Flattened Last Year, Stephenson Is Flattener Vs. Knicks


INDIANAPOLIS – A year ago, Lance Stephenson was comic relief and the Indiana Pacers’ resident knucklehead. Twelve months later, he is as serious as a flagrant foul and the single biggest reason the Pacers eliminated the New York Knicks in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series Saturday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Last May, Stephenson was the Indiana deep reserve, all raw talent and immaturity, who got caught by the cameras making a choke sign when LeBron James missed free throws in Game 3 of the teams’ playoff series. James ignored him, in the moment and when asked about him later. But a couple of his Miami teammates weren’t so detached; Juwan Howard got into a verbal confrontation with Stephenson before Game 4 and backup big Dexter Pittman seemed to be on the floor late in Game 5 for the express purpose of flattening him (Pittman winked to the Heat bench after the hit across the young Pacers guard’s throat).

Now, it’s Stephenson doing the flattening. Not quite all growed up but making a mad dash in that direction, the 6-foot-5 kid from Brooklyn – from the same Lincoln High that produced the likes of Stephon Marbury and Sebastian Telfair – did New York’s NBA team wrong. He grabbed the game at both ends – grabbed it by the throat, one might say – and scored nine points in the first quarter to ignite Indiana in a game it couldn’t squander, then nine more (in not quite seven minutes) in the fourth when it mattered most.

His 25 were a career playoff high but then, just about everything Stephenson does this postseason is a career high, given how unused he was previously. Twice in the first half, Stephenson snagged rebounds and raced downcourt, going end to end through New York’s defense for buckets.

In the fourth, he picked off a pass by Carmelo Anthony and finished with a three-point play that broke a 92-92 tie. Next time down, he drew Tyson Chandler‘s sixth personal foul and hit two free throws. After an Anthony jumper made it 99-94, Stephenson backed his way first through J.R. Smith, then through Anthony for another layup. It wasn’t over, except that it was.

“Unbelievable,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s got no playoff experience whatsoever, but he’s got some of the best basketball instincts I’ve ever been around. There’s an old phrase – he’s a gamer.

“He’s not always going to look good. He’s not always going to be in the right spots defensively. … But you put him in a situation like this – Game 6, closeout game – the kid’s got a lot of guts and great basketball instincts.”

Said New York’s Iman Shumpert, Anthony’s only reliable sidekick (19 points) as their season ended: “You never want anybody else to be more aggressive than you.”

Stephenson, obviously, wasn’t alone. Heck, he wasn’t even alone in talking about the performance – Indiana delivered all five starters to the postgame podium, rare and symbolic in a couple of ways. Few teams thrive with their starting five the way the Pacers do and scrape when the subs take the floor. And few teams (Denver is another) go ensemble to the degree these guys do. In this six-game series, for instance, each of the starters led his club in scoring at least once.

It’s never just scoring with these guys. Paul George pestered Anthony all night – not entirely successfully, given the Knicks scorer’s 39 points and 15-for-29 shooting – but George got 23 back at the other end and did it all with only three fouls. Roy Hibbert scored 21 mostly finesse points but went grimier with 12 rebounds and five blocks, meeting Anthony at the rim on a dramatic turnaround late that could have put the Knicks up four.

Forward David West had a seemingly ordinary night yet found George and Stephenson with slick interior passes on smart cuts for layups, each exploiting a Smith snooze. Then there was George Hill, the point guard who came back in 48 hours from a concussion diagnosis. Hill aced the NBA’s protocol tests to get cleared to start, shot cockeyed for much of the night, but logged 42 minutes and was 7-for-7 from the line, including four to ice it late.

And still, Stephenson was the first among equals in this one. The Knicks played hard, particularly in the third quarter when Shumpert nailed three 3-pointers in a streak of four that erased a 12-point Pacers lead. No one can quibble with Anthony’s drive or concentration to get his team and the series back to Madison Square Garden for one more shot.

But while the Knicks played with elimination hanging over their heads, Stephenson played with humiliation gnawing at him from his Game 5 outing (1-for-7, four points and a low impact game on the court New York kids dream about). Stephenson couldn’t even muster a nightmare afterward. “I couldn’t sleep,” he said. “I couldn’t wait for this game.”

