Discussing How David West Took Over the Game and Whether Paul George Is a Player Who Will
The Pacers were able to come back and win last night for only one reason: David West took a ton of shots in the second half and made almost all of them. To be precise, West put up 14 shots in the second half (9 in the fourth quarter). For perspective, Kobe Bryant — by far — led the league in field goal attempts per game last season with 23.0 a night. (Kevin Durant was a distant second with 19.7 per.)
Extrapolated over a full game, if West were to shoot as often as he did in the second half last night and take 28 shots per game, he would be shooting a full five times per night more than Kobe does. That’s a lot. Bryant has never averaged that many per night, even when he was scoring 35.4 points per game. Michael Jordan, even when he was averaging 37.1 points per game, never averaged 28 shot attempts per night. Neither Allen Iverson nor Tracy McGrady, who combined to win all five scoring titles between the 1999-2000 and 2004-05 seasons, ever averaged 28 FGAs per night.
You get the point. It’s a lot of shots to be taking in a half, especially in the fourth.
As you can see, one of his two misses in the fourth even came on a three with the shot clock dwindling. We went over in more detail how he got all these good shots last night (Andrea Bargnani was overmatched, Raptors made some strange team defensive decisions, Paul George and West had some uncanny chemistry). But the takeaway is that Indiana, despite not playing particularly well for much of the game on offense, was able to get good looks when it matter.
Mostly, because West put the team on his back.
Early on, however, there were other guys who found ways to score well. Roy Hibbert was able to find position early (not so much in the second half when Toronto played him less straight up, however) and convert some nice moves. And Paul George came out the gates gunning, apparently ready to burden the load left vacant by Danny Granger. While he was very effective early (see his first-half shooting chart) and showed some growth by, for example, knowing when to quick-shoot over a flat-footed, shorter defender when he found himself with the ball on the wing, there was still a lack of .. how do you say this …je ne sais quoi without Danny in the offense.
Granger is just a scorer. That’s his mentality. Paul George showed something last night, but he just doesn’t seem to have it. Not yet. Roy Hibbert doesn’t have it, and is also hamstrung by the fact that he needs to get position and get the ball before he can do anything. To put it in a faux-clever way, “Paul and Roy try to score. Danny just does what he does.”
While most in Pacer land hope George grows in this regard, this is usually something you can see early in a player’s development. Danny had it even before he consistently asserted himself. His problem early was that he would disappear when Jermaine O’Neal was around, or even defer to Mike Dunleavy, Jr. a little at times. Whenever the opportunity arose, however, he was always comfortable putting up points.
Part of that is because Danny Granger is an honest-to-god shooter, and part of it is just his innate confidence.
Paul and Roy both look like they’re doing something somewhat unnatural when the offense is running through them. Everything feels a little labored. A little forced. Roy on the block can be very, very effective, but when he catches, you don’t have the same feeling you do when, say, Zach Randolph gets the ball. But Roy is Roy and he is going to continue to play how he does, providing a dangerous — if not ever present — weapon to the offense while focusing on rim protection at the other end.
Paul George, from what he showed in the first few minutes last night, is definitely making the effort to punch it more often when he has the ball. Whether or not that will be a good course for him to go down could be the most important (non-health-related) story line of the season.