Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Indiana Pacers make sure they make it a series with Miami Heat

Published on Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Special to The Miami Herald

Lance Stephenson said after the Pacers loss Sunday, where he was held to seven points and one rebound, he felt he needed to show people he was up to the challenge of facing the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.

In Game 4 Tuesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Stephenson redeemed himself with his second-biggest offensive output of the playoffs.

His 20-point effort was critical in Indiana’s 99-92 win, tying the series at 2-2.

“I watched a lot of film, and I told myself I’m going to be aggressive,” Stephenson said. “If I’m not aggressive, we’re not the team that we are tonight. I take whatever they give me. If they give me the jumper, I’ll take it. I just have to be in attack mode.”

Stephenson’s midrange jumper with just less than four minutes left to play tied the score at 89-all, sending a message that he was not quite done.

With the Pacers clinging to a 94-92 lead, he hit a floating jumper that bounced off the rim and dropped in with a little more than a minute left to give Indiana a two-possession lead.
With a rejuvenated Stephenson and the continued strong play of Roy Hibbert, the Pacers regrouped to the form that made them nearly invincible at home in the playoffs.

“I couldn’t even sleep last night,” Stephenson said. “My teammates were on me. I didn’t play up to my abilities the last game. I felt [Tuesday] I had to show everybody that I’m ready for any competition and any challenge that comes to me.”
Indiana coach Frank Vogel said beyond Stephenson’s 20 points, he did all the little things players like him needs to do help the Pacers win.

“I think he made some great loose-ball plays in terms of offensive rebounds,” Vogel said. “I believe the biggest play of the game was Roy Hibbert’s offensive rebound and one [with 1:30 left in the game.] I think Lance was crashing the board, too, and occupied Roy’s man so he could get open. Those were big plays.”

An example of Stephenson’s re-emergence came in the third quarter after the Heat regained the lead.

A critical tip-in of a missed shot near the six minute mark cut Miami’s lead to one point. That allowed the Pacers to take back the lead moments at 61-60 later on a David West jumper with 5:35 left.

When Indiana needed a basket at the end of the third, Hill found Stephenson in the left corner, where he spotted up and drilled the three-point jumper to lift the Pacers to a 77-70 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“I was hesitant on my shots before,” Stephenson said. “I have to let the three’s come to me. I was just trying to play hard and smart.”

Hibbert’s continued domination in the paint was expected. Hibbert’s sensational rebound and putback with 1:30 left in the game gave Indiana a 94-89 lead. Hibbert scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds in the first half on his way to a 23-point, 12-rebound performance.

“We’re mentally tough," Hibbert said. “Not one guy in that locker room didn’t believe we were going to win this game tonight. We showed fortitude and we picked each other up.”

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