Vogel, the coaches and his teammates tried to snap him out of it in real time Thursday, then talked with him some more Friday and Saturday. By tipoff, he was in control, yet unleashed.

“That sort of came out of nowhere,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said.

Said West: “All year, when he plays well, we win. We understand he’s one of our main cogs in terms of improvement this team has made. When he’s aggressive as he was in the beginning of the game – most nights he’s bigger than the other ‘2’ guards, physically stronger, especially this series  – and he took advantage from start to finish.”

For two years, the Pacers worked with Stephenson and trusted in Larry Bird, the former Pacers exec who drafted him at No. 40 in 2010 and had his back as an occasionally troubled but supremely gifted player. In 2012-13 Stephenson’s emergence as the starting shooting guard eased Indiana’s loss of veteran forward Danny Granger (knee surgery) essentially for the season and fueled George’s Most Improved Player season at small forward.

Now he and the Pacers are bound for a best-of-seven rematch with Miami. If he keeps his cool, and the defending champions aren’t fully prepared for his transformation from the punk they smacked and laughed at last year, just who knocks down whom might be very much in play.

58 Comments

  1. Big Mike says:

    Miami is a bunch of punks. if Pittman had done that to me he would be looking up at the sky by now. God forgives but I prefer to make you permanently horizontal.

  2. BoogieBomb says:

    I love Heat – Pacers games…this wont be easy for either team but it will be exciting…Heat in 6

  3. ac
    May 20, 2013 at 10:53 am
    I’m sorry to be “that guy” but it needs to be said because its so offensive: the officiating all series, but particularly game six and even more particularly the second half of game six, was absolutely despicable. I understand that the home team will always get a slight advantage in the officiating, and when it’s just a slight advantage it doesn’t bother me, especially over a 7 game series because it more or less cancels itself out. But the chorus of blocking fouls that ensued in the fourth quarter quite literally cost NYK the game and thus the series. They were the better team on Saturday, starting to build a lead, you could see Indiana tightening up and then comes the fouls. Offensive hooking on Prigioni? Are you kidding me? The two tickytack fouls on Shumpert were a disgrace too. Finally, the nail in the coffin was Chandler and KMart’s 6th fouls. Both of those fouls were minor contact and any respectable official conscious of the fact that its 4th quarter game six wouldn’t have called anything.

    Yes, I’m a NYK fan but that’s irrelevant. If you think I’m not being objective watch the game again and you’ll see that what went on was pathetic. I don’t hold it against the Pacers in any capacity, I actually really like their team and hope that they are able to pull off the upset. But it’s truly disappointing to watch the entire series get determined by the refs.

    At any rate, go Pacers! I’m pulling for you guys.

  4. !@ ac-i hear u bra-i was saying the same thing about your Tricks oops i mean knicks in my Celtics series, especially the 1st 2 games in ny when Celts could have took 1 or potentially 2 games-Pierce, KG, Bradley & Green early foul trouble each game, COMEON MAN-really. You wasn’t B!!??!?! about the officiating then was you-yeah ok pal. Pacers out played ny & kept driving to the paint the whole series, especially gm 6-Pacers won fairly. Anyways……
    Go Pacers-Crush heat & Spank dat A?! real hard & send them home crying!!

  5. Allrock says:

    Bring back Nate Robinson in NYK…sign big men Al Jefferson and Okafor..trade Jr Smith and Chandler,,, and Sign Kevin Martin…need a scorer? Sign THE ANSWER! Hahaha

  6. IndianaJoe says:

    Keep right on under-estimating the Pacers. We don’t mind. This team was built to beat Miami. You just wait and see.

