The Indiana Pacers blew Game 3 against the Cleveland Cavaliers in historic fashion Thursday night — literally.
Despite heading into the locker room at halftime with a 25-point lead, the Pacers found a way to lose. No team in NBA playoff history had ever blown that big of a halftime lead. Because of the meltdown, Indiana is on the verge of being swept. Starting point guard Jeff Teague insists he is not going to let that happen.
“It sucks. We had them. That was our game and we lost it,” Teague told reporters. “We’re playing for pride now. We’re all competitors in here. We all believe in one another. We ain’t getting swept. We’re gonna move on and come out ready to play.”
In other words, the Pacers are going to try to salvage a win because they know they have no shot.
LeBron James led the way for the Cavs (what else is new?) with 41 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists. He got stronger as the game went on, and both Teague and Paul George realized their team allowed too many open looks in the second half.
“Here we are up (25) to start the second half and a chance to put our foot on their throat and we came out relaxed,” George said, via Nate Taylor of the Indy Star. “We didn’t pressure up on the ball and make anything tough. I thought they, again, had stretches where they were just walking into 3-pointers. You can’t do that.”
George finished with 36 points, but 21 of them came in the second quarter alone.
The Pacers never had a chance to win a series against the Cavs, who should really be the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. No matter how much LeBron praises George on social media, the talent gap between the two players and their respective supporting casts is just too significant to overcome. It’d be a surprise if Indiana extended the series.
“Basically, we were offered a lot of things,” Simon said. “We didn’t even think of taking any of them. (President) Larry (Bird) will give you a better feel for it, but the answer is you can’t stop people from making offers. But it wasn’t any question of accepting any of them.”
Simon had nothing but praise for George, will will be in the final year of his contract next season.
“This guy has taken over the team and pulled us up,” Simon said of his star forward. “I think very highly of him. I think he was incredibly personable at our breakfast in New Orleans during the All-Star weekend. He was very open. He wants to be a champion. He wants a winning team and it’s our job to get him one. He’s got that desire to be a special player, which he is, and to have a special team. We’re all on the same wavelength. It’s just a matter of we both have to produce. He has to produce and we have to give him the players to produce with.”
By all accounts, the Pacers were never serious about moving George. We’ll see what the summer holds as far as contract talks go and if that impacts Indiana’s thinking going forward.
Stephenson played for the Pacers from 2010 to 2014 and had his best years there, averaging 13.8 points per game and 7.2 rebounds in his final year there. He turned down $44 million and proceeded to crash and burn at each subsequent stop, ending up as a midseason tryout. He will now hope he can get his career back on track in the place where it started.
The Indiana Pacers have reached a point in the season where they can’t afford to lose to lesser competition, so coming up short against the 29-44 Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night was not ideal. For Paul George, it was downright infuriating.
Despite leading by as many as nine points midway through the fourth quarter, the Pacers collapsed and ended up losing to Minnesota, 115-114. George did not hold back after the game.
In just one night, the Pacers fell from fifth in the Eastern Conference to seventh. With one more loss, they would fall below .500 for the first time since Jan. 1. The No. 8-seed Miami Heat currently hold the tie-breaker over the Pacers for playoff position, so a berth in the postseason is hardly a guarantee with just eight games remaining.
“We should have a professional approach, man, and defend our home court, especially to a team that’s not even in the playoffs,” George added. “That’s what it comes down to. As a team, we’ve got to have a grit and we’ve got to own up, man up.
“There’s no urgency, no sense of urgency, no winning pride. This locker room is just not pissed off enough.”
Playing on the road has been a major issue for the Pacers this season. They’re just 11-25 in games away from Bankers Life Field House, so you can understand why a home loss to the T-Wolves this late in the season is such a problem. George alluded to that.
“It’s tough losing a game here that we need knowing that we don’t play well on the road,” he said. “When we lose focus here, I’m not sure where our head is going to be as a team tomorrow. I’ll make sure to gather these guys around and let them understand, man, that we’ve got to win. That’s the only thing that’s important. The only thing that should be motivational is winning.”
George led the team with 37 points, but he can’t win games by himself. If Indiana ends up missing the playoffs because of a late-season meltdown, there’s no guarantee George will want to remain with the team this summer. We have already heard rumblings that he is determined to play for a certain team, and PG13 could try to force his way there sooner rather than later if he gets frustrated enough.
George had been a surprisingly prominent name on the market throughout the day on Thursday, with the Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, and Los Angeles Lakers linked to certain degrees. A deal always seemed like a long-shot, though. George is a free agent after next season, and unless the Pacers were getting a huge haul for him, it makes more sense for them to try to build around him and hope they can convince him to a sign a long-term deal in the offseason.
The Indiana Pacers have been gauging the trade market for Paul George, and it seems like the team with the most interest is the Boston Celtics.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the Celtics have been reluctant to include the first-round pick they have from the Brooklyn Nets in trade talks, but Boston GM Danny Ainge could be warming up to the idea.
Update on Boston, Indy: Boston hasn't met Indiana's asking price on Paul George, but Nets pick has entered conversation now, sources say.
Any trade the Celtics make for a superstar would almost certainly have to include Brooklyn’s pick. The Nets currently have the worst record in the NBA, which means their pick — which Boston has — would have the best chance of becoming the top overall selection in the draft if the season ended today.
The risk in trading for George is that he supposedly wants to either try to win in Indiana or return home to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers when he hits the free agent market in two years. Despite what this executive may think, there is a lot standing in the way between George and Boston.
The Indiana Pacers may be open to trading Paul George, after all.
Adrian Wojnarowski of the The Vertical reports that the Pacers have been “gauging the trade market” for George ahead of Thursday’s deadline. However, that does not necessarily mean Indiana is sold on unloading its biggest star. Wojnarowski also notes that the team has looked into the possibility of adding pieces that would help convince George to sign an extension.
The Pacers are working the trade deadline on parallel fronts: Pursuing deals that will bring talent into Indiana to sell George on signing a long-term extension – and soliciting deal offers on George that would signal a rebuild around center Myles Turner, league sources told The Vertical.
Ultimately, the Pacers will have to evaluate the two paths and make a decision before Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline. There’s no urgency to make a deal for George, unless the Pacers fear the Boston Celtics could ultimately provide Indiana the best possible package of assets in a deal – and think that option could disappear if Boston makes a deal with Chicago for Jimmy Butler.
George is under contract through next season, and the last thing the Pacers want is for him to walk away and leave them with nothing to show for it. One NBA executive reportedly believes George will end up with another Eastern Conference contender this week, though a trade of that magnitude is always more likely to fall through than be completed.
Simply put, the Pacers are keeping their options open. That’s always a wise thing to do when the market is sizzling.