George, now 16 months removed from breaking his leg in a Team USA scrimmage, made headlines with talk of winning an MVP award back in September. His initial return to the court, for the final seven games of the 2014-15 season, was largely tepid as the small forward struggled to regain his feel. Returning to elite status seemed doable, but ascending to the top dog conversation was a bit more far-fetched.
With George averaging 26.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the 12–7 Pacers, who sit near the top of the Eastern Conference, consider his predictions more than adequately backed up. Though Indiana dropped this one 122–119 on the road to Utah, currently missing Rudy Gobert, George was spectacular, draining eight three-pointers, grabbing eight boards and carrying the Pacers as he’s done all season. The return of player and team to the league’s upper-echelon has been one of the season’s early surprises and contributed to the Eastern Conference’s evident resurgence in quality.
George’s previous career-high was 43, against the Trail Blazers in December 2013. He scored the most points by a Pacer since Jermaine O’Neal’s 55 in 2005. He added 14 in the fourth quarter to carry the Pacers to overtime. You can watch his highlights below.
Any recap of this game would be remiss to leave out Derrick Favors, who scored a career-high 35 points of his own to lead the Jazz and added 13 rebounds. He’s posted three straight double-doubles and has established a case for his first All-Star appearance. Still just 24, Favors’s emergence will be even more critical for Utah team down a gameplan-changing interior defender in Gobert.