NBA playoffs: George, Pacers beat Hawks 107-90
By MICHAEL MAROT
The Associated PressFirst published Apr 21 2013 01:54PM
Indianapolis • Paul George insisted a little rest and a new focus would change everything for the Indiana Pacers.
He made sure that prediction came true Sunday.
Following the best season of his three-year career, George opened the playoffs by producing the first postseason triple-double of his career — 23 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists — and led the Pacers out of their late-season funk and past Atlanta 107-90 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series.
Suddenly, all those problems ailing the Pacers have been forgotten.
"I know what the team will expect from me now," George said. "But, again, I like the pressure"
He can expect to be dealing with even more of it in the best-of-seven series.
There were plenty of questions after Indiana coach Frank Vogel gave four of his starters — George, George Hill, Roy Hibbert and David West — a three-day break this week. The move meant those four came into the opening game without playing a minute since last Sunday’s loss at New York sealed Indiana’s fate as the East’s No. 3 seed.
Outsiders wondered whether those off-days would rejuvenate the Central Division champs, who looked so good from mid-December through early April, or whether would be rusty after stumbling to five losses in their last seven regular-season games.
Those inside the locker room said that the extra rest would be beneficial. Sunday’s performance left no doubt as fans repeatedly waved the gold towels the Pacers handed out before the game.
While George went 3-for-13 from the field, he made his first 17 free throws tying Reggie Miller’s single-game playoff mark for best percentage.