Following a 109-108 Game 1 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Indiana Pacers star forward Paul George expressed his desire to get the last shot of the game and how he had talked about it with teammate C.J. Miles following the end of the game.
Miles bailed out George after LeBron James came storming to double team him on the last possession of the game, taking it upon himself to get a shot up before the buzzer. While the look was a decent one, it clanked off the rim as Indiana fell short of stealing the road game they so desperately needed.
“I did what I was supposed to do,” Miles told reporters. “That’s why I was on the floor.”
“He should want the shot,” Miles said of George after Sunday practice. “I have no problem with him saying that. “We wanted to get him the shot. There’s no miscommunication about that. But that’s just how the play went down. And I made the read I was supposed to make. Left it a little short.”
In a make-or-miss league, Miles would be celebrated as the hero of the series if the shot had gone in — but getting the ball back to George, who was 30-plus-feet away from the basket and shadowed by James with only five seconds to go would be a suicide mission waiting to happen.
“Trying to go back to half court or holding it to get it back to him, we wouldn’t have gotten a good shot,” Miles said. “I’m one of the best shooters in our league. That’s proven. I’ve been doing it all year. I’ve made that shot many times. If I get another chance in that situation, I’m gonna be aggressive and… I’m gonna make that shot.”
The lefty sniper had a good look at an open wing jumper, but was unable to connect. After watching the tape and having a few hours to reflect in his post-game comments, George had a change of opinion in his take.
“A lot of me, of course, being the leader of this team wants the last shot, and wants the game to be decided by me, but at the same time, I’ve got to have trust for my teammates,” George told NBA.com’s Steve Aschburner. “C.J. has been in that position in this season where I needed him to make a big shot. And I’ve kicked it to him and he’s made the big shot.”
“I thought he had a good look. A very makeable shot for C.J. But I was selfish in the moment. I wanted that shot in that moment.”
Rather than pointing fingers, the Pacers will be better served devising new ways to get their star player out of double team pressure, given the Cavs played a rinse-and-repeat strategy for the last minute of the game, ultimately getting the ball out of George’s hands.