All Paul George needed was one quarter to redeem himself.
During the first three quarters of Saturday’s game against Detroit, the Pistons defense smothered the All-Star forward, limiting him to just 11 points on 2-of-11 shooting from the field.
As a team, the Pacers didn’t fare much better, as Indiana converted just 39.2 percent of its attempts from the field during the first three quarters.
Despite the shooting struggles, Indiana still carried a two point advantage into the final five minutes of the game, then George became unstoppable.
The 6-foot-9 forward single-handedly carried the Pacers to their 19th win of the season, pouring in each of the final 21 points of the night for his team, transforming a three point game with five minutes remaining into a 94-82 victory.
After opening the night shooting just 18.1 percent from the field during the first three quarters, George closed the night with perfection: connecting on each of his seven attempts from the field, all four of his free throws and knocked down three straight shots from 3-point range.
It didn’t matter which defender the Pistons tried to counter with, George routinely created enough space for a clean look and buried his shots.
The 21 point explosion in the fourth quarter even prompted an early exit for Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, as he picked up two consecutive technical fouls arguing with the officials about a layup converted by George.
When it was all over, the only remaining option for the Pistons was to try and fight George. Detroit forward Marcus Morris shoved George twice, once prior to and once after the final buzzer sounded.
George finished the night with 32 points, his 11th game this season with 30 or more points, 14 rebounds, three assists and a steal.
The performance was the fourth time this season with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds, during the first five years of his career, he accomplished the same feat just twice.
The 2015-16 campaign has been amazing for George and Saturday night, he delivered his signature performance.
Biggest Surprise: Will Barton– Denver Nuggets
Barton has played himself into contention for the Most Improved Player award this season. The 6-foot-6 swingman has increased his scoring average 10 points per game from last season, establishing himself as the leading scorer in Denver, with 572 points this season. For the year, Barton is averaging 16.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.1 steals per game. The past week has been especially productive for Barton, as he is averaging 25 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and has connected nine times from 3-point range.
Biggest Disappointment: Kyle Korver– Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks are hoping their four day break was enough time for Korver to regain his shooting touch. During his past three games, the 3-point marksman hasn’t hit anything, averaging just 2.3 points on 2-of-27 shooting from the field. Since Christmas Day, Korver is shooting just 7.4 percent from the floor. In his last appearance against Houston, he missed each of his 11 attempts from the field, with 10 coming from beyond the arc. For the year, Korver is shooting 36.2 percent from 3-point range (6.8 percent below his career average) and has missed each of his last 18 attempts from beyond the arc.
Pick ’em Up: Bobby Portis– Chicago Bulls
Coach Fred Hoiberg has said the 22nd overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft has played his way into the Bulls rotation, and when he has been on the floor, Portis had produced. In 30 minutes against the Knicks Friday night, the 6-foot-11 forward posted 16 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and connected twice from 3-point range. Even though he has averaged just 16 minutes a night in just 11 appearances, Portis has managed to average 9.0 points and 4.7 rebounds while shooting 51.2 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from 3-point range.
Put ’em Down: Alex Len– Phoenix Suns
The Suns rotation is in disarray, as the team tries to find the right combination since suffering the loss of Eric Bledsoe for the rest of the season. As the team searches for a replacement for its leading scorer, Len has fallen out of the mix. The 7-foot-1 center has posted 14 games with at least 20 minutes on the court, but only one has come in his last seven appearances. During his past three games, Len has been held scoreless in 35 minutes, while grabbing just six rebounds.
Injury Watch: Stephen Curry– Golden State Warriors
The injuries are beginning to pile up in Golden State. Curry missed two consecutive games with a left shin contusion suffered Monday against the Kings, but tried to play through the injury Saturday night. While playing defense against the Nuggets, Curry was kicked in the exact same spot on his leg, prompting an exit from the game with 2:15 remaining in the second quarter. The loss of Curry left the Warriors with just six healthy players against Denver, and the team still found a way to prevail during a 111-108 overtime victory.
Stat of the Week: Rajon Rondo– Sacramento Kings
The Kings erupted for 142 points against the Phoenix Saturday night — the most points scored in regulation over the past two years — as Rondo continually setup easy looks for his teammates. The league-leader in assists per game this season (11.3) is on pace for his third career assist crown, as he delivered 15 assists against the Suns, marking the ninth time this season he has dished out 15 or more this season. The rest of the league has totaled just 11 15-assist performances this season, with no other player tallying more than three.