The Pacers almost had it. 

In Indiana's 109-108 loss to the 2-seed Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 Saturday, the Pacers got the game where they wanted it. They scored at will, shot 49 percent from the field, got 29 points from Paul George, and had it inside five points in the final five minutes, with a chance for George to close it.

They actually pulled within a point, with the ball, with 20 seconds to go. They got the ball to their best player, and even better, they were basically given a free look at how the Cavs were preparing to defend the final possession as Cleveland took the foul it had to give after LeBron James came to double and forced the ball out of George's hands.  

Here, take a look. Via Reddit

As you can see, the Cavaliers telegraphed what they were doing here. LeBron James is blatantly saying "we're going to throw two guys at George, we're not letting him go 1-on-1." Realistically, the Pacers should've known this even before the Cavs tipped their hand. It would've been ridiculous to let George go one-on-one vs. J.R. Smith with the floor spaced and the game on the line, particularly after George, who was 6-for-8 on 3s on the day, had just hit a pull-up 3 the possession before. 

But George said he was surprised.

"Being up one and 20 seconds on the clock, that was a surprise to get trapped," George said. "Usually you try to force a turnover early when you're down. But it's no surprise, period, to see a double team. We should've knew that was coming."      

He's right. They should've known. Especially after the Cavs then gave them a dry run for good measure. But still, on the second time around, when James did the same exact thing and came to double George, what did George do? Facing a hard trap, he immediately gave the ball up. The Cavs got what they wanted. 

As a result, this is the contested C.J. Miles jumper the Pacers wound up getting, via Reddit:

OK, a couple things here. First, James came with the double earlier this time, which, again, George said surprised him. Also, for the people saying that George simply should've gone hard right, away from LeBron, well, as you can see in the photo below, Smith did a really good job of jumping hard left to cut off that angle, effectively trapping George.


The easy answer here, if you want to ensure that George gets the final shot, is to go before the double comes. George had time to do that, but that also risks giving the Cavs the ball back even if they do get a make, which you cannot do there. He had to give it up. 

"We've gone through this really all season long as far as spacing and situations like that, Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. "And if they do double team, he has to get it out. He got it out to C.J., C.J. had a decent look, but I thought we could have attacked that a little better."  

McMillan is probably right. But again, these things happen quickly. You don't get to put situations in slow motion and break then down to the second in the heat of the moment. And in the end, it wasn't a terrible shot that Miles got. It was a relatively clean, if contested, look, and you could make the argument that a shot like that to steal Game 1 is all Indiana could've asked for against the Cavs in their building. 

In fact, Miles winding up with a contested shot probably had less to do with Miles not attacking than it did Lance Stephenson not flashing. Take a look at Lance here, seemingly wide open under the basket before LeBron had started to come with the double. 

If you're thinking George should've tried to slip a pass through to Stephenson, think again. 

"Well, I mean, Lance was open, but that would've been a play that they were on. They almost were baiting me to throw that. Richard Jefferson was kind of cat and mousing it, and I saw that," George said after the game. "I told Lance he had to flash up, flash to that nail, and that would have been the ballgame right there, 'cause Richard can't guard both C.J. and Lance.'"


George is right. If he attempts to thread that needle, Jefferson anticipates and makes the steal, or at least deflects the ball. But a Stephenson flash to the elbow puts Jefferson in a precarious position: Either stay with Lance at the free throw line, or fade out to Miles. Chances are he stays with Lance -- if not, it's an easy one-dribble move to the rim through a wide-open lane, or at worst an uncontested 15-footer -- which would've left Miles with an uncontested look. 

Instead, Jefferson, with no flashing Stephenson to account for, is right with Miles on the catch:


And that's how quickly it happens. George doesn't attack, Stephenson doesn't flash, and now you're just looking for whatever shot you can get. And what the Pacers got wasn't the shot they wanted. Whether that's on George, his teammates, or coach McMillan, it was a failure, and it probably cost the Pacers their best chance to flip this series on its head.