Paul George confident ahead of clash with LeBron

Guard of honour: The MVP v the MIP

Guard of honour: The MVP v the MIP

Paul George is full of confidence regarding the Eastern Conference Final showdown with Miami Heat as well as his personal duel with LeBron James.

The Indiana Pacers’ forward will most likely match-up with the recently crowned League MVP but is not concerned about the daunting prospect.

George said after practice: “It will be fun! I always embrace challenges and I’m looking forward to it. It should be a good series and I’m more prepared this year.”

“I feel like I’m in the best of shape, my confidence is feeling great!” the 23 year-old added.

The 2012-13 season has already proved successful for George personally as he followed up a first All-Star appearance with the Most Improved Player award. The 6’8″ forward improved in scoring, rebounding and assists to propel the Pacers into the play-offs as the third seeds. His regular season improvements are as follows:

2011-12: 12.1 ppg; 5.6 rpg; 2.4 apg in 66 games (all starts)
2012-13: 17.4 ppg; 7.6 rpg; 4.1 apg in 79 games (all starts)

From Carmelo Anthony to LeBron James, it doesn’t get easier for George and his coach Frank Vogel is hoping his forward can do his best and contain the Heat star.

“(LeBron) is the best player in the world and Paul (George) just has to do the best he can, like he did on Carmelo. LeBron (James) will have some moments and go off but Paul just has to compete and not foul.”

Vogel emphasised: “We do not want to put these guys at the free throw line.”

George is averaging 19.1 points per game along with 8.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists in the Play-offs so far after victories over Atlanta and the Knicks in Indiana‘s first two games. The All-Star produced a 29 point haul in a 10 point win over Miami in January and the Pacers claimed the season series 2-1.

In last season’s post-season meeting, Miami defeated Indiana 4-2 on their way to their second NBA Championship but Indiana, like George, have improved this season and the Pacers star is hoping his team use their size to their advantage against the champions.

“We’re a big team, we can rebound and we can play physical basketball- it’s our bread and butter.”

The opening game of the Eastern Conference Finals is live on Sky Sports from 1:30 am tonight.

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Game Night! ft. Sacramento @ Miami

LEBRON AND WADE HAVE SEASON-HIGHS TO PROPEL MIAMI TO WIN IN DOUBLE OT; INDIANA MAKE IT FIVE STRAIGHT WHILE THE BULLS FALL BACK

Miami Heat (41-14) needed two periods of overtime to record their TWELFTH straight victory after beating the Sacramento Kings (19-39) 141-129 in a thriller.  LeBron James posted his first 40 point game of the season and dished out a career-high 16 assists with Dwayne Wade a grateful recipient on his way to a season-high 39 point haul while Ray Allen chipped in with 21 points on 5-10 shooting from beyond the arc. For the Kings, Marcus Thornton had a season-high 38 points off the bench with 8-12 from long range and DeMarcus Cousins added a 24p/15r double-double but couldn’t prevent a SIXTH consecutive defeat.

Miami trailed at the half and at the end of the third but a bright spell in the fourth gave them a 105-96 advantage with four minutes on the clock. Thornton made a trio of triples and a lay-in from Cousins with 8.5 seconds left was enough to take the game beyond regulation at 112. Thornton drained another shortly followed by a three from Isaiah Thomas to make it a one point game before LeBron split his free throw attempts and the game was extended further at 124. The reigning MVP took over in the double-overtime with 11 points to take him to 40 as the Heat outscored Sacramento 17-5 in the second period.

STAT:

Chicago (32-25) have now lost SEVEN of their last ten as they fell to a 101-98 defeat at home to the Cleveland Cavaliers (19-38). Carlos Boozer (27p) and Luol Deng (26p) led the hosts with a combined 53 points but a 25 point haul from Dion Waiters in the absence of Kyrie Irving carried the Cavs to the win. Meanwhile, the LA Clippers (41-18) powered past the Charlotte Bobcats (13-44) 106-84 as Blake Griffin led the way with a 24p while Chris Paul provided 13 assists.

STAT: It was the 24th time this season CP3 has dished out 10+ dimes in a game.

Indiana Pacers (36-21) maintained second spot in the Eastern conference with their FIFTH win in a row after seeing off the Golden State Warriors (33-24) 108-97 despite a 38 point haul from Stephen Curry. A strong third quarter (31-20) set the platform for the victory and the home side were led by 28 points from David West while Paul George and George Hill combining for a further 44. Brooklyn Nets (34-24) moved past New York Knicks in the win column with a 101-97 on the road in New Orleans despite some late resistance from the Hornets (20-38). Deron Williams had a big night with 33 points and EIGHT assists while Grievis Vasquez led the hosts in points, rebounds and assists with a 20-8-7 performance.

