Pacers forward Paul George doggedly chases Rockets guard James Harden during Friday's 105-95 Indiana win. / Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports
INDIANAPOLIS - Paul George is an All-Star.
End of story. Debating it anymore would be foolish.
The Indiana Pacers swingman put his stamp on his first All-Star appearance Friday night with 31 points, six rebounds and five steals in a 105-95 victory against the Houston Rockets at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
"Paul George, I think, solidified it tonight," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "I don't think there's any doubt. ... All they have to do is look at this game."
The All-Star reserves will be announced Thursday. Teams routinely send emails to the coaches, who vote for the rest of the team, campaigning for their players.
Vogel doesn't need a flowery letter to get George on the team. His third-year swingman should be joining LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade on the Eastern Conference squad.
George knows it, too.
That's why he chuckled when asked if he expects to play in the game next month in Houston.
"I'm not expecting, but if it happens, it happens," George said. "I'm not expecting. It'll be an honor to be an All-Star."
George wouldn't admit it, but his teammates had no problem saying what a lot of other people believe.
"Are you serious?," center Roy Hibbert asked. "It's a no-brainer. He has to make it. The coaches have to vote for him."
George's résumé has all the necessities for an All-Star.
The Pacers have the third-best record in the East. George leads the Pacers in scoring. He also rebounds, distributes the ball and defends.
George scored as many points in the first quarter as the Rockets, 18, on 6-for-9 shooting.
He has scored at least 20 points 12 times since going scoreless at the Golden State Warriors on Dec. 1.
"Paul George? I don't know what to say," Vogel said. "Exceptional, exceptional effort."
George's ability to get into passing lanes to come up with steals is similar to Allen Iverson's. But what separates George from many others is that he's also an exceptional on-the-ball defender whose length causes havoc.
George isn't showing off his skill against journeymen.
He's guarding the opposing team's best player while also carrying a heavy scoring load.
"Coach challenges me every game," George said. "I'm going to go at them and I'm going to make them take a lot of shots. I want them to put up a bunch of shots in order to reach their average or force them to turn the ball over. That's my goal when I'm guarding the best players."
Houston's James Harden joined James in having to work for their points against George.
Just like he did with James last week, George held Harden below his scoring average.
Harden, who went into the game averaging 26 points, was held to 17 on 5-of-19 shooting with five turnovers. It's the first time in 22 games that Harden has been held to fewer than 20 points.
"I've never really seen a defender like Paul," Vogel said. "He's dominating. He sniffs out balls. He's got incredible hands, but the difference with Paul is he's an incredible ball container."
George is also an All-Star.
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Read the original story: Paul George makes All-Star case as Pacers top Rockets