Paul George couldn’t have picked a better time to score a playoff career-high.
In a pivotal Game Four on the road, the Indiana Pacers found themselves down by as much as 19 points in the second-half against the Washington Wizards, but with George leading the way, they went on a rampage over the last two quarters and closed the deal with a 95-92 victory. George finished with game with 39 points and 12 rebounds, and the Pacers now hold a 3-1 series lead with a Game Five coming on their home-court on Tuesday night.
After scoring 33 points as a team in the third quarter, the Pacers cut their deficit down to one heading into the final 12 minutes, and it was then when George left his mark. Not only did he score 15 points in the fourth quarter, he made some big baskets down the stretch, including back-to-back three-pointers at the halfway point to bring the Pacers within striking distance.
The first of those threes was off of a routine set — David West took advantage of the Wizards overplaying the Pacers’ guards, drove towards the basket, sucked the defense in and hit an open George on the left wing. The second, however, was off of a designed play, similar to the Golden State Warriors’ Elevator Doors, which led to a four-point opportunity for George.
Here’s a breakdown of that play.
Step One: The Formation
George Hill brings the ball up on the left side of the court and is met with a high screen from Paul George. Meanwhile, Roy Hibbert and David West set up on the low block away from the ball and Lance Stephenson parks himself on the three-point line on the opposite side to create space in the middle of the floor. Hill can therefore attack the basket if the opportunity presents itself and George can either roll or pop depending on how the defense reacts. But forget all that for now because those aren’t the options they are looking for.
Step Two: The Set-Up
Hill curls off of George’s screen and instead of looking to attack the basket, he slows down and keeps his dribble alive at the top of the key. After taking a hit from John Wall, George casually makes his way towards West and Hibbert on the right side of the court. At that point, Hibbert and West are standing next to each other, almost shoulder-to-shoulder. Stephenson hasn’t moved and his defender, Bradley Beal, stays close by.
Step Three: The Key
When George makes it to the paint, it appears as though he’s setting himself up to curl off of West’s screen. However, much to the surprise of Trevor Ariza, he makes a strong v-cut in-between Hibbert and West. Drew Gooden and Al Harrington can’t afford to switch, otherwise it would leave Hibbert or West open underneath the basket, so Ariza is forced to fight over the screen.
Step Four: The Bucket
When Hibbert notices Ariza go over the screen, he bumps into him to set him off-course, giving George all the space he needs to set himself up for a three. Hill delivers a perfect pass, Hibbert and West both roll to stop Harrington and Gooden from helping out and George knocks down a shot while getting fouled.
Here’s a video of the play:
We’ve seen several teams this season run a variation of the Warriors’ Elevator Doors, and this is just another example. Yet instead of involving the big man in the pass, the Pacers fooled the defense into thinking that they were just running a normal high screen-and-roll, which proved to be just enough for Paul George to shake Trevor Ariza loose and knock down an important three.