The Indiana Pacers had just won their first game of the season Tuesday night, but forward Paul George was restless.
His shooting had been off, especially from 3-point range, where he was just 4-of-20 in four games. So despite a short night returning home from Detroit, the two-time All-Star forward showed up at Bankers Life Fieldhouse about five hours before Wednesday’s game against the Boston Celtics.
George estimated getting about “300 to 400” shots in a private workout with a couple of team trainers. Then he went out and scored a season-high 26 points, including 5-of-11 from 3-point range, as the Pacers edged the Celtics 100-98.
He’s done this before. There was a time two years ago on a West Coast road trip after a bad shooting game against Golden State. He showed up at the gym early the next day for some extra shooting to help snap himself out of it.
“I personally didn’t feel like I was shooting enough, outside of what we do,” George said Wednesday. “I had to get myself back into that rhythm again.”
The Pacers (2-3), whose roster underwent an offseason overhaul with seven new players, are still trying to sort out a lot entering Friday night’s nationally televised home game against the Miami Heat (3-2).
Depending upon the matchup and team injury situation, George is either a power forward or the more preferred small forward. Head coach Frank Vogel knew his team would need time to adjust to playing a more up-tempo style that emphasizes transition scores, and one of the early fall outs from that switch has been a drop-off in defense.
The Pacers are averaging just 94.4 points and allowing 99 per game. Last season, they averaged 97.3 points (which ranked 24th) and allowed 97 (which tied for third). President Larry Bird is hopeful this team can average five or six points more per game while not dropping much defensively. Vogel has said early on that defense will be more of a practice focal point as the season continues, that it was more important to get everyone on the same offensive page early.
George shooting the ball well would make a huge difference. He entered Friday with a .359 shooting percentage overall and .290 from 3-point range.
“Yeah, it was a quick turnaround from the game last night,” he said. “I was up early. I had plans on coming in a lot earlier than two-something.”
This day, “two-something” worked.
“We’re still trying to find our way with the spread lineup,” Vogel said, “which is going to be really good for us.”
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