From Comcast SportsNetINDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Paul George made no attempt to downplay the importance of his matchup with LeBron James."It's a chance to for me to see where I'm at, going against one of the best, if not, the best in the league," George said. "Another challenge to myself to go at LeBron. I definitely wanted to battle him."George rose to the occasion with 29 points and 11 rebounds, and the Pacers held Miami to a season-low point total in an 87-77 win over the Heat on Tuesday night.George has moved from shooting guard to small forward and has become a primary scoring option with Danny Granger, Indiana's leading scorer last season, out all season because of a left knee injury.Indiana's 22-year-old forward has earned James' respect for the way he has handled his new responsibilities."I see him playing with a lot of confidence and a lot of opportunities," James said. "The simple fact that Danny Granger is hurt has created this opportunity for him to show what he can do. He's doing everything. He was a good player last year, but we weren't able to see it because he wasn't a featured player."David West added 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Lance Stephenson chipped in with 13 points for the Pacers (21-14), who have won 11 of their last 14 games.Dwyane Wade scored 30 points and James had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Miami (23-10), which still has the best record in the Eastern Conference. It was the first time the teams had met since Miami beat the Pacers in six games in the conference semifinals last year.The Pacers outrebounded the Heat 55-36 to help make up for 36 percent shooting."That was a big emphasis tonight," George said. "Miami is a team that, for as good as they are, they struggle with rebounding. We knew that coming in. We knew that we had to get the boards. And we're bigger. We're a big team."George had gone 8 for 29 in his previous two games, but he broke out of his slump by making 12 of 27 shots against Miami.Miami entered the game leading the NBA in field goal percentage, while Indiana led the league in field goal percentage defense. The matchup resulted in the Heat scoring only 35 points in the second half, their lowest-scoring half of the season."Offensively, we did not have a very fluid game on that side of the court," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "I'll have to take care of that tomorrow."Indiana led 38-28 in the second quarter before the Heat rallied late in the half. Wade hit a 3-pointer to cut Indiana's lead to 38-37, and a putback by James gave the Heat the lead. The teams were tied at 42 at halftime. Wade scored 23 points in the first half, including 16 in the second quarter.The Heat found their offensive flow in the early minutes of the second half. A 3-pointer by Mario Chalmers gave the Heat a 51-44 lead and caused the Pacers to call a timeout, but Indiana rallied. Stephenson found West in the corner for a 3-pointer, then Stephenson made a 3-pointer to give the Pacers a 55-53 lead.George made consecutive 3-pointers to make it 67-57 at the end of the quarter. The Pacers made 5 of 8 from 3-point range in the period. Miami scored just 15 points on 7-for-18 shooting in the third and Wade went scoreless.George opened the fourth with a jumper over James to expand Indiana's lead to 12, and Ian Mahinmi's putback bumped it to 14.Another 3 by George made it 77-60 with about 8 minutes to go, and the Pacers remained comfortably ahead the rest of the way.Wade scored just seven points on 1-for-4 shooting in the second half. George said Stephenson deserved credit for bothering Wade."He made it hard for him in the second half," George said. "Everybody was locked in to his drive and tried to contest all his shots."The Pacers were subdued in the locker room after the game, perhaps a sign that they have come to expect such victories."We can't overreact to this," West said. "We're just happy to get a win. That's a good basketball team."Notes: Vogel said Granger's recovery from his left knee injury is on schedule, meaning he should be ready to play in about a month. ... The Pacers led 20-19 at the end of the first quarter, despite shooting just 28 percent. ... Wade was fouled on a 3-pointer in the second quarter and made all three free throws. ... West's 3-pointer was just his third of the season and the 39th of his 10-year career. ... Indiana won its eighth straight at home.
Do the Cubs have a World Series hangover?
On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Bay Area Giants Insider Alex Pavlovic joins CSN's Patrick Mooney to talk about the World Series hangover, how last year's playoff loss lingered in San Francisco, Johnny Cueto's quirks, the legend of Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija's ups and downs.
Plus Kelly Crull, Jeff Nelson and Tony Andracki break down the Cubs’ defensive struggles this year compared to an historic 2016 and how Ian Happ fits into the Cubs’ lineup in both the short and long term.
