Paul George and the Pacers, finally, could muster no more.
George grabbed Vince Carter in backcourt, literally begging a referee to stop the game with a whistle. The Indiana forward clutched his leg. Teammates carried him to the bench and then eventually the locker room.
Eight months after an NBA appointed doctor ruled George was “substantially more likely than not” to miss the entire season and nearly three months after the Pacers fell four games and four teams out of playoff position, they were finally, actually, really done.
The Pacers lost to the Grizzlies, 95-83, tonight, allowing the Nets – who beat the Magic – to take the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.
The Grizzlies get home-court advantage in the first round and an easier matchup, the Trail Blazers rather than the Clippers. The rest of us will be stuck watching the playoffs and seeing a Brooklyn team that barely beat lowly Orlando at home in a must-win game.
Safe to say, the hard-playing Pacers would have been a more more enjoyable matchup with the Hawks. George was diagnosed with a sore calf in his left leg, not the right leg he fractured at a World Cup scrimmage. So, he might have even played against Atlanta.
Indiana just couldn’t get that far.
David West (four points before suffering his own game-ending injury in the first quarter) and Roy Hibbert (seven points and four rebounds) contributed little, and this might be the end of the Pacers as we know them. George Hill (20 points, six assists and five rebounds) looks like a keeper, but – even with George playing just 15 minutes – relying on C.J. Miles to lead the team in scoring (26 points) is not a winning formula.
To be fair, Memphis has been the better team all season. Marc Gasol scored a career-high 33 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and Zach Randolph – despite limping often enough to make the Grizzlies uncomfortable – added 18 points and nine rebounds. That is a winning formula.
Memphis is a strong threat to advance in the postseason, much more than Indiana would have been. But after so many setbacks, a mere appearance in the playoffs would have more than justified itself.
The Pacers just couldn’t take that last necessary step.