If you were to judge the Indiana Pacers win over the lowly Washington Wizards in a beauty pageant, you may give it a “2” and even that score may be generous. There was only one thing attractive about this game: the continued consistent play of Paul George.
The third-year swingman scored 29 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and dished three assists in 40 minutes as the Pacers held off a very game Wizards squad. George stepped up his play enough to offset David West’s rare off-night, Roy Hibbert’s foul trouble and the absence of George Hill due to injury.
“Paul George is becoming a beast of a player on both ends of the court,” said Indiana coach Frank Vogel after the game. “He’s probably the best wing defender in the NBA … it was a dominant performance by him at both ends.”
Vogel has constantly mentioned George’s defense during the last month, which shouldn’t be overshadowed. He completely shut down Martell Webster, who didn’t score, and held backup small forward Chris Singleton to four points. He’s constantly in the passing lanes being a disruptive force and is one of the best one-on-one on-ball defenders in the league.
That defense and offensive consistency will be put to the test in the very near future. George will match up with Paul Pierce, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in three of the next four games. We get to see if he’s really ready for primetime in this difficult stretch. He finished fourth in efficiency among all small forwards in December behind James, Anthony and Kevin Durant against mostly lower level competition. He will truly make a leap if he can put up numbers against league’s elite at his position.
Follow Jay Neal on Twitter @JayNilla