Sunday's game unfolded as if it was written by one of the finest Hollywood screenwriters. And if that were the case, it would have to be rated PG-13.
Paul George scored 13 points in his season debut as the Pacers (34-43) rolled to a 112-89 win over the Miami Heat (34-43) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. With the win, Indiana has moved into a tie with the Heat for ninth place in the Eastern Conference, just a game back of idle Boston for the eighth and final playoff spot.
RELATED: Running Blog of PG's Season Debut »
George's return drew national attention. The All-Star forward originally fractured his right tibia and fibula in the USA Basketball Showcase on Aug. 1 and returned to practice on Feb. 26, but the Pacers waited until they felt he was completely ready before allowing him to return to game action.
George first checked into the game with 5:34 remaining in the first quarter to a thunderous ovation from the capacity crowd.
"(The reception) was probably the greatest moment that I've had," George said. "It was so hard to not get caught up in the moment."
The noise grew by a few more decibel levels when he knocked down his first shot, a 14-foot jumper with 3:45 to play in the period.
George played 7:02 in the first half, registering 5 points, two rebounds, and one assist. He was even better in the second, draining two more 3-pointers in 7:32.
All told, George finished with 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting (3-of-6 from 3-point range) to go along with two rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
"I knew I was going to be able to make some shots," George said. "I was just playing with confidence. I was just happy to get some open looks and (for) the ball to drop."
PHOTO GALLERY: PG Returns to the Court »
While George's return drew the most attention, his teammates got off to a fast start. Indiana scored the game's first nine points and led for the vast majority of the half. The Heat surged in front with a 14-6 run late in the second quarter, but the Pacers scored the last five points of the half to regain control.
Indiana pulled away in the second half, closing the third quarter with a 20-8 run that gave them an 11-point lead and extending the margin in the fourth.
Luis Scola led the charge for the Blue & Gold, scoring 17 of his season-high 23 points in the fourth quarter. The Argentinian also collected 12 rebounds to record his ninth double-double of the season.
"Just one of those days that things were going my way," Scola said. "I got a couple easy shots and got some confidence."
Solomon Hill had 19 points for Indiana, while C.J. Miles added 17. The Pacers' starting wings combined to go 8-for-14 from 3-point range. The Pacers dominated the game from the 3-point line, making 14-of-30 attempts from beyond the arc. Miami, conversely, was just 2-for-20 from long range.
"It was big to be able to knock down those shots and spread their defense out," Miles said. "They were undersize tonight, they've got some injuries, so we knew they were going to have to help (inside).
"They went zone...my eyes kind of light up when I see zone, because that means somebody's not attached to me all the time."
Heat guard Dwyane Wade led all scorers with 27 points on 11-of-21 shooting. Goran Dragic and James Ennis each finished with 15 points for Miami.
The Pacers now hit the road for a pair of games against the Knicks (on Wednesday) and the Pistons (on Friday) before returning to The Fieldhouse to host the Oklahoma City Thunder on April 12. With five games remaining in the regular season, every game will go a long way in determining whether the team can get into the postseason.
Inside the Numbers
The Pacers have now made 10 or more 3-point field goals in four of their last seven contests. Indiana is 7-4 on the year when making at least 10 3-pointers.
Scola's 17 points in the fourth quarter were the most by a Pacers player in any single period this season.
David West finished with 12 points and six rebounds, going 10-for-12 from the free throw line, setting season highs for both free throws made and attempted.
The Blue & Gold outrebounded Miami, 55-37 overall and 20-7 on the offensive glass. Scola had seven offensive boards, while Roy Hibbert collected six. In four games against Miami this season, the Pacers have outrebounded the Heat by an average of 11.8 rebounds per game.
You Can Quote On That
"There is no bad time to get a Paul George back. With what we’re up against certainly, we have an uphill battle of trying to catch the teams ahead of us, it’s good to have him back." -Pacers head coach Frank Vogel
"Success, personally, was being able to move and play confidently and not overcompensating with my left leg. I felt confident planting and cutting and jumping, doing everything normally on my right leg." -George
"It meant everything. I have the utmost respect for Coach K. I’m really happy for his success right now. It’s almost like I’ve played for him my whole life. That’s the relationship I have with him, one of the best human beings in this world. It was great to see him before this game tonight." -George on his pregame visit with Duke and Team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski, in town for the Final Four
"It was a different energy and we needed it. It was perfect timing because it was Miami, a team that we've played in the playoffs many years, it was at home, it was Paul coming back, it was a virtual playoff game we needed to win big time." -Scola
"I’m happy that he’s been able to recover. The basketball world was saddened when he got hurt, he is one of the good guys in this league. It’s good to see him back on the court. He’s still working on his game, but he looked good." -Wade on seeing George return to the court
"You know we are like a brotherhood in the NBA, even though we compete against each other. I’m happy for him, for his family, and for the Pacers. When you go back and see how he got hurt, you couldn’t even watch it. It was that bad. So I’m happy to see him be able to put it behind him. I’m not happy that he came back against us. But still happy to have him back." -Heat forward Luol Deng on George's debut
Stat of the Game
With Sunday's win, the Pacers improved to 21-18 at The Fieldhouse and secured a winning record at home for the 26th straight season — the longest active streak in the NBA.
- The Pacers have now won seven straight regular season home games against Heat. Miami hasn't won at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the regular season since Feb. 14, 2012.
- Pacers guard C.J. Watson did not dress for Sunday's game due to a sore right elbow. Donald Sloan handled backup point guard duties in Watson's absence.
- Pacers guard Rodney Stuckey injured his right wrist in the fourth quarter and did not return.
- Heat forward Michael Beasley hyperextended his right knee in the second half and did not return.
The Pacers travel to New York on Wednesday for their fourth and final meeting this season with the Knicks.