The long break between games in the Eastern Conference finals could be welcomed by Indiana, after Pacers guard Paul George was diagnosed Wednesday with a concussion that will force him to complete several NBA-mandated procedures before he can return to the matchup against the Miami Heat.
The series, now tied at a game apiece, doesn't resume until Saturday night.
And what at first might have been looked at as an awkward break, three full days off until the next game day, is probably now welcomed by the Pacers. Indiana not only needs to get George cleared but also had starters Lance Stephenson, Roy Hibbert and David West all either limping or ailing in the final minutes of the Game 2 loss on Tuesday night.
George was hurt with 6:52 left in the fourth quarter of Miami's Game 2 victory. He stole the ball from Heat guard Dwyane Wade, but could not keep control and wound up tumbling face-first to the court. Wade, also going for the ball, struck the back of George's head with his left knee, then appeared to scrape the same area with his right leg as he also fell to the hardwood.
George remained down for a few moments, but played the remainder of the game. He revealed afterward that he "blacked out" on the play, something that the Pacers say was not relayed to their medical staff.
"George exhibited no symptoms of a concussion and, in response to questions from the Pacers' medical staff, he denied dizziness, nausea, and issues with his vision," the Pacers said Wednesday. "He was also active and aware of his surroundings. As a result, the Indiana medical staff did not suspect a concussion."
But after the "blacked out" comment, the Pacers evaluated George again Wednesday morning.
"This case illustrates that concussion evaluation is an ongoing process and manifestations of the injury may not always present immediately," said NBA concussion program director Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, who will discuss George's return-to-participation process with the Pacers' team doctor before clearance is given for a return.
Miami evened the series with an 87-83 win, after LeBron James and Wade controlled the fourth quarter for the Heat. George made a 3-pointer to give Indiana a 73-69 lead on the possession immediately preceding the one where he got tangled with Wade. The Heat answered with a 13-2 run over the next five minutes, James scoring nine of those points and Wade getting the other four.
Just like that, the Heat grabbed the home-court edge in the series.
"They're a tough bunch," Heat forward Chris Bosh said of the Pacers. "Very good team and we're going to continue to challenge each other throughout the series. It's just now getting started. We have to take care of home court. First, we can really relax for a few days, and then get to it on Saturday."
Both teams were off on Wednesday.
"I just know I've got warriors behind me, and we're just going to take it to them," Stephenson said. "We've just got to take our time. It's a long series. We've just got to stay together."
The NBA's concussion policy states that once a player is diagnosed, he needs to be "held out of all activity until he is symptom-free at rest" and until neurological signs return to normal. George will have to go through tests of increasing exertion before he gets cleared.
"It's important to note that there is no timeframe to complete the protocol," the NBA's policy states. "Each injury and player is different and recovery time can vary in each case."
Pacers coach Frank Vogel said he was told during the game that George was "good to go."
There were plenty of other aches and pains for Indiana to deal with. West appeared to get poked in an eye in the fourth quarter, Hibbert was flexing his left leg after a tumble in the final seconds, and Stephenson went down at midcourt after colliding with Wade on the game's final play, grabbing the area around his right knee.
Stephenson got up, took the game's last shot and then limped off without needing any on-court medical attention.
"It's never pretty basketball in the Eastern Conference," James said.