George sparks Pacers after shedding James

The Indiana Pacers took Round One in the first matchup of the season between the only two teams with winning records in the Eastern Conference, coming from behind to beat the Miami Heat, 90-84.

Setting the Pace
Last 4 Meetings at Indiana

It was the first meeting between the teams since last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, which went the full seven games before the Heat prevailed. Including the playoffs, the Pacers are now 6-5 over the last two seasons against the Heat.

George Excels After LeBron Switched Off

The key to the game was LeBron James being switched off as the primary defender on Indiana’s Paul George after picking up his third foul with 9:18 remaining in the third quarter with the Heat leading 51-46. To that point, George was 0-for-4 from the field with five turnovers, with James forcing three of those turnovers.

But once George’s primary defender switched from James to a combination of Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen, he was able to spark the Indiana comeback, scoring 15 of his 17 points from that point on. Against Wade/Allen, George was 4-for-7 from the field and committed just one turnover.

LeBron Tails Off in Second Half

LeBron James on Tuesday
When Defending by Paul George

While George was picking it up on the offensive end in the second half, he was also limiting James on the other end of the court. In the second half, James shot just 1-for-6 from the field for three points when guarded by George. In the first half, James went 3-for-5 when he was defended by George.

Part of the reason for the falloff is that James' shots moved farther from the rim in the second half. His average shot distance when defended by George was more than 10 feet longer in the second half compared to the first.

James finished the game shooting 6-for-16 from the field. The 37.5 field goal percentage is his worst mark in a game this season.

Hibbert Impacts Both Ends of Floor

Roy HibbertHibbertBut George wasn’t the only impact player for the Pacers. Center Roy Hibbert led all players with 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting in the victory.

Defensively, Hibbert was just as good as he was on the offensive end. The Heat shot just 3-for-12 on all shots contested by Hibbert in the game, despite an average shot distance of 4.5 feet.

The Pacers are shooting for home-court advantage in the playoffs, and they’ve been unbeatable at home this season, improving to 10-0 with Tuesday’s victory. That’s the best home start in franchise history.

Indiana also did something that had not been done all season by any team – beat the Heat when being held under 100 points. The Heat had won their first 15 games this season when holding opponents under 100 points. Meanwhile, the Heat were held to a season-low 84 points, including just 37 in the second half.