The present and future of the Indiana Pacers seems to hinge largely on the play of Paul George, the third-year pro who was selected to his first All-Star Game this season.
The former Fresno State star has helped push the Pacers to the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference this season with a record of 40-24. George leads the team in scoring with 17.6 points a game, while also chipping in a healthy 7.8 rebounds a game from the small forward position. His youth and all-around production has moved him past Danny Granger as the Pacer’s most indispensable asset moving forward.
As you consider your NBA picks, consider the Pacers have been an excellent 36-28 against the spread this season. However, that strike rate has cooled a bit as they are just 2-3 against the number in their last five games.
The Pacers will need play big down the stretch if they hope to hold on to the second-spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets are both within 2 1/2-games of the Pacers. That means George will have to keep playing at his current All-Star level, especially after it was revealed Thursday that Granger will be out for at least another three games. The former All-Star has played just five games this season because of a devilish left knee injury.
The three games Granger is scheduled to miss will be Friday at home against the Los Angeles Lakers, who in all likelihood will be without Kobe Bryant; Saturday on the road versus the Philadelphia 76ers and Monday on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Pacers figure to be favored in all three of those games, even without Granger.
The concern with the Pacers is George has been playing heavy minutes of late and eventually he could begin to get worn down given all that he contributes on the floor. Still, he’s a 22-year-old star in the making that will be asked to do most of the heavy lifting for Indiana down the stretch.