA Men’s Basketball intrasquad practice in 2014. After having surgery, and working diligently to get back, he finally made his season debut last year in the spring to try to propel his team into playoff position; nevertheless, it wasn’t meant to be as the Pacers lost the last game 95-83 against the Memphis Grizzlies in a game that decided the Pacers fate, but more importantly, George strained his left calf muscle.

A training camp and another rehab process later, George looks like a top 10 NBA player once again. His best game this season was against the Heat, an old rivalry, which was a nationally televised game on ESPN.

George led a furious comeback. Down by 4 with 8:08 left in the fourth quarter, George recognizes a mismatch. Mario Chalmers plants his left forearm in George’s back because George is focused on backing Chalmers down just below the free-throw line.

George then spins to the left away from the rim. He uses both his legs to launch himself away from Chalmers and the rim—but he hoists a high arcing shot that finds the bottom of the net as Chalmers is called for the foul. The crowd goes nuts and George confidently walks to the free-throw line.

George carried the load with 36 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 assists; what’s more, the Pacers won the game 90-87.

After scoring on Snell, George back peddles down the court. He turns around, with a look of determination—and jogs back to play defense—in hopes of leading a comeback against the vying Bulls.

Far removed are the days when George looked to be worrisome and favoring his legs, like what he was doing at the end of last year. George seems to be in midseason form. The rest of the NBA should look out.

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