  7. ac says:

    I’m sorry to be “that guy” but it needs to be said because its so offensive: the officiating all series, but particularly game six and even more particularly the second half of game six, was absolutely despicable. I understand that the home team will always get a slight advantage in the officiating, and when it’s just a slight advantage it doesn’t bother me, especially over a 7 game series because it more or less cancels itself out. But the chorus of blocking fouls that ensued in the fourth quarter quite literally cost NYK the game and thus the series. They were the better team on Saturday, starting to build a lead, you could see Indiana tightening up and then comes the fouls. Offensive hooking on Prigioni? Are you kidding me? The two tickytack fouls on Shumpert were a disgrace too. Finally, the nail in the coffin was Chandler and KMart’s 6th fouls. Both of those fouls were minor contact and any respectable official conscious of the fact that its 4th quarter game six wouldn’t have called anything.

    Yes, I’m a NYK fan but that’s irrelevant. If you think I’m not being objective watch the game again and you’ll see that what went on was pathetic. I don’t hold it against the Pacers in any capacity, I actually really like their team and hope that they are able to pull off the upset. But it’s truly disappointing to watch the entire series get determined by the refs.

    At any rate, go Pacers! I’m pulling for you guys.

    • ee says:

      agreed roy hibbert gets away with so much I think the going straight up rule has been misunderstood, I would have thought you have to be there first then go straight up not jump into people straight up from anywhere which roy hibbert got away with all series. I said before the series started will be near impossible to win a game in indy the way its officiated there but I think lebron will get the calls the heat will be able to pinch one in indy HEAT 4-1

  8. lol says:

    as serious as a flagrant foul? i stopped reading there hahaha

  9. chiversblog says:

    I have to disagree with that opening paragraph. Stephenson played well, sure, but the single biggest reason the Knicks aren’t in the Eastern Conference finals is Roy Hibbert. He was a monster all series and Tyson (last year’s DPOTY) and Kenyon just couldn’t handle his size and strength. Also, Paul George was huge for them – he’s one of the best all-rounders in the league and made it extremely difficult for Melo.

  10. @ heatlatinofan-i hear what your saying because discrimination & racism does still exist here, but it exist everywhere around the world-even in south america. I myself am African/american, Irish/american, French Canadian, & Cherokee & Choctaw Indian from the U. S.-Now out of any of my ethnic backgrounds, my aboriginal native Indian Culture from this land is the most discriminated against out of any cultures in all of north & south America. You know there used to be 500 different tribes in no. & so. America before Europeans (England, Spain, Britain, Portugal) took over no. & so. America. Well, it’s a good thing a professional sports team is representing latino’s in so. America. We & my native Indian culture don’t have that ourselves & we are the original people of the north & south. Our Native Indian people are the forgotten minority of the U. S. & everybody else keeps crying about their rights & being discriminated against while the Indian has & still suffers the most. Well hey-what do i know-it’s a country of freedom isn’t it? De ga di ya hi yv-means till we meet again in Cherokee! :)

  11. Go Pacers-Smash heat & attack them! The Pacers are very capable of beating heat in any phase of the game all around. No predictions here, i’ll just say it’s going to be an interesting series. Let’s see if the officials call this series fair even & consistent w/o favor?

  12. BOSTON BEER says:

    Now Stoudemire is in danger of becoming the next Carl Pavano! He better have a good year next year…

  13. The Miami Heat represent more than just a basketball team. The Heat represent many latinos in south america whom are discriminated by natives people.

    • Shawn Kemp No. 1 says:

      the pacers are going to beat up the heat, it’s going to be another ugly series. indiana has trouble scoring but they can guard lebron well, they can stop the fast breaks and chase them off the three. i think bosh may be the answer for the heat in these series. if he hits his mid range shots consistently, its gonna be all sorts of trouble for the pacers defense. hope it goes to 7 games, wouldnt be surprised at all if indiana wins. miami is certainly the favorite, but the pacers defend home court pretty well

  14. Don´t discriminate me because my spell and cuz I don´t speak English like you.

    We as latinos have the same rights than you.

    • nbapacersfan says:

      @heatlatinofan: Whoa… no disrespect, dude… just didn’t understand what you were saying.

    • Loki says:

      Type in Spanish, google translate will tell us what you’re saying. Win for you, win for us.

