WASHINGTON -- Frank Vogel tried to give Paul George an out. A few of them, actually. Sensing the assignment of chasing Washington Wizards sharpshooter Bradley Beal around screens all night might wear down George, the Indiana Pacers coach offered before Game 4 Sunday to lighten the load and switch his perimeter defensive catalyst onto less aggressive players for stretches. George flat-out refused. Then, after watching George play 22 of 24 minutes in the first half and do everything he could to help settle his team amid a raucous environment on the road, Vogel reminded himself to make sure he built in a couple of breathers for his All-Star in the second half.
George wanted no part of that plan either.
And when the Wizards opened the second half by quickly extending their lead to a seemingly insurmountable 19 points against an Indiana team with a routinely anemic offense, George was just warming up for his most aggressive act of denial.
"We all looked at one another, and we really didn't think this game was over with," George said. "We didn't think we were going to lose this game. There was so much time left. Even when [Washington] went on a run, it felt like it wasn't blows to put us away."
Not only did George have the legs to mount the comeback, he also had the stamina and the relentless mentality to sustain it. By the time the remarkable rally ended, George had amassed more than 46 minutes, a career-high 39 points, 12 rebounds, seven 3-pointers and two steals in leading the Pacers to a 95-92 victory that gave them a commanding 3-1 series lead.
The only challenge tougher than pulling George out Sunday's game might be trying to find a more impressive two-way performance from any other player this postseason. Not only did George have to contain Washington's most dangerous offensive threat in Beal, he also was tasked with carrying the offensive load for his team down the stretch after Indiana managed just 11 points in the second quarter.
George actually outscored the Wizards' entire starting five in the second half, when he had 28 of his 39 while Trevor Ariza, John Wall, Marcin Gortat, Nene and Beal combined for just 24 points. The heavy lifting for George also included pulling his team through a performance in which the Pacers committed 20 turnovers, missed 10 free throws and got just two points from their bench.
The Wizards went to a small unit to build their biggest lead. And the Pacers countered by relying on their small forward to come up with the biggest playoff effort of his career to bring them back. George is the first player in NBA history to reach totals of 39 points, 12 rebounds and seven 3-pointers in a game.
"Credit the Wizards for playing a heck of a basketball game ... for making some solid adjustments that really impacted the game," Vogel said, slightly shaking his head in disbelief. "Sometimes, you can get outdone by a special performance. And what Paul George did tonight was special, there's no way else to put it. He's one of the best, probably the best wing defender in the game. I'm very proud of that kid."
Vogel and his team are never short on pride.