If you're reading this you probably already know Paul George is good. I mean really good. George burst on to the national scene last season during the playoffs and has used the beginning of this season to convince any lingering doubters out there that he is the real deal. Through Tuesday George is averaging 24 points a game, up from 17 last season and doubled from two years ago. What makes George really special is his contributions on defense as well. George has the length and quickness to guard almost any position on the floor but on the Pacers he doesn't have to.
Indiana is one of, if not the outright, top defensive team in the league. The Pacers hold opponents to just 90.1 points per 100 possessions (equaling a 90.1 defensive rating that is tops in the NBA) while averaging just over 101 points per 100 possessions themselves. It equals out to a net rating, or the difference between a team's offensive and defensive rating, that is second in the league, behind only the San Antonio Spurs. Just so happens the Spurs and the Pacers share the best record in the league at 13-1.
Another big reason for this great team effort is the continued improvement and play of big man Roy Hibbert. Hibbert isn't just a shot blocker. His ability to maintain verticality (stay straight up) when he's challenging a shot has changed the way others approach defending the paint, and probably the way officials are calling some of these plays too. But the bottom line is he's able to change shots without fouling, thus positively affecting the play on the court for his team. He still chips in around 12 points a game.
Indiana also has the luxury of a blossoming swingman in Lance Stephenson. Stephenson got his chance for more minutes and contribution last post-season and didn't disappoint. After putting up about 10 points per game in the playoffs, Stephenson is chipping in 13 a night this season up from just fewer than nine a year ago. He's also filling out the stat sheet with six boards and about five dimes every night. Plus, he's got that tough-nosed mentality that really personifies what this Pacers team is about right now. The players truly seem to believe they can do much more than just challenge the Miami Heat in the East, you get the feeling they have their sights set on them.
Did I mention David West? Well he's out there too. West brings more (as if they needed it) toughness and a veteran presence to go along with the 16 and seven in the stat book. The Pacers are a very talented, well-coached team with a superstar and several super supporting role players.
The Bobcats will have their hands full tonight playing the best team in the NBA. It will be a nice measuring stick, and for those that haven't gotten to watch Indiana much this season it should be real treat. But you already knew that.