      • Johnny says:

        What if he’s not good in Spanish as well? Sign language?
        You come to a ENGLISH website and wrote &#@! and when we don’t understand you throw a fit at us? That’s just grand.
        I am going to a Spanish website and start speaking nonsense and see how they treat me.

        Still no disrespect, you sensitive prick.

  15. EyronFigures says:

    Dont ever under estimate the MIAMI HEAT..refs just doing their jobs, their are not pro miami heat,ets.. Rematch for Heat and Pacers,it will be a tough series but there’s nothing more tougher series than the HEAT and BULLS.. let’s just watch and enjoy the ECF.. i am a heat fan but i am not bias at them.. i hope the heat will survive this series.. excited to watch this series:)

  16. Kimmy says:

    Noboby can beat the Heat, not the Pacers, not the Spurs, not Memphis. Pacers aren’t going to win 1 stinkin game. I can’t stand the Heat, but they sinmply have no competition this year. Sorry everyone. GO OKC!!!!!!

  17. Beholdi Shahollari says:

    NBE(National Basketball Entertainment..Yes this sport has become like the wwe. I am a huge fan of the game and game 6 was just straight horrible. The Knicks were the better team and they proved that as they didn’t need the refs at all and came back. Towards the end of the third tie game and guess what? The fouls continue. Go watch the game it was a joke Pacers couldn’t score so they were on the line from third to all of fourth. Now you know why the Kings owner sold the team. Fixed written all over it and nobody has the dignity to stand up and tell it like it is. NBE

  18. dmh says:

    Credit goes to the pacers big time…. They do not have a prototypical star. They are a team.

    As far as the knicks. I say that once the bigman injuries started flowing, that eliminated their realistic chances. I am totally in favor of the Camby trade (I don’t think the guy played unfortunately)….. However, I don’t think there was enough in the post to beat Indiana much less Miami. Kenyon Martin is a good player for his age but hes not a center. Hibbert had his way with Chandler due to size and lack of help defense. As talented as the knicks were, I don’t think they accounted for their lack of true size. Indiana couldn’t shoot their way out of a barn but they made the basketball plays that counted.

    For the next series it will be interesting to see what method works best. The Lebron factor and the 3 point shooters give Miami a slight advantage. However Bosh and Birdman are going to need help on defense with Hibbert…… See the knick series as to why those two need help with Hibbert. Hes too big.

  19. drutrips says:

    Pacer fan here…

    #1. Congrats to the Knicks, it was a fun series to watch. Good luck next year and PLEASE try to move amare and chandlers contracts.
    #2. THANK YOU BIRD/WALSH. IMHO, This is the best Pacer team that existed. (Die hard reggie fan)
    #3. Roy said it the best: When David West came to Indy, everything changed.
    #4. Getting G.Hill was a great move. Getting West was a great move. Drafting Lance, Paul, Granger & Hibbert is just ridiculous.
    #5. Tyler just keeps getting us extra positions and Reggie said it the best: “Our best offence is getting offensive rebounds”
    #6. Did I mention Thank You LARRY/DONNIE!!!!?
    #7. I never ever never ever thought that Danny would be our 3rd-5th best player. 1. George 2. West 3. Hibbert 4. Hill & 5. Lance as of right now, Lance is climbing; however, the other top 4 are NOT declining so this is awesome.
    #8. Last but not the least, I saw the post game interview w/ the entire starting 5. That was AMAZING to watch. These dudes believe in each other and are an UNIT. Thank You VOGUL!! YOU ARE A GREAT COACH!

    LET’S GO PACERS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  20. Do you know what is funny to me to see?

    Pacers don´t have fundaments. They seem have learned played on the streets.

    It´s a matter of lucky i guess.

    They have Agustin and Hill´s depending.

    They depend on position number 1. MY OPINION PERIOD. BYE.:)

  21. Fuuu says:

    Pacers can thank the ref’s for game 6. The game was handed in a silver platter

  22. mee(a)t says:

    Iman Shumpert got banged up but when he gets touchy touchy…FOUL

  23. Knixfan says:

    Please move CHANDLER contract. We need a rebounder not a volleyball player.

