All-Star forward Paul George turned in his best performance of the second-round series in Friday's Game 3 as the top-seeded team in the East demolished Washington.
This was no mere coincidence, not even a little as George stuffed the stat sheet with 23 points eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.
That Bradley Beal labored offensively with the lengthy 6-foot-8 wing shadowing him throughout, also not an accident. With George roaming the perimeter and the mountainous Roy Hibbert controlling the lane, Washington only scored 30 points in the second half of the 85-63 romp. The 63 points set a Washington franchise for lowest total in any game.
“This was probably the ugliest game of the postseason thus far,” George said following the victory that gave Indiana a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. "This is our style of basketball. Every now and then this team is fortunate to get hot offensively, but what we do is play defense.”
Nobody would describe George as hot offensively in this series. He shot 9 of 30 from the field in the opening two games. In Game 3, just 6 of 15. Yet the timing of those baskets, those scores proved vital to game-changing runs in the second and third quarter. With the Pacers trailing 27-20 in the second, George tallied six of Indiana's next eight points as the visitors entered halftime with a 34-33 lead.
After the Wizards took a 37-36 lead early in the third, the Pacers scored 12 unanswered points and closed the period on a 24-8 run. In that stretch, George made a 3-pointer, set up Lance Stephenson's three-point play with a steal, tacked on a layup and made two free throws. He also added three rebounds and steal as Indiana did enough damage to make the final 12 minutes irrelevant.
"We're building habits and that end of the day that's all we can ask for," said George specifically of the team, but in essence talking about his own progression. "There are a lot of areas that we would like to clean up, but we'll take a win the playoffs."
Making life difficult for Beal and the Wizards by talking the series down a slowpoke path, nothing to improve there.
“I didn’t feel comfortable playing in that because they were slowing the ball down a little bit,” said Beal, who scored 16 points on 6 of 19 shooting. Washington had only eight fast break points.
"I don't even know how many points we had, but it didn't feel like it was a fast paced game at all," Beal continued. "I think we have to get back to that."
Not if George can help it.