National stage set for George
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - After a breakout regular season, Indiana Pacers forward Paul George has had two huge playoff games against the Atlanta Hawks, but he'll have to wait for Round 2 before anyone notices.

Much of the Pacers-Hawks series will likely be broadcast on NBA TV, and it carries the least appeal of any first-round series this season.

That means George's triple-double in Game 1 and 27 points in Game 2 have flown under the radar, just like the rest of his season.

George was a top-15 fantasy player in 2012-13 with averages of 17.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.8 steals, 0.6 blocks and 2.2 3-pointers per game. He was the most consistent force on a 49-win team, but you won't see him finish anywhere near the top five in MVP voting.

However, a big Round 2 could vault his stock into the stratosphere.

The Pacers should eliminate the lame-duck Hawks soon, setting up a potential matchup with Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks, who are up 2-0 on the Boston Celtics.

George, who was named the NBA's Most Improved Player this week, averaged 20 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.5 steals and 2.8 3-pointers over four games against the Knicks this season.

George needed a playoff do-over after shooting just 38.9 percent from the field and averaging 9.7 ppg over 11 playoff games last season.

After just two games, he already has nearly half as many points (50) as he had in last year's postseason (107), and he hasn't even shot well yet.

George is averaging 25 ppg despite shooting 14-of-34 (.412) from the floor and just 1-of-9 (.111) from 3-point range in the last two games. He shot 42 percent from the field and 36.2 percent from 3-point range in the regular season.

Dominating the Hawks is nice, but the real test will come in Round 2 against the superstar- and veteran-laden roster of the Knicks. Indiana and New York waged some fierce battles in the late 1990s, and George will make a name for himself if he goes off at Madison Square Garden, even if he doesn't do much jawing with Knicks celebrity superfan Spike Lee.

If the Celtics manage to pull of a miracle and win four of the next five games against New York, they too will present a big stage for George, considering Boston owns the most successful franchise in NBA history and has plenty of playoff-tested starts of its own in Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry.

The Celtics limited George to 12.5 ppg on 27.5 percent shooting in their two meetings this season.

Whether they play the Knicks or Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Pacers need George to continue his path to superstardom if they are going to make any noise in these playoffs.

He has succeeded to date, but not many people outside of Indiana and Atlanta have been paying attention.

That will change once he gets to Round 2 and faces one of the NBA's premier franchises, with all games being broadcast on ESPN, ABC or TNT.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.