  24. Shawn says:

    i am a Knick fan, but all credit goes to Indiana. Stephenson plays like a NEW YORKER. his attitude is of a New Yorker, he plays hard, executies… what can you say. he should come on home! We can use him on the Knicks! I know it is hard to lose, but it was a good run for the Knicks. the veterans started the year, taught the youngsters a lesson, and they all did well.

  25. Bird33 says:

    Well done Indiana. I guess Melo has never read “The Jordan Rules”. MJ learned quickly he couldn’t do it all himself AND win a ring. 10 years in and “the ball hog” Anthony still hasn’t figured it out. Not only is he a self centered Diva (see Nuggets departure) but apparently he’s as dumb as a stump too!! Couldn’t happen to a better or bigger ego and idiot LOL. Too late now to change who you are, Melo. You will no doubt be a HOF’er but it will be accepted by a set of hands that are ring free. Ha ha. I love seeing non-team players fail….it proves Karma does exist hee hee. Best outcome of the playoffs so far, in my opinion (seeing Dwight fail miserably is a close second). Just one thing left to enjoy…watch the Heat get thrown around by a big bruising teM and fail on their repeat..(speaking of Divas !!)

  26. love says:

    this should be a good series miami vs pacers, rematch of last year. pacers posses the one weakness that miami have size down low (rebounding) and miami, miami won 27 game in a row that’s not a fluke. can’t wait for this series to start.

  27. JimD54 says:

    BringBackReggie31 is right, if the refs don’t cheat for Miami the Pacers will win this……

  28. W/E says:

    There goes the lame 2 hero wannabe, shoot jacking team(Carmelo, Shmith) AS EXPECTED ANYWAY like in Denver,old news,the Pacers gotta play mad defence now cause the Heat have way more talent, James,Wade and Bosh alone are better then any player in the Pacers, Hibbert wont be a factor if the Heat play defence inside,they have good energy big guys who can give him toruble, they also have more offensive power i dont think the Pacers can hurt the Heat.

  29. From a Celtics fan-Go Get It Pacers-Put It On Them!!!

  30. Let's go Heat! says:

    Undoubtedly, Heats haters will make use of every opportunity to attack Heats (including the writer) even the series is not related to Heats. But Pacers and haters cannot win Heats by words. Action speaks louder than words. Heats increase its bench depth this season. Heats in 5 or 6!

  31. Bruno says:

    The officiating in this game was outrageous. I’m a Heat fan, but I can’t help but feel sorry that the Knicks were mugged like this.

  32. John says:

    I’m a HEAT fan but I don’t see this being an easy series at all. I’m calling Miami in 7 but if D-wade doesn’t get going I wouldn’t even be surprised to see the Pacers pull it off since Hibbert will dominate inside.

    I think the big key will be depth, since Miami can find a hot shooter everynight to back up the big 3.

  33. LJ Charles says:

    looking forward to this match-up, i think its going to be a 5-7 game series

  34. LBJKIN6JAMES says:

    Heat in 5 !
    #4X MVP

  35. BringBackReggie31 says:

    the pacers could possibly beat the heat if Roy Hibbert can control the paint like he did against the knicks & if David west can punish Lebron down low .. Just hope the referees call the series fair (David Stern might fine me for mentioning the refs :(
    ) .. LETS GO PACERS

    • Johnny says:

      West on Lebron? Shouldn’t it be Bosh?
      Yea some ref is still at the staple center calling the game.

  36. baboy says:

    i dont like the knicks or pacers but game 6 was called all in favor of indiana…

  37. Dionte Christmas says:

    Heard this dude was training specially with Larry Bird. Hope he does well in his career, and puts the Heat to the sword in this series.

  38. nbapacersfan says:

    When’s the last time you saw a team representing in a post game presser??? Not a superstar, not two or three superstars… but a real TEAM.

    BLUE COLLAR / GOLD SWAGGER

  39. nba fan says:

    Its MIAMI VS PACERS, George Hill must be careful , remember what Wade did to Rondo……….

  40. Loki says:

    In before Heat fans throw a hissy fit at the idea of Indiana winning one game!