STAT: Deron Williams matched his season-high points tally he also recorded against OKC in early December.

Dirk Nowitzki had a huge 21p/20r double-double in vain for the Dallas Mavericks (25-31) as the Milwaukee Bucks (27-28) picked up the 95-90 win on the road. Monta Ellis had a game-high 22 points to keep the Bucks in the final play-off position ahead of the Toronto Raptors. Minnesota (20-34) had a strong second-half comeback to take their game with Phoenix into overtime but fell short as the Suns (19-39) came out with an 84-83 victory. Orlando Magic (16-41) recorded a surprise 98-84 win on the road in Philadelphia as the 76ers (22-33) suffered a sixth straight defeat.

STAT: Larry Sanders scored 10+ points for the sixth straight game for the first time this season whilst continuing to lead the league in blocks with an average of 3.16 a game.

The King amongst Kings: check-out LeBron’s season-high night against Sacramento: (NBA)

Game Night! ft. OKC @ Houston

MIAMI POWER PAST ATLANTA IN 4TH; KNICKS & OKC LOSE FURTHER GROUND ON CONFERENCE LEADERS

James Harden launched an avenged attack on his former-team with a career-high 46 points to inspire a 122-119 victory for the Houston Rockets (30-26) over the OKC Thunder (39-15). In support of Harden‘s incredible effort, Jeremy Lin (28p, 8a) and Chandler Parsons (17p) combined for a further 45 as the Rockets overturned a 107-93 deficit with seven minutes to go. Houston showed their intent early on as they fired in six triples to lead 23-16 which became 36-29 after the first. Oklahoma produced a strong second quarter to take the lead and stretched their advantage into double digits before Harden‘s half-court buzzer-beater made it 87-92 at the end of the third. Kevin Martin and Thabo Sefolosha netted 3-pointers to make it a 14 point lead in favour of the visitors before Houston launched their fightback. Harden and Lin instigated a pivotal 19-2 tear to swing the game’s momentum and when Kevin Durant missed a chance to tie the game from long range, Harden was on hand to seal the win from the foul line. Russell Westbrook top scored for Thunder with 28 points and 10 rebounds while Sefolosha also netted 28 points with 6-10 from 3-PT range.

STAT: Kevin Durant recorded a triple-double of 16 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists and was his second of the season with the last coming on 18/11/12 against Golden State.

Miami Heat (37-14) outscored the Atlanta Hawks (29-23) 40-17 in the final quarter to record a 103-90 victory. LeBron James‘ streak of 30 points in his last six games came to an end but the reigning NBA MVP still contributed 24 points, six rebounds and had 11 assists in Miami‘s seventh straight win. Josh Smith came close to a triple-double for the hosts with 10p, 9r & 9a while Al Horford top scored with a game high 27 points. Atlanta led 73-63 after three quarters but Miami opened the fourth with a 12-0 run to take the lead and powered on with a dominant 20-7 spell which included two triples from Ray Allen on his way to 15 points. A third straight defeat for the New York Knicks (32-19) moved them further behind Miami after the Indiana Pacers (33-21) stormed to an emphatic 125-101 triumph. Paul George had a game-high 27 points for the hosts who posted their highest points total in a half for the season with 74 POINTS.

LA Lakers (26-29) gained revenge on their recent heavy defeat at the hands of Boston (28-26) to beat their main rivals 113-99 at the Staples Centre. The home side got off to a fast start and didn’t look back as they moved ahead of Portland in the race for the play-offs. Dwight Howard top scored with 24 points and 12 rebounds as seven Lakers players reached double-figures while Earl Clark grabbed a career-high 16 boards to complement his 14 points. Dallas Mavericks (24-29) scored an impressive 42 points in the opening quarter to power them to a 111-96 win over Orlando Magic (15-39). Rudy Gay was unable to lead Toronto (22-33) to victory over his former side Memphis (35-18) as the Raptors fell to an 88-82 defeat. All-Star Zach Randolph led the Grizzlies with an 17-18 double-double.

STAT: Steve Nash moved ahead of Magic Johnson into fourth place on the all-time list for career assists with 10,144.

Nikola Pekovic had a huge 27 point, 18 rebound double-double to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves (20-31) to a 94-87 home win over the Philadelphia 76ers (22-30). Golden State Warriors (31-23) ended a six-game losing streak with a 108-98 win over the Phoenix Suns (18-37) as Klay Thompson (28) and Stephen Curry (20) starred for the hosts. Detroit Pistons (22-34) overturned a half-time deficit to defeat the Charlotte Bobcats (13-41) 105-99 on the road with Brandon Knight top scoring with a 21 point haul.

STAT: Nikola Pekovic matched his season-high total of 18 rebounds having also achieved the feat against Atlanta in January.

