Paul George has shot .398 overall since Jan. 1.

Paul George has shot .398 overall since Jan. 1.

20130429-135523.jpgThe next couple of days being the calm before the storm – the Miami Heat caravan followed by the Midwest Regional madness – let’s pause today to examine this, that and thother regarding the Pacers.

Let us begin with:

WHAT’S GOING ON WITH GEORGE?

For a few weeks, I have been shrugging off suggestions from fans that Paul George’s decline in efficiency was somehow related to his Miami stripper baby-mama drama last month.

But now come reports he recently was the victim of a catfishing scheme, allegedly sending extremely personal digital selfies to a man posing as a woman. The man, of course, subsequently posted the embarrassing images on the web. Though George hasn’t commented on this latest event, this could be another major distraction at the worst possible time for him and the Pacers.

There is no question George’s inefficiency has reached alarm-bell levels. Is he tired? Distracted? Both?

After George shot 4-for-17 in the loss to the Knicks, Frank Vogel had a sit-down with his laboring star.

“I know he really wants to help this team by carrying the load on the offensive end but his number one goal has got to be efficiency, for all of us,” Vogel told 1070’s Michael Grady and Joe Staysniak last Thursday. “I’ve had this conversation with Danny Granger, I’ve had this conversation with Paul Pierce as a young player. The team comes to lean on your production and if it’s not there at a high enough level then maybe you force a little trying to give the team that production and it leads to a lower efficiency type of style of play.

“With Paul, it’s just going to be about being assertive like you’re going to try to score 40 but if help comes every single time and that means you have to get eight shots and 18 points but you’re efficient in those eight shots, then that’s got to be the right basketball play to make. They key word with him right now is efficiency.”

In the two games since that chat, George needed 23 shots (making five) to score 18 points.

In the last four games, he has averaged 13 points on 13-of-54 (.241) shooting overall, 5-of-19 (.263) from the 3-point line. But this is just a small sample of a bigger problem.

His efficiency has been on a steady decline for nearly three full months. Since Jan. 1, George has shot .398 overall and .335 from the 3-point line.

Prior to that, he was shooting .471 overall and .399 from the arc.

Clearly, something is going on. Defenses were bound to adjust to his hot start, and they have; they’ll let him take as many 3-pointers as he wants as a trade-off to keeping him away from the rim. When he does drive, George hasn’t been nearly as aggressive and has become increasingly distracted by perceived slights from the officials.

Whatever the cause, it is up to George to clean up his game, and his personal life, before he leads the Pacers someplace they really don’t belong.

WHAT’S GOING ON WITH MIAMI?

The only solace for the Pacers these days has been Miami’s plight. Indiana has opened wide the door to the top spot in the East by going 6-6 in its last 12 games and a moribund 12-9 since Feb. 7, but the Heat has lost seven of 11.

After the most recent loss in New Orleans Saturday night, both LeBron James and Chris Bosh spoke out.

“It’s too many excuses; everything is an excuse,” James said. “We do something wrong, it’s an excuse. We don’t get a stop, it’s an excuse. We turn the ball over, it’s an excuse. What we’re doing right now ain’t good enough.”

Bosh was more talkative, saying among other things “we suck” and the team has “no passion” one court.

He punctuated his comments with: “If we don’t play better, we’ll be watching the championship at home.”

These are not the storylines anticipated for Wednesday’s showdown game in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

FAST BREAKS …

>> Tonight’s Pacers-Bulls rematch in Chicago should be lively, as the Bulls did not respond well to their 91-79 loss in Indy Friday night. “I thought there was a lot of flopping going on out there,” said Taj Gibson. “Any time you see that it makes you think that you don’t want to get a ticky-tack foul.” Joakim Noah offered this: “They’re a very good team and I’m excited to play them again in a couple of days, I’m excited to play them come playoff time. We’ll be back.”

>> Vogel has tinkered with the rotation, bringing Chris Copeland out of cold storage the past two games with generally positive results. The bench had a 64-51 scoring advantage in those two games.

>> The Pacers have been oustcored by 61 points in the first quarter of their last 11 games, an average deficit of 5.5. The culprit has been the offense, which has averaged a paltry 18.6 points.

>> The transition game also has been problematic. They’ve been outscored 86-46 on fast-breaks points in the last eight games.

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