Two things were abundantly clear from the get-go at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday night.
The first? The Hickory Pacers jerseys, inspired by the film "Hoosiers" — and the Hickory-themed Fieldhouse as a whole — looked amazing.
The second? Paul George was in the zone.
George knocked down five of his first eight shots of the evening, piled up 36 points and 12 rebounds, and led the Pacers to a 90-87 win against the Miami Heat.
"I think I'm getting more comfortable with the offense," George said. "Tonight, from the tip I got a quick layup and felt good from there on. And then I got rolling in the second half."
With just over four minutes remaining in the game, things got testy when George and Heat center Hassan Whiteside exchanged words and a shove, earning them both technical fouls. But on the ensuing possession, with the game knotted at 80, George hit a step-back jumper with two defenders closing in to put the Pacers up two. A Ian Mahinmi strip of rookie Justise Winslow on the other end gave the Pacers (3-3) the ball once more, and again, George hit a jumper from the right elbow to extend Indiana's lead to four.
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However, a 4-0 Heat run followed and knotted the game up at 84. But with one minute remaining, PG drove the lane and got fouled, then proceeded to knock down both of his foul shots to put the Pacers up once again.
"When you see a guy rolling, you've got to milk the cow when the cow is there," said George Hill of PG. "When a guy is rolling like that, you've got to keep feeding him until that well is dry."
Feeling the energy of a crowd clad in Hickory gear, George tried to shoot the proverbial dagger from the baseline but it rattled out. Luckily, Jordan Hill wiggled in and was able to tip the miss in, which also gave him his second double-double in a row (10 points, 10 rebounds).
Although the Pacers trailed by as much as 13 in the first half, falling victim to a 18-1 Heat run, a 13-3 counter by the Pacers, sparked by 3-pointers from George and George Hill (12 points), lifted the Pacers back into the game and tied things up at 49 when the halftime buzzer sounded. Unfortunately for Indiana, Rodney Stuckey suffered an injury in the first half and did not return.
In the third frame, the teams traded baskets throughout as PG poured in 10 points on a variety of shots, leading the Pacers to outscore Miami 22-19 in the period.
Using a couple of crafty inbounds plays drawn up by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, the Heat was able to make it a single-possession game with four seconds on the clock. But needing to foul, Miami wrapped up George, who sank one of two free throws; which gave the Heat (3-3) a final chance to tie the game. But Dwyane Wade's 3-pointer missed the rim completely, giving the Pacers the win — their third straight, and team Hickory's first of the season.
Inside the Numbers
Tonight was Paul George's first regular season game with 36 points or more since he scored 36 against the Kings in January of 2014. It was his first game with 27 field goal attempts since he had 27 against Portland in January of 2013.
Dwyane Wade had his first game this season without scoring 20 points. He finished the night with nine points, going 4-of-15.
The Pacers outrebounded their opponent for the second game in a row after being outrebounded the first four games of the season.
You Can Quote Me On That
"I'm not really surprised. He's been doing this since mid-summer and he works, works, and works. Nothing surprises me." -Pacers coach Frank Vogel on Paul George's night
"I tried to box my man out at the right place, at the right time. I saw it coming so I just went up and tipped it back in. I'm just having fun, playing basketball and doing everything I can do to help my team win and help me get better. It was a rough start at the beginning but we banded together. We're learning the system, learning how to play together, to play for each other and it's coming out good." -Jordan Hill
"One thing we know about the Pacers is that they are going to play defense no matter who they put out there. I think we had a few turnovers and really, them getting into an offensive rhythm, kind of put us back on our heels and the offense wasn't really flowing as it was because we kept taking the ball out of the net." -Heat forward Chris Bosh
Stat of the Night
The Pacers are at .500 for the first time since the second game of last season.
- Jordan Hill's tip-in late in the fourth quarter gave Hill his second double-double in a row
- With C.J. Miles out with a sore right ankle, Glenn Robinson III has been getting minutes off the bench. He scored seven points in 16 minutes and grabbed one of the game's deciding rebounds
- Lavoy Allen may have had an average stat line (four points, five rebounds), but his +/- was a team-high +27.
The Pacers hit the road to take on a conference rival in the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday at 3:30 PM. On Monday night at 7 PM, the Pacers return home to face Victor Oladipo and the Orlando Magic. Good seats still remain. Find Tickets »