Listen to the latest episode below:
Caleb Swanigan, unsurprisingly, is heading to the NBA.
Last season’s Big Ten Player of the Year announced Wednesday that he’ll pass up the final two seasons of his NCAA eligibility for a paying gig at the professional level, an awesome opportunity for a kid who battled obesity and homelessness to become one of the best basketball players in the country.
But Swanigan’s departure from West Lafayette means a heck of a lot to the Big Ten.
Without the league’s most dominant big man, what becomes of Purdue’s chances at winning a conference title? Similarly, with a weakened — though still strong — group of Boilermakers, what does the Big Ten race look like going into 2017-18?
First, Purdue. Matt Painter’s program is plenty healthy, and while there’s no doubt that losing Swanigan is a big deal, the Boilers got some really good news, too, Wednesday when Vincent Edwards announced he’ll be returning for his senior season. Seven-footer Isaac Haas also made the decision to return to West Lafayette, meaning the towering frontcourt hasn’t been completely decimated just because tha man called “Biggie” is gone.
Purdue will also return Carsen Edwards, who had an impressive freshman campaign, and Dakota Mathias, a terrific defender and 3-point shooter. Two more important pieces — P.J. Thompson and Ryan Cline — are back, as well. And Painter will welcome in freshman Nojel Eastern, a highly touted guard from Evanston.
So the Boilers are still in very good shape. There will be a big magnifying glass on Haas, who despite his physical attributes hasn’t always found consistent on-court success. But there have been plenty of flashes of brilliance from the big man. A big step forward in his game would go a long way in easing the blow of losing Swanigan and could keep Purdue as one of the frontrunners for a conference title.
That brings us to the Big Ten race. Ever since Miles Bridges, the conference’s reigning Freshman of the Year, announced he’d be returning to Michigan State for his sophomore season, the Spartans have been the near-unanimous favorite. Only something like Swanigan deciding to stay at Purdue could’ve changed that. And with Swanigan expectedly heading to the NBA, Michigan State remains the preseason pick to win the conference crown.
Like any good year in the Big Ten, though, there will be challengers.
But Michigan State is the popular choice to win it because of Tom Izzo’s insane 2016 recruiting class is returning completely intact: Bridges, Nick Ward, Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford are all back. And Izzo brings in one of the top 2017 recruits in forward Jaren Jackson.
But Sparty isn’t the only one with an impressive returning group. Purdue’s experienced roster has already been covered. Northwestern, a surprise contender in 2016-17, should be even better as Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey enter their fourth year playing together. Dererk Pardon, a shot-blocking whiz at center, is also back, as is sharp-shooter Aaron Falzon, who sat out the 2016-17 season with an injury after starting during his freshman year in 2015-16.
There will be big shoes to fill for some perennial contenders like Maryland — which must replace Melo Trimble — and Michigan, which watched eligibility run out on Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin before D.J. Wilson decided to head to the professional ranks Wednesday. But those teams have plenty of talent returning, too. The Terps will have all three of their fab freshmen — Justin Jackson, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter — back for sophomore seasons, while the Wolverines have Moe Wagner back in the fold alongside Xavier Simpson and Duncan Robinson, among others.
And what of last year’s shocking contender, Minnesota? The Golden Gophers didn’t lose too much this offseason and will return almost every main player from last year’s 24-10 squad: Amir Coffey, Nate Mason, Reggie Lynch, Jordan Murphy, Dupree McBrayer and Eric Curry.
There are up-and-comers to think about, too, such as last year’s freshman-heavy squads at Iowa and Penn State. And could new head coaches Brad Underwood and Archie Miller make instant splashes at Illinois and Indiana, respectively?
If it sounds a little too much like the annual coach speak that “any team can win on any night” in the Big Ten, that’s because there is a good deal of truth to that oft-used phrase.
There are definitely tiers to this thing, though. Even without Swanigan, Purdue is still in one of those upper tiers. But there might be no team besides Michigan State at the very top of the heap, something underscored by Swanigan turning pro.