‘Paul George of old’ leads streaking Pacers into Orlando

Paul George's return to superstar form has the Pacers in a position to return to the playoffs.
AP

Paul George beat Trevor Ariza off the dribble and had one more roadblock in front of him to the rim — 7-foot Clint Capela.

The atmosphere rose, as did George. He seemed to gain more air as he bumped Capela, climbing higher over the 7-foot center. Then his right hand came down for a massive jam that put an exclamation point on a 120-101 victory over the Houston Rockets at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Sunday.

Those watching said it was the first time they had seen George dunk over someone like that since his devastating leg injury in 2014 during an exhibition with Team USA. His 33 points on 13-for-23 shooting was also a sign of his return to All-Star form — he was selected as an Eastern Conference All-Star last week.

“He had the ankle injury (earlier this season) and I think he’s finally getting back to himself that I saw in the summer time in being really athletic in getting to the rim,” Jeff Teague told reporters after George’s spectacular dunk. “That dunk was special.”

He is starting to look like the Paul George of old having scored 30-plus points in four straight games. He is shooting 52.4 percent in those four games.

George has gotten better as the season goes on. In January, the Pacers were plus-6.8 points per game with George on the floor.

His return to superstar form has the Pacers in a position to return to the playoffs despite an offseason of roster and coaching changes.

George will present a big challenge to the Orlando Magic when they host the Indiana Pacers at Amway Center on Wednesday.

The Magic’s defense has struggled throughout the season and against the Pacers in two previous losses against by 19 and 13 points.

For the Magic, they got some good news Monday with Evan Fournier’s return after missing the last eight games with a heel injury. Fournier is the team’s leading scorer, averaging 16.8 points per game and provides a threat from beyond the arc.

Orlando certainly will welcome him back.

Fournier struggled some in his first game back, missing his first five shots. But he got into a rhythm and attacked although the Magic fell 111-105 in overtime at Minnesota.

“In the second half, it was pretty good,” Fournier told the Orlando Sentinel. “I thought I had my legs. I was feeling pretty well. The first five minutes was tough, though. When you don’t touch the ball [as you recover from an injury] and you don’t really get to run up and down the court, it’s tough. But after those five or six first minutes, I thought it was pretty good.”

Fournier might not be the threat that George is for the Pacers, but his return should boost Orlando’s offense significantly.