CLEVELAND, Ohio a Paul George said the Indiana Pacers should have known it was coming.
With fewer than 10 seconds remaining, LeBron James dropped his coverage of Lance Stephenson and came out beyond the 3-point arc to double-team George along with J.R. Smith. And the Pacers weren’t ready for it.
“Being up one and 20 seconds on the clock that was a surprise getting trapped,” George admitted after Cleveland’s 109-108 victory in Game 1. “Usually you try to force a turnover there early.”
Pacers guard Jeff Teague echoed George’s comment, calling the maneuver “unexpected.”
“We didn’t think they would trap,” he said. “But we’ve got to get a good shot there.”
James forced George to pass the ball to C.J. Miles on the left wing, and then covered George closely enough that he could not get a return pass with four seconds left.
Miles dribbled left, pump faked Richard Jefferson and clanked a 21-footer off the front of the rim.
“By the time it got to me, (the clock) was under four and going down,” Miles said. “I felt like I had to make a play for us to get a shot off.”
Heartbreak for the Pacers. CJ Miles misses the game winner by an inch and Cavs hang take a 1-0 series lead. #NBA #NBAPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/3qtnmuxfeR
a The Fuzz (@TheFuzzNBA) April 15, 2017
George, who finished with a team-high 29 points on 9-of-19 shooting from the field, said he trusts his teammates to make shots, but in that instance, the ball should have been in his hands.
“Situations like that, I gotta get the last shot,” George said.
Looking back, George said he believes he made the right basketball play, regardless of the outcome. He said Lance Stephenson flashed to the free throw line, but the Cavaliers were baiting him to make that pass, where Kyrie Irving could step in for a steal.
“That would have been a play that they were on to,” George said. “They were almost begging me to throw that.”
George and his teammates can take some measure of encouragement from winning the fourth quarter, outscoring the Cavaliers 24-17.
“There were a lot of unforced turnovers and free throws we gave up.,” he said. “We gave up a lot of open threes by just not being on the same page. If we limit that, we walk away up 1-0. And we didn’t do that.”