INDIANAPOLIS -- Just before the fourth quarter started, Pacers' coach Frank Vogel whispered in Paul George's ear.
"Time to start a new streak."
See, George had this unfortunate 0-fer hanging over his head, as in, he was 0-for-16 on three-point attempts in the fourth quarter this season. George didn't just break out in Indiana's 115-107 overtime win over the Hornets on Wednesday night, he shot his way into the stratosphere, smashing through his own personal wall of doubt and right on past Reggie Miller into the Pacer record books.
George made a franchise record nine shots from behind the arc, with all of them coming in the second half. He was a perfect 5-for-5 in the fourth quarter and overtime. He finished with a career-high 37 points; 33 of them came after halftime.
"It's an honor for one," George said of besting Miller's record. "I don't even know what to say to that. If I was to look at the stat sheet and see eight threes I would have been like, damn, I'll never beat that record."
"We've been waiting for a breakout game from him and he worked on his shot diligently," Vogel said. "We talked about that before the game and challenged him a little bit. ‘We've got to make some big shots here.' And he did it. Made a bunch of them."
If you were making a list before the season started of say, 10 players in the league who were due for a huge breakout there's a good chance you'd have the 6'8 George on that list. Just 22 years old and with just one season as a starter under his belt, he's a match-up nightmare who knocked down almost 39 percent of his three-point attempts last season.
Yet a funny thing happened on his way to stardom. Danny Granger got hurt. All of a sudden there was this weight of expectations that never existed previously. Before Granger's injury, George was just a talented kid on a deep, veteran team. Now, he was supposed to be the man. At least that's what he thought.
"I did," George acknowledged. "I really took it upon myself that I had to play well every night. I think that's something that kind of messed me up in the head a little bit because when I had moments to score I was kind of speeding myself up, just the anxiety that I had to knock that shot down. Nights like this when I can just be comfortable and let the game come to me is more my style of playing."
There was moment late in the fourth quarter when the ball swung his way again and again he was wide open. A little smile crept over his face as he lined up another three. It was all so easy. Finally.
"I was just spot-up shooting," he said with a laugh. "My teammates were finding me and I just felt like I was in a zone."
Over in the other corner of the locker room where David West sits, the wise veteran simply shook his head.
"I don't think you have to do that," West said in his deep baritone. "It's about playing your game, maximizing what you do and we had opportunities down the stretch where guys just made plays."
West's perspective is hard-earned, forged by almost a decade in the league and more than 600 games. When things got tight down the stretch, Vogel didn't run his offense through the red-hot George. He ran it through West in that old familiar, one-four pick-and-roll. The plays weren't designed to get West shots and he knew it. In Indiana's scheme, the shots are there on the weakside if everyone does what they're supposed to do and West usually does.
"He got Paul a lot of our looks," Vogel said. "One-four pick and roll is a simple action but it's something that we go to late in games. We get the ball in David West's hands and get defensive rotations, we're pretty tough to guard when guys are knocking down three's on the weakside."
The Pacers have been far too easy to guard this season and the cynic will say that all they have done lately is beat the woeful Wizards and handle a Hornets team at home that was without two of its top three players in Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis. Sure, but the bigger picture is made up of a hundred smaller pieces. On Monday in Washington, Roy Hibbert finally came alive. Now it was George's turn.
"Every time you're trying to develop a player, the biggest battle is confidence," Vogel said. "When you have a game like this it certainly shows you what you're capable of and it gives you that feeling like you can do it."