The Indiana Pacers have kept it close with the Chicago Bulls in all four games of their first-round series, though they did need to stave off a furious comeback to avoid a sweep over the weekend. The Pacers will try to extend the series to a Game 6 by winning again tonight.
All four games to this point have been decided by six points or less, and the Pacers can thank Paul George for contributing to that. George, a seldom used player earlier in the season, was given the assignment to guard NBA MVP Derrick Rose for much of the series and George has accepted that challenge.
Rose has certainly had his moments, hitting big shots, but he’s shooting just over 35 percent for the series, including a 10-for-40 mark combined in Games 3 and 4. George and the Pacers have been physical with Rose, even to the point where he had to leave Saturday’s game momentarily with an ankle injury. It hasn’t necessarily been enough to get the Pacers over the hump, but imagine where they’d be without George’s performance.
Paul George joined 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis with Grady and Big Joe to discuss a woeful home crowd on Saturday, how the team made sure it didn’t get swept, guarding Derrick Rose, what it says about his season that he’s being asked to do that, the potential to be the closer for the Pacers and how they can win Game 5 tonight.
His reaction to a home arena filled with the red of Chicago Bulls fans:
“We knew the Chicago Bulls, all the fans were going to show up, just because of the thought that they was going to sweep us. And they thought the Saturday evening game was going to be the game where they sweep us. So they showed up and really packed our house. It kind of felt like it was a neutral site for us. … We knew if we stayed together, we could’ve got through it. The fans that were there were definitely helpful.”
On the whole team being on the same page that they were going to win Game 4:
“We believe we could’ve won the three times that we lost. We just felt very confident about our group. We feel like every game that we played should’ve been our win. Late in the game we just couldn’t find a way to score or to stop them. But we definitely felt that we had to get at least one. We felt like we should’ve got a lot more. We feel like it could’ve been easily 3-1 in our favor, but it didn’t turn out that way and now we’re playing with our backs against the wall.”
What it has been like to guard Derrick Rose during this series:
“Derrick Rose is a challenge. He’s a great player, a terrific player. It’s just the competitiveness in me. I knew that in order for this team to get past Chicago you have to slow down a guy like Derrick Rose. I knew coming in that I wasn’t going to be able to stop him, but if I could contain him and really make it tough for him, I think that’s a win for me. That’s been the case. We really want him to shoot jumpshots and not get to the rim.”
How many times has he made a crazy shot where you’ve just shaken your head?:
“Those are the ones that really hurt the most, when you play good defense and he gets a shot up and it goes in. There’s really nothing you can do about that because he makes shots like that.”
How much fun has it been for him to see his role increase in that capacity?:
“It’s been a journey. It’s been a special season for me as well as this team. Coming from not playing at all to now playing against the league’s MVP, it’s fun basketball. This is what everyone in my position dreams of.”
He’s been the defensive stopper, but is there a chance he could also find a way to be the closer on offense?:
“That’s Granger’s spot. He’s the closer for this team. I’m just trying to help any way I can. It’s … tough when you’re guarding a guy like Derrick Rose and then have to go back to the other side and try to contribute. It takes a lot out of you. So Granger is our guy to close games. I hope, down the line, I would love to step into the opportunity to be the closer.”
What will it take to win Game 5?:
“We’ve just got to come out and play the same way we’ve played all series long. I think we’ve played great basketball. The only thing is we need to play all 48 minutes.”