Most of LeBron James' postgame praise Friday night went to David West, who led the Indiana Pacers with 30 points in a 102-89 victory over his Miami Heat.
But James saved a nice helping for Paul George.
"You don't need a quote from me," James said. "He's an All-Star."
James meant it, telling George as much during their midcourt embrace after the game.
A month ago, James asked that George's recent strong play be tempered until a body of more work could be collected. James has seen enough, just as many in the league have. George has arrived.
"He said something like 'great game, keep going, see you in Houston,' " George said of James' words during the embrace.
The reference is to the Feb. 17 NBA All-Star game, George's first such appearance in the game.
George didn't have the 29-point game that he delivered in the Pacers' Jan. 8 win at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, but he was active at both ends of the floor and kept James honest. The NBA's reigning MVP still had 28 points, but his six rebounds and three assists were well below his averages.
George also didn't become engrossed in the moment. Yes, testing his progress against James was part of the night, but the mark of his maturity showed in his patience.
With James crowding him throughout the game, George poked and probed where he could, seldom forcing a shot. He attempted only six field goals through the first three quarters, but the Pacers had things rolling. The lead was 15.
George, who scored 15 points, was the key in the fourth quarter as the Heat tried to draw near. He worked past James and bounced off Shane Battier for a fadeaway jumper with 5:54 to play, then blew into the lane -- again past James -- for a jumper on the next possession.
George impresses MVP James
Indianapolis Star | Feb 2