2183365, "He just didn't want to lose." (c) Iman Shumpert (Swipe)|
Posted by Orbit_Established, Mon May-20-13 11:12 AM
Stephenson Gives Indiana Energy, Points and Signature Play
By ZACH SCHONBRUN
INDIANAPOLIS — There were four minutes left, the game was tied and the ball was in Carmelo Anthony’s hands — a circumstance the Knicks would not complain much about late in Game 6 on Saturday. But with Paul George on his left hip, and Roy Hibbert looming in the paint, Anthony tried to skip a pass over his shoulder to J. R. Smith on the wing.
And Lance Stephenson read the play all the way.
Stephenson pounced and intercepted the fluttering pass, raced down court with only Smith to beat, and drew a foul as he went up for a layup. The ball dropped through the net. Stephenson pointed up toward the overjoyed crowd.
The steal became a signature moment of Saturday’s 106-99 Pacers win, and perhaps the foremost play of Stephenson’s young career. The Knicks would not score again for another 80 seconds, and by then Indiana had a 99-92 lead.
“I thought Lance’s steal, that and-one, that really got us some momentum,” forward David West said.
Stephenson, West added, was “ultimately the one that got us over the hump,” scoring 25 points with 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 9-of-13 shooting from the field and 7-of-8 shooting from the free-throw line.
He scored 16 points in the first half and then all 9 of his remaining points in the fourth, pushing the ball up the floor, at times a bit out of control. But his energy was infectious and his determination clear.
“He just didn’t want to lose,” Knicks guard Iman Shumpert said. “He was going to push the ball until someone stopped him, and we didn’t stop him.”
Stephenson, a Brooklyn native, struggled in Game 5, going 1 of 7 from the field with 4 points, tying his playoffs low. He looked uncomfortable filling in for George Hill at point guard, and Saturday he reverted back to what he does best: flying toward the rim for rebounds and dunks.
“I couldn’t wait for this game,” Stephenson said. “I couldn’t sleep. I was focused tonight on playing my game and doing whatever I could to help my teammates.”
Anthony committed three turnovers and scored just 4 points in the fourth quarter. On his fourth-quarter performance, he said: “I really don’t know. I have to sit back and think about that.”
Stephenson scored all nine of his baskets within three feet of the rim, supplying the Pacers offensive energy and putting pressure on Knicks center Tyson Chandler, who ended up fouling out. And when the game could not be tighter, Stephenson stepped forward and made a play to carry the Pacers to the next round.
“Unbelievable,” Pacers Coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s got no playoff experience whatsoever, but he has some of the best basketball instincts I’ve been around. He’s a gamer.”
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