Originally Published: April 22, 2014

1. Paul George Revives The Pacers' Spirits

By Mike Wells | ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- Sometimes it's the littlest of things that shows a sign of life.

In this instance, it was a strip of the ball and the All-Star on the team with the Eastern Conference's best record sprawling his body out and diving to the floor for possession, not worrying about leaving any skin behind on the ground.

That was necessary for Paul George and the Indiana Pacers, as their season and some jobs were on the line -- yes, on the line -- in just Game 2 of their playoff season against the Atlanta Hawks.

Frank Vogel
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsFrank Vogel welcomed a Paul George performance that energized the Pacers in Game 2.

Leaving it on the floor -- the same way they did during the first half of the season -- was how the Pacers were going to beat the Hawks. Trying to cut corners the way they've done in recent weeks wasn't working.

George's aggressiveness on defense and confidence on offense helped the Pacers beat the Hawks 101-85 and even the series 1-1.

"We couldn't go down 0-2," Pacers forward David West said. "It was a situation we couldn't let happen."

Tense was the last thing the Pacers wanted to be during the game. They learned what happens when you play that way during Game 7 of their Eastern Conference finals loss to the Miami Heat last season.

There's no denying the pressure was there on Indiana no matter how they tried to spin it. But rather than let it eat at them, causing them to overthink and get out of their comfort zone, they remained loose and were even joking around before the game.

The Pacers knew what had to get done. They just showed their desperation in other ways.

Pacers coach Frank Vogel making the move that everybody had been waiting on by putting George on Hawks point guard Jeff Teague and going with the backcourt combination of George Hill and C.J. Watson to provide quickness on the perimeter.

Hill playing like he cared again by attacking instead of being passive.

West playing angry again.

The bench, the one Pacers president Larry Bird made a concerted effort to improve last summer, gave the Pacers a major lift with Watson and Luis Scola.

"I think we looked like the old Pacers team from the beginning of the year, very active on the defensive end and moving the ball on the offensive end," Hill said. "All the guys out there were great tonight, from the starters to the bench players."

It all started and ended with George.

Vogel had to make the adjustment of putting George on Teague, who scored 28 points in Game 1. That's how the Pacers have always used George, going back to his rookie season when he was matched up on Chicago's Derrick Rose in their first-round playoff matchup in 2011.

Teague had a quick seven points, five rebounds and three assists in the first quarter. He let George know about it, too, by talking trash.

That got George going, which in turn got the rest of the Pacers going.

George went from worrying about being flashy with the ball, to being in attack mode on both ends of the court, similar to the way he looked when he was mentioned in the MVP conversation with LeBron James and Kevin Durant at the start of the season.

George finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals.

And Teague after his quick start?

George's length and quickness limited Teague to 3-of-8 shooting, no rebounds, one assist, three turnovers and just seven more points in the final three quarters.

"He always does those types of things, guarding the best perimeter player, his hands all over the place," Vogel said. "It makes him one of the most complete players when he plays like he did tonight."

The third quarter was a flashback to when the Pacers were NBA darlings and everybody talked about them because of their defensive intensity and unselfish play.

The Pacers held Atlanta to 25 percent shooting and Hill's 10 points helped the Pacers outscore them by 18 points in the quarter.

"We put the print on this game in the third quarter, which we've [done] playing November, December and January basketball," George said. "I thought we did a great job of really just locking in coming out in the second half on what we needed to do."

George sealed the Pacers' victory when he sank a 28-foot 3-pointer and promptly walked toward the Hawks' bench and yelled "This is my house" toward the energized crowd. The 3-pointer prompted half of the Pacers' bench to sprint the length of the court and join in the celebration with George.

"I just wanted to let everybody know we weren't going anywhere and we were going to keep fighting," George said.

That's exactly what George and the Pacers did.

Dimes past: April 1 | 2 | 3 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 19 | 20 | 21

Mike Wells

ESPN Indianapolis Colts reporter

2. Around the Association

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.