Stephenson Showing his Worth in NBA Playoffs


INDIANAPOLIS — After leading all rebounders in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semis against the Knicks, Brooklyn’s own Lance Stephenson has been almost the forgotten starter for the Pacers.

Well, he reminded everybody of his presence in a big fourth-quarter way Tuesday night.



The Knicks were mounting one of their countless runs and had pulled to within eight points. So Stephenson banged in a huge 3-pointer from the right top at 10:13. After Indiana’s defense stoned the Knicks again the other way, Stephenson drove against J.R. Smith for a finger roll. Bam, Pacers back up 13.

“I was just in attack mode. Don’t worry about how many shots you miss, just be in attack mode and take whatever comes to you and we did that tonight,” said Stephenson, who finished with 13 points, hitting 5-of-13 attempts, in the Pacers’ 93-82 victory that provided a comfortable 3-1 series lead for Indiana.

The shots were, frankly, Knick momentum killers.

“They were real important,” Paul George (18 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists) said of Stephenson’s scores. “We did a great job of countering any run that they had.”

The Knicks didn’t see a single digit deficit again until the final minute when their chances were wedged between you’re kidding and no way.

“We were just playing together. Everybody was hitting their shots, playing smart,’’ said Stephenson. “We took whatever came to us and we played defense. When we do that we’re unstoppable.”

For the Pacers in this series, Roy Hibbert has been huge — literally and figuratively. Paul George has garnered praise for his defense. David West had been a moose inside. And George Hill has directed the offense. Stephenson sparkled in the first game and, while efficient, has been in the publicity background since.

But not doing so without notice.

“He makes a lot of winning plays,” said Indiana coach Frank Vogel, praising Stephenson’s rotations, and big-shot ability. “He’s really playing within the offense, too. He’s spacing appropriately.”

And coming through when needed. Now the Pacers can end the series at the Garden tomorrow after winning two here.

“This is our home and we had to protect home,” the Lincoln High legend said. “We’re playing good defense, being aggressive. Just playing smart. We bring that to New York and the sky’s the limit for us.”

And maybe the ship be sinkin’ for the Knicks.


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