BOSTON – No one really knew what to make of Paul George’s comeback from a severe left leg injury in 2014, or whether he would be able to return to being an elite scorer.
Well … he’s back and in some ways, appears to be as good or better than he was before the injury.
The Boston Celtics have had a chance to see him play twice this season, with George dominating play both games in leading the Pacers to victory.
Boston’s latest setback to the Pacers came on Wednesday in the form of a 102-91 home loss.
George led all scorers with 26 points along with 10 rebounds, giving him his fifth double-double of the season.
“Paul George made Paul George plays,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.
From George’s perspective, he still remains a work in progress whose body isn’t quite back to where it was before the injury in August of 2014 when he was with Team USA.
“My skillset, everything’s been there,” George said. “Just a year away from the game, I was able to rehab and really just focus on myself. But I’m still trying to gain some of it back physically – not all the way there.”
Boston’s Evan Turner was among the defenders who saw action trying to limit George’s play.
“Obviously he’s a good shooter; he’s a great shooter,” Turner said. “Coach (Frank) Vogel trust him a lot; coach Vogel has a lot of great plays drawn up. Anytime you give a guy like that room to iso, room to work, it’s going to be tough. He went on a little roll. They were tough shots that went in.”
Not only was the volume of shots made by George a problem for Boston, but the timing of them was an even bigger factor.
Indiana closed out the first quarter with an 11-4 run which include five points from George.
Boston took a 60-53 lead early in the third quarter.
After an Indiana time-out with 9:40 to play, the Pacers went on a 15-2 run to lead 68-62.
During the run, George had the first nine points which put the Pacers back on top.
It wasn’t the first time we have seen George take over games.
This was a frequent occurrence in the past, although he had veterans like David West and Roy Hibbert around which took some of the pressure off him.
West and Hibbert took their talents out West, signing with San Antonio and the Los Angeles Lakers, respectively.
They’re gone now, leaving little doubt to who the team’s go-to man is every night.
It’s pressure, for sure.
But George appears to be more than up for the challenge.
“This is our team now,” George said. “If I was a rookie or two years in, it’s kind of weird losing guys. But I know how this league is, guys come and go, so you got to move on. (These are) my guys now.”