LA: Running in second half to tire Pacers
Beware opposing NBA small forwards. Paul George is coming after you.
The Indiana Pacers have an extremely talented player on the cusp of superstardom and his Monday night performance showed you why.
A career-high 43 points in a 106-102 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center is garnering more attention than Portland’s win.
Wrong or right, George stole the show. In hindsight, maybe we should have seen it coming due to George’s motivational goal to become the best small forward in the league. He revealed that he gets up for games against the rising wing players who posses a threat to challenge him for small forward supremacy.
Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum just happened to be on the schedule at the wrong time.
“I feel like I’m competing with Carmelo [Anthony], K.D [Kevin Durant] and LeBron [James],” George told CSNNW.com. “I’m not taking nothing away from Batum or other small forwards in this league, but I feel like those guys are my competition and they’re who I’m going for.
“To get where I want to get to, nights like these and matchups like these are where I have to separate myself and I think I did that. Would have just liked to get a win out of it.”
George almost single-handily willed his team to victory Monday night. Batum picked up five fouls in the game trying to slow him down before Wesley Matthews switched on him.
[RELATED: Portland snaps Pacers streak, win 106-102]
Batum finished with eight points on two-of-five shooting as he focused more of his attention on the defensive end. However, George had a lot to do with that as he hounded Batum all night long. Batum did everything he could. And at the end of the game, he said George’s performance against him was reminiscent of a former NBA superstar.
“I remember one guy I tried to guard so much, make him work and he had 30 on me and that was T-Mac," Batum said. "I felt like I did everything I wanted to do on defense and T-Mac scored anyway. Paul George did that tonight. He did a great job. I tried to be all over him, tried to stop him and make him work. He made some tough shots. You have to give him credit. He’s an MVP player.”
This is only the beginning of George’s development as a bonafide franchise player and he knows it. Coming out of Fresno State, he underachieved. There weren't many breakout games and many questioned his motor and work ethic.
[WATCH: VIDEOS from Blazers-Pacers]
His potential and size is what solidified him as a NBA lottery pick. There aren’t many folks out there now questioning his talent and work ethic. He’s a two-way player capable of exploding on either end at a minute’s notice.
“I just felt like it was going to take time," he said. "I had the utmost confidence in myself. I just needed to continue to learn. Once I started to learn, gain more confidence, I had all of the tools, I felt like I could have did this a while bit I just needed time. This ain’t the end. There’s so much that I can get better at and come back every year with something new.
“Even in this [43-point] game, it was a learning process for me. There are still some things that I can take from it and could have done better and probably could have won this game for us. I’m not even close to reaching my peak yet.”