Paul George guarding LeBron James is a matchup to watch on Friday night.
The Indiana Pacers host the Miami Heat tonight at 7 ET on ESPN. Indiana has won 12 consecutive games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, their longest home win streak since winning 14 straight during the 2002-03 season.
The Pacers won the first meeting this season, holding the Heat to a season low in points in their 87-77 victory on January 8. Indiana has won each of the last two regular season meetings and with a win tonight, will have its first three-game regular-season win streak against the Heat since winning 12 straight from 2002-2005.
On the other end of the scorer's table, the Heat have won three of their last four road games after starting the season 8-9 away from American Airlines Arena. However, Miami is just 9-36 all-time on the road against the Pacers in the regular season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that .200 win percentage is their second-worst mark against a single opponent on the road in team history (2-22 at Spurs).
The key matchup to watch is when LeBron James is being defended by Paul George. James, the reigning league MVP, is posting career highs in both field goal percentage (54.8) and three-point field goal percentage (40.4).
Meanwhile, George has emerged as one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. George, who was selected to his first All-Star team this season, is 11th in the NBA with 1.7 steals per game.
George has had a major impact on a Pacers’ defense that ranks first in defensive efficiency, allowing just 96.2 points per 100 possessions. According to Basketball Reference, George ranks second in the NBA with 3.5 defensive win shares, a metric that estimates the number of wins a player contributed to his team due to his defense.
However, James had some success against George in their first meeting. With George as the primary defender on non-pick and roll plays, James scored 13 of his 22 points on 6-for-11 shooting.
On Friday, George should look to keep James around the perimeter and prevent him from attacking the basket. James, who averages an NBA-best 13.1 points in the paint per game, went just 2-for-6 on jump shots from outside the key when George was defending him on non-pick and roll plays in the first meeting. When he was able to get in the paint in those situations, he connected on four of his five attempts.
In terms of slowing James down, the breaking point for the Pacers has been the 27-point mark. James’ teams are 18-5 against Indiana in his career when he scores at least 27 points. They are just 9-9 when he fails to score at least 27 points including his 22-point effort in the Heat’s loss to the Pacers in January.