Paul George believes the Indiana Pacers have a bright future, despite a heart-breaking game 89-84 loss in game seven against the Toronto Raptors.
George top-scored for Indiana with 26 points on Sunday night, just under his average for the series, and added 12 rebounds.
In his first season back from a devastating broken leg, he surpassed even his own lofty expectations, and he likes the progress that the Pacers are making.
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“If they’d have told me I’d have the chance to lead my team first year back from the injury and give us a chance to advance to the second round, bring that [playoff basketball] back to Indiana after missing it last season and then have to go against five guys, five different defenders and figure out how to score and make plays, as well as guard [defensively]...if you’d have told me I had to do all that, I probably would have laughed,” he explained.
“It has been a long journey. I’m very proud of this team; I’m very proud of my guys. It’s been a good season for us.
“We’ve had a good run. It’s our first year together, and we had a rookie in our line-up who’s going to get better and come back a totally different player. We took a two-seed to game seven.”
THE NEXT STEP
George focused on rookie Myles Turner when discussing how Indiana can take the next step. Turner started the series on the bench, was promoted to the starting line-up and – despite a few tough shooting nights, including 2-for-11 shooting in game seven – showed a lot of positive signs.
In addition to that development from within the current group, George expects to be making pitches to free agents too to help improve Indiana’s roster.
“It’s all about how determined and how focused Myles is to get better,” George said. “He’s got to add some strength and one of the best things about playing the Raptors was game after game going against two physical big men, and him learning how to play physical and the expectations.
“Hopefully, myself and Monta [Ellis] can do a great job of recruiting some free agents and getting a big name to come here and help us out."
George also felt that a few calls should have gone the Pacers’ way.
“I feel like there were a couple of calls they blew tonight," he admitted. "But again that’s about being stuck playing game seven on the road. I’ve been in that situation a couple of times now where the game has been kind of lopsided and the home team has been given the advantage."
As for Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, he is just glad that his team survived George's fine series. “I remember trying to prepare for a young Kobe Bryant and this young man [George] reminds of trying to prepare for young Kobe,” Casey said. “I guess he’s back. I’m happy for him because he’s a super young man.”