The Indiana Pacers are facing a lot of uncertainty when it comes to Paul George’s availability in Game 3. George suffered a concussion when he took a knee to the back of the head from Dwyane Wade towards the end of Game 2, and he will not be allowed to play on Saturday night unless he can receive full clearance from the NBA and the Pacers’ medical staff. If George is unable to play in Game 3, what will the Pacers have to do to help fill the void?
Obviously the Pacers can’t just “replace” George, but they do have some options to turn to. The biggest issue without George playing would be defending against LeBron James. George has done an excellent job so far in the series on James, and has forced him to work for each and every point that he has gotten.
There are not other players on the Pacers’ roster that are capable of guarding James as well as George has so far, but they could look to put Lance Stephenson on him to start the game if need be. Stephenson may not have the height to guard LeBron, but he is a very strong player that wouldn’t allow himself to be pushed around. That scenario would likely be the best option for the Pacers, but it still isn’t ideal.
Offensively, the Pacers would likely turn to Evan Turner at the small forward position. Turner’s tenure with the team this season has been a failure for the most part, but he has shown some flashes of being the scorer that Larry Bird envisioned him being. He did not play in either of the first two games of the series due to an illness, but he is ready to go on Saturday. If his number is called upon, he has shown the ability to put up nice offensive numbers in a couple starts with the Pacers down the stretch of the regular season.
Another option that would be purely for offensive purposes, would be to give Chris Copeland more playing time. Copeland would be able to stretch the floor out for the rest of the offense, and has shown the ability to score the ball at a nice clip when he’s been given minutes. Head coach Frank Vogel isn’t likely to turn to this option, but it would certainly be a viable one.
All of that being said, the Pacers simply cannot replace the impact that George brings to the basketball court. His absence would make things much easier on the Heat defense, and it likely would make for a very difficult game for the Pacers. If he is unable to play, Indiana will likely be looking at a 2-1 series deficit heading into Game 4. The Pacers will not go down without a fight whether George plays or not, but his defense and offensive ability can’t be matched by Rasual Butler, Turner, or anyone else on the Pacers’ roster.