The Indiana Pacers had the chance to literally steal a game on the road with 10.6 seconds to go after trailing the majority of Game 1 of their first-round matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday.
All-Star forward Paul George held the ball in his hands down 109-108 and found himself double-teamed for the third straight possession, being forced into an awkward pass to lefty wing C.J. Miles. Miles missed a fadeaway as time expired, squandering the opportunity to notch the victory.
George had a fairly effective night from the floor, connecting on 6-of-8 from beyond the arc and tallying 29 points, but the Cavs were determined to get the ball out of his hands and doubled him relentlessly during the last minute of play.
“I talked to C.J. about it,” said George in the post-game press conference. “In situations like that, I gotta get the last shot. I was asking for it. C.J. took it upon himself.”
“I’m confident in all my guys taking shots — that’s not the issue. But in that situation, I’ve gotta get that.”
In all fairness, the pass didn’t hit Miles’ hands until five seconds were left on the clock and George was asking for the ball 30-plus-feet away from the basket, making his choice to take the last shot the proper one in that situation.
The more pressing issue is that the Pacers saw the very same look for three straight possessions and weren’t able to adapt to it, and naturally, it was a rinse-and-repeat process for the reigning NBA champs.
Cleveland was committed to taking the ball out of George’s hands, as LeBron James admitted after the game — and they succeeded time and time again.
“Don’t go in and anybody but Paul George can take that last shot, so we live with it,” James told ESPN’s Lisa Salters of his thoughts as Miles’ fadeaway jumper left his hand.
Game 2 is set for Monday in Cleveland.