George must ‘play through physicality’ to get back on scoring track

Paul George has been in a bit of an offensive funk, whereas Washington's Otto Porter (left) is coming off one of his best offensive games as a pro. (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports)
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Paul George is one of the NBA’s best small forwards, but the Pacers’ star hasn’t performed at that level offensively during Indiana’s recent slide.

Washington’s Otto Porter is among the more overlooked at that position, but there was no denying his impressive performance in the latest Wizards win.

The Pacers (15-17) and Wizards (14-16) meet for the second time in nine days Wednesday night. Indiana won the previous battle 107-105 on Thaddeus Young’s floater with 0.9 seconds remaining after Washington’s late rally had tied the game. Since then, the Pacers have dropped three in a row, including a 90-85 setback at the Chicago Bulls on Monday.

During the losing streak, George has shot 36.1 percent (17 of 47) and 1 of 12 from behind the arc.

“I just need to get to the rim knowing it’s going to be a one-on-one game for me,” George said. “I’m going to have to play through physicality; I’m going to have to play through contact.”

The 91.7 percent free-throw shooter couldn’t help his team from the line against the Bulls as he attempted only one shot. Indiana took only 10 free throws; Chicago shot 28.

“They’ve got to give us more respect,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “They’re getting away with a lot of grabbing on Paul. They’ve got to call the game both ways.”

Porter is more than adept playing on both ends of the court, but the former Georgetown star had one of his best offensive games Monday in a 107-102 comeback win over the Milwaukee Bucks. He scored 32 points on 13-of-18 shooting, with five 3-pointers and 13 rebounds. Porter’s final 3-pointer with 49 seconds left gave Washington a 104-100 lead after the Wizards had trailed by 10 midway through the final period.

“Otto kept us in the game,” said Bradley Beal, who scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half. “He was the one knocking down the shots — being aggressive, making plays, getting rebounds, guarding their tough guy on the other end. He had an all-around great game today. He just needs to continue to play confident and continue to play aggressive like he has been.”

The fourth-year forward is having a breakout campaign, with 14.1 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting a team-high 43.5 percent on 3-pointers.

“Tonight was about the extra pass,” Porter said. “We knew they were going to collapse the paint and fly out to shooters and give a lot of two-on-one situations, and the extra pass was key.”

Washington is 7-3 over its last 10 games, its latest win coming after a 27-point loss at Milwaukee on Friday.

“It shows a lot of toughness and character that I know our team has,” Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of exacting revenge against Milwaukee. “We didn’t feel good about that game in Milwaukee; they had their way with us. … So we wanted to just bounce back and play a tough game.”

George scored 27 points on 10-of-21 shooting in the previous meeting against Washington. Beal led the Wizards with 22 points while point guard John Wall had 19 points and 10 assists.

The Pacers could remain short-handed in the backcourt. Rodney Stuckey (left hamstring) returned against Chicago after missing the previous two games, but he reinjured the hamstring after only six minutes. Monta Ellis (strained right groin) has missed five straight games.