If Paul George doesn't play on Saturday against the Heat (concussion), there's almost no way the Pacers can win.
I know what you're probably thinking: "How could they possibly win without Paul George, their best player?" I've got two words for you: Lance. Stephenson.
I wrote an article about the hot-headed Indiana Guard's transformation from bench-warmer to X-factor, which you can find here (link).
Right now, the Pacers' slogan is: "In Lance we trust." That's what really scares me. Last year Lance was an inconsistent, though still solid, starter for this Indiana team. Now? He's carrying the burden of not only stopping one of the most explosive scorers the game has ever seen, but also with the load of carrying the offense.
You see, last year, when Lance played well Indiana mostly won, but even if Lance had a bad game they could still win. That is most certainly no longer the case. Even if Paul George plays, and plays well, there's no way the Pacers can survive if Lance gives them two klunkers in games 3 and 4. But Lance is different than your average inconsistent young Guard.
Because when he's at his best, he's on the same level as Lebron James and Kevin Durant. He's just never sustained it for a full game, let alone multiple games. The only way I could see the Pacers winning game 3 or 4 if George is out, is if Lance finds a way to sustain those unique outburst of excellence that he inconsistently exudes and takes the team on his back to put up 40-60 points and spur the team on until George gets back.
The terrifying thing for Pacers fans is that Lance is arguably the most unpredictable player in the NBA. He could game out in Game 3 and go off for 60 points, or score 0 points and shoot 0-for-12 from the field. At this point, neither one of those would surprise me. As scary as it is to Pacers fans, this is Lance's game, and he's going to be the deciding factor as to whether or not Indy will go back home tied up at 2-2, or down 3-1.
It's all on Lance Stephenson. And as I've learned through his frustrating inconsistency, the only person that can stop Lance Stephenson is Lance Stephenson.