Paul George, welcome to the club.
Despite your incredible game in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals, like Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis and Craig Ehlo before you, you have been reduced to the bystander to history. No one will recall that you hit the game-tying 3-pointer to send the game to overtime or even that you won the series — anyone outside of Orlando remember what happened in 2009?
It is completely unfair Paul George. We know how you feel.
Four years ago to the day — May 22, 2009 — LeBron James made the Magic a footnote of a series they won when he drained a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer of Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals. The shot became a testament to LeBron's "clutchness" and was played on a constant loop for all of eternity.
Misery loves company, so we are happy to welcome the Pacers and George into the club. The meetings take place at the Local Y every other Thursday.
As I watched LeBron James' game-winner Wednesday night, I saw a play that was very similar to the one James made against the Magic four years ago. There was James popping up to the top of the key. The difference is how the two teams approached it. Watch the game winners again (if you can bear to):
The first thing you notice from the game-winner against the Magic is that they are playing to defend the drive. Rashard Lewis is playing off the inbounder and there is a considerable amount of space between Hedo Turkoglu and James. James gains separation by first trying to cut to the basket where Turkoglu gives him a sort of forecheck to impede his progress.
James then bounces back up to the top of the key and the rest is (irrelevant) history.
Maybe that play was in the back of Paul George's mind when he defended James on Wednesday night. George overplays James and that puts him out of position as James receives the ball.
Similar to the play four years ago, James does most of the cutting on his own. He pops up and George chases him hard. Maybe he was playing to his usual defensive principles in thinking Roy Hibbert would be behind him. Perhaps George thought James would pull up for the shot rather than risk not getting any shot off at all. Whatever it was, he will be the butt of replays for a long while.
Also note that the Pacers are generally playing more pressure defense than the Magic did. David West is up on the inbounder Shane Battier, whereas Rashard Lewis was laying back. Indiana was looking to pressure the ball and force a difficult inbounds and a difficult shot. George just got caught out of position.
For the record, the Magic had Dwight Howard in the game on their shot. He was in the corner against Zydrunas Ilgauskas. If Turkoglu made the same mistake George made, it would have been extremely difficult for Howard to get to the rim to defend James on a lob to the rim or on a drive. But, then again, he is Dwight Howard.
One thing these two shots do prove: LeBron James is a hell of a basketball player.