Kyrie Irving was in top form for the Cleveland Cavaliers (17-37) with 35 points in a 105-100 success against the New Orleans Hornets (19-36). The rising star scored TWENTY in the final quarter as the home side racked up 37 points to recover from a slender deficit heading into the fourth. In the final game, Brooklyn Nets (33-22) made it back-to-back wins over the Milwaukee Bucks (26-27) with a 97-94 victory despite 31 points and ELEVEN assists from Brandon Jennings. Deron Williams top scored for the Nets with 23 points for his highest total in nine games.

CHECK-OUT Michael Kidd-Gilchrist baptize Detroit’s Greg Monroe: (NBA)

Game Night! San Antonio @ Detroit

SPURS & PACERS SEE THEIR STREAKS ENDS, MIAMI CRUSH CLIPPERS WHILE THE LAKERS ARE THE COMEBACK KINGS OF THE NIGHT

San Antonio (32-19) saw their ELEVEN match win streak end in Detroit (19-32) last night as the Pistons recorded a 119-108 victory. Tony Parker had 31 points and eight assists for the Spurs but it was Greg Monroe’s huge double-double of 26 points and 16 rebounds that helped get the victory for the hosts. Gregg Popovich opted not to play Manu Ginobilli once again while Tim Duncan remains sidelined and the Spurs found themselves trailing 65-52 at the half. The visitors launched a fightback in the final quarter to close within seven points but Brandon Knight had five points in quick succession to keep San Antonio at bay and seal the win.

Miami Heat (33-14) and the LA Lakers (24-27) recorded contrasting triumphs ahead of their anticipated clash on Sunday. Despite the return of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clippers (35-17) were comfortably beaten by the Heat 111-89. Lebron James had a game-high 30 points on 9-11 shooting from the field while Dwayne Wade added 20 in the absence of Chris Bosh and Ray Allen. The Lakers found themselves 20 points down before outscoring the Charlotte Bobcats (11-38) 31-15 in the final quarter to bounce back from their defeat to Boston. Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 20 points, a total matched by Byron Mullens and Gerald Henderson, who both posted double-doubles for the hosts.

STATS: Lebron James posted his fourth consecutive 30+ points game for the first time this season while all of Kobe Bryant’s points came in the second half.

Oklahoma City Thunder (38-12) and the New York Knicks (32-16) kept up the pressure on San Antonio and Miami with victories tonight as they remain second in their respected conferences. Thunder powered in 72 POINTS in the second half on their way to a 127-96 win against Phoenix (17-34) with five players in double-figures including Kevin Durant, who led the way with 21 points. Carmelo Anthony’s 36 point haul helped the Knicks to a 100-94 victory in Minnesota (18-29) despite a third quarter wobble for their 13th road win of the season (Eastern conference high)

STAT: Jason Kidd provided his 12,000th assist during the game while the Timberwolves’ Ricky Rubio dished out 11 dimes (third consecutive game w/ double figures in assists).

A 20-11 double-double from Marc Gasol helped the Memphis Grizzlies (31-18) to a 99-93 success against the Golden State Warriors (30-20) despite a 32 point haul from Steph Curry. The 24 year-old matched his season-high total he recorded earlier in the season against Sacramento, where he was on the losing team on that occasion too. Memphis remain fifth in the Western conference despite the recent trade of Rudy Gay to Toronto.

Gay showed Memphis what they’re missing with a clutch jumper in overtime to give the Raptors (18-32) a 100-98 win against Indiana (31-20). A frantic finish ensued in regulation time with Amir Johnson scoring twice in the final six seconds to tie the game at 90. David West had a game-high 30 points for the Pacers, who saw their FIFTEEN game win streak at home come to an end.

New Orleans (17-33) picked up a win on the road against Atlanta (27-22), winning 111-100 as they made it back-to-back victories. The Washington Wizards (14-35) made it three in a row with an 89-74 home win against the Brooklyn Nets (29-21) with Nene producing a 20 point, 11 rebound double-double. James Harden fired in 35 points and dished out 11 assists to give Houston (28-24) a 118-103 win against Portland (24-25), who were once again led by All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge (31p-6a).

Kyrie Irving (24-6-8) led the Cavaliers (16-34) in points, rebounds and assists to help Cleveland to a 119-108 victory over Orlando (14-36), who suffered a 12th straight defeat. The final game saw Chicago return to winning ways after a 93-89 success in Salt Lake City over Utah Jazz (28-23). Carlos Boozer led the Bulls with 19 points while Luol Deng (15p-10r) and Jaokim Noah (12p-11r) adding double-doubles to counter Al Jefferson’s season-high 32 points and 13 rebounds.

Check-out Rudy Gay as he gets the game-winner in Indiana: