Nunez Rated one of the Top Small Forwards in the Country

Class of 2018 Position Rankings: Small forwards

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We’ve brought back the position rankings to basketball and we reintroduce them this week by ranking the best point guards, shooting guards, small forwards, power forwards and centers in the class of 2018.

NEW RELEASESmall Forwards | Shooting Guards | Point Guards

MORE RANKINGS2018 Team | 2018 Rivals150 | 2019 Rivals150 | 2020 Rivals150

Today, we move to the small forwards, who are led by the nation’s No. 1 ranked player, Dukecommit

, a Canadian who plays his high school ball at Montverde (Fla.) Academy. What stands out about the 2018 crop of small forwards as a whole? Who is the best fit for his college destination and who might be getting a bit overlooked?Rivals.com national basketball analysts Eric Bossi and Corey Evans weigh in with their thoughts.

WHAT STANDS OUT TO ME MOST ABOUT THE 2018 SMALL FORWARDS IS …

 1

NATIONAL
STATE

 1

POSITION
R.J.
BARRETT
RANK
N/A
6’7″ 200 LBS SF
MONTVERDE ACADEMY
MONTVERDE, FL
CLASS OF 2018

SIGNED LOI
11/10/2017

DUKE

Eric Bossi: “In the age of multi-positional players and versatility, what stands out to me is how many of the top-end small forwards in 2018 will be able to be utilized as small ball four men to help stretch and extend defenses. Duke commit

North Carolina commit

Syracuse commit

Oregon commit

Texas commit

and Indiana commit

are all players who I would bet end up playing a decent amount of time at the four during their college careers. And that’s just guys who rank in the top 10 at the position.”Corey Evans: “Who, in five or six years, can we label as the best?

has remained the top prospect in the 2018 class ever since he reclassified at the tail end of the summer. Barrett has all of the physical abilities to make himself a long-tenured standout in the NBA. However, who is to say that

,

or

couldn’t have an even better career? They each have totally different skill sets and as the game evolves in the coming years, it will be interesting to see who announces themselves as the best.”

THE BEST FIT FOR HIS COLLEGE DESTINATION IS …

Bossi: “It’s hard not to like how good a fit

is for Syracuse. Because of his length and quickness, Bazley will be able to play on the top or bottom of the Orange’s two-three zone and he’ll give them a valuable rebounder and versatile offensive player who will allow them to go big with him on the wing or small with him as a four man. Thinking about him and

playing alongside each other on the front line is something that ACC foes aren’t going to be looking forward to.”

Image result for adrien nunez basketball

Evans: “

isn’t known by many, as the New York native entered last summer as a member of the 2017 class with zero scholarship offers. Thanks to a prolific performance in July, converting nine three-pointers in one game alone, Nunez’s stock soared. Thereafter, he decided to take a prep year at St. Thomas More this fall as a number of top mid-major and high-level programs entered the picture. Ultimately, Nunez was swayed by Michigan coach John Beilein and the system that he has become known for throughout the years. Just like it was for

and

, Nunez may have found the ideal landing spot and opportunity to shine the brightest.”

THE SMALL FORWARD WHOSE POTENTIAL CATCHES MY EYE IS …

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Nassir Little

Bossi: “I’m not exactly going out on a limb here because we already have him ranked No. 3 at his position, but I could see

eventually passing the guys ahead of him. He’s not as skilled as

or quite the overwhelming athlete

is, but he’s improving at a rapid rate and seems to have another level he can reach at North Carolina and beyond. Moving a bit further down the list, I’d keep a close eye on Creighton-bound

and UConn commit

. Bishop has tremendous size and skill while Matthews is a long, lean kid with the potential to develop into an elite jump shooter.”Evans: “There is something about

that has really caught my eye. The 2018 wing from Charleston, S.C., has become the forgotten member of Vanderbilt’s highly lauded recruiting class this winter, but he may emerge early in Nashville as an integral piece in coach Bryce Drew’s offense. A highly valued shooter that has developed his ball skills in recent months, Nesmith is an elite competitor. He can score in volumes but it is his willingness to maximize his game that could be the reason that he surprises some as a high-level producer in the SEC.”

 

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Stephenson Clutch in Pacers Win

Super Lance shows up late to lead Pacers to key win over 76ers

JIM AYELLO | JIM.AYELLO@INDYSTAR.COM

0 minutes ago
“We’re just trying to show everybody it’s serious, but it’s still a game.”
JIM AYELLO/INDYSTAR

INDIANAPOLIS – When the Indiana Pacers and their fans needed him most, Super Lance swooped in to save the day.

With Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers looking like it might come down to the write, Super Lance Stephenson made sure it did not. Stephenson delivered yet another one of his signature frenetic fourth-quarter performances to help the Pacers wrestle away 100-92 win against the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (1) celebrates his three point basket in the second half against the Philadelphia 76ers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Pacers guard Lance Stephenson (1) celebrates his three point basket in the second half against the Philadelphia 76ers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
TREVOR RUSZKOWSKI-USA TODAY SPORTS

After scoring just two points in the first half — though he did collect another highlight reel assist in the second quarter — Stephenson went berserk in the fourth, draining 3-pointers and dropping dimes to push the Pacers past their fellow Eastern Conference playoff contenders.

“I just try to stay confident the whole game, stay focused and try to do whatever it takes to help my teammates win,” Stephenson said of the (somewhat) controlled chaos he unleashed on Philadelphia. “I’m just trying to make something positive happen out there.”

The Stephenson takeover began with 10 minutes left in the game when he ripped a bullet pass into the post to Al Jefferson who finished it with a dunk to give Indiana an 80-75 lead. Next time down the court, Stephenson knocked down a 3 to extend advantage to 83-77.

That’s when Lance turned into Super Lance.

After a 76ers timeout failed to stop Indiana’s momentum, Stephenson threw down a dunk off his own off a nifty feed from Darren Collison. A couple minutes later, Stephenson connected on a sizzling full-court pass to Thaddeus Young for an easy layup that pushed the lead to 89-81 and led to the latest Stephenson social media sensation: his celebration of flapping his arms like a bird.

From there, the Stephenson-led Pacers held off Philadelphia, never letting them get closer than six.

Stephenson, who entered the fourth quarter with two points three rebounds and one assist finished the game with 14 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

Bojan Bogdanovic and Victor Oladipo led the the Pacers in scoring with 19 points each. Darren Collison chipped in 11 and Thad Young and Domantas Sabonis had 10 apiece.

Indiana’s win was made all the more impressive, as it came in a night when Myles Turner (0 points, 0 rebounds in 15 minutes) — who has been a key cog in the Pacers’ offense lately — made little impact because of foul trouble.

Here are three takeaways from the Pacers’ 100-92 win over the 76ers.

Determined defense

View | 12 Photos

Twenty-four hours after a nightmarish defensive performance against Charlotte — the lowlight a 49-point first quarter — the Pacers stifled the 76ers Saturday, limiting them to just 38 points in the second half.

Despite playing with a size disadvantage at nearly every position, Indiana used its speed  and quickness to force 18 turnovers and limit the 76ers to just 38 percent shooting from the field and 31 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

“It’s kind of the dog days of the NBA, right before the (All-Star) break,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said after the game. “Our guys are battling fatigue, physical fatigue as well as mental, and you have to fight through that. … Last night we got off to a slow start defensively (so), it was certainly a point of emphasis tonight.”

Saturday’s effort was a huge turnaround not only from Friday night against the Hornets but from the last time Indiana played the 76ers. In that early-November game, Philadelphia scored 121 points and shot 50 percent from the field as J.J. Reddick smoked the Pacers for 31 points, including eight 3-pointers.

On Saturday, Indiana made Reddick a non-factor, as he scored just six points on 1-of-8 shooting. The Pacers also received solid defense performances from Stephenson and the next man in this story:

Boost from Bojan

The month of January wasn’t very kind to Bojan Bogdanovic who in 14 games shot worse than 30 percent from beyond the arc and scored 16-plus points just four times. But his past three games, Bogdanovic looks like a different player. After connecting on 4-of-7 from 3-point land Saturday night, he’s now scored at least 18 points in three straight games and hit more 3s in those games than he had in the previous seven games combined.

Bogdanovic contributed to the win on the defensive end, as well. He drew the tough matchup of guarding Ben Simmons, who came in averaging 20.3 points per game in his past six contests. Bogdanovic helped limit the 76ers’ 6-foot-10 point guard to just 10 points, a big key in Indiana’s victory.

“We wanted to keep size on Simmons,” said McMillan, who also lauded Stephenson’s efforts on Simmons in the fourth quarter. “I thought Bojan did a nice job of just staying in front and keeping a body between him in the basket and making him go over the top. … Both Lance and Bojan did a solid job of keeping him in front.”

Plenty left in the tank

Feb 3, 2018; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) reacts to a foul called on him in the first half against the Philadelphia 76ers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
TREVOR RUSZKOWSKI-USA TODAY SPORTS

When Turner picked up two quick fouls to begin the game, 13-year NBA veteran Al Jefferson became an unexpected key to the Pacers’ first-half attack.

Though he played just seven minutes, that was more than enough time for the old man to take the young Embiid to school.

First the self-professed “dinosaur” knocked down a turnaround jumper in the youngster’s face. Next was spin class, as Professor Jefferson backed down the All-Star, then unleashed a wicked whirl-around to the basket that he finished with an easy hook.

“You know Al. He’s unstoppable in the post,” Stephenson said. “His footwork is amazing. They don’t know what he’s going to do. … You can’t stop it. You cannot stop it.”

By the end of that first half, Jefferson was plus-6 in the box score with seven points and a rebound.

“I think a lot of these young guys have never seen some of the things I do,” Jefferson said after the game. “I don’t think guys are used to the footwork I have — not being that athletic but can still get my shot off. I’m a dinosaur in this league.”

Despite taking grief from his teammates, Indiana Pacers big man Al Jefferson calls himself a die-hard New England Patriots/Tom Brady fan and will be cheering for them in the Super Bowl. He also thinks Brady should consider retiring after the game.
JIM AYELLO/INDYSTAR

In the second half Jefferson continued his stellar play, frustrating Embiid with his physicality. Once he even knocked the ball away from the center, picking up the loose ball and quickly finding Collison, who connected with Domantas Sabonis for a layup.

It’s a credit to Jefferson, who finished with nine points and a rebound in 13 minutes, for being ready to go after seeing just one minute of action the previous three games combined.

Follow IndyStar Sports reporter Jim Ayello on Twitter and Instagram: @jimayello.

Read more on the Pacers:

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Jaleel Charles Earned his 2nd Player of the Week Award

Atlanta, Ga. (12-12-17) – For the second time in two weeks, Claflin University men’s basketball player Jaleel Charles has been named the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) Men’s Basketball Player of the Week.  The Player of the Week Honors were announced by the league office Tuesday.  Michael Stevenson Kentucky State earned Newcomer of the Week honors.

Charles assisted the Panthers to a 2-0 record last week to lead Claflin to a 10-1 overall record and 4-0 in conference play. He averaged just shy of a double-double as he finished averaging 12.3 points and 9.3 rebounds for the week. Despite the initial 20-point deficit, the Panthers finished with a feat over CIAA opponent Winston-Salem State (Dec. 4) as he scored a season-high 29 points with nine rebounds and one block. The New York native also recorded his second straight 20-point plus game (23) in the win over Saint Augustine’s.

Claflin will travel to Gaffney, S.C. to face Limestone College in a non-conference matchup Wednesday (Dec. 13).

For up-to-date information on Claflin University men’s basketball visit the men’s basketball page on the Claflin athletics website at athletics.claflin.edu.

Born Ready discusses how Indiana has become Home

ZIONSVILLE, Ind. — Lance Stephenson loves the simplicity of silver, white and black, which cover the NBA player’s 8,440-square-foot estate.

Big, black decorative letters spell out his nickname, “B O R N R E A D Y,” on one wall. Two paintings of silver Buddhas, one upside down — Stephenson thought they’d look cooler that way — hang side by side. But the pièce de résistance sits in the corner of his living room: a platinum, life-size replica of a horse.

“Indiana, you know,” Stephenson said. “I figured a horse would fit in here.”

The horse indeed fits Indiana, and somehow so does Stephenson.

After several years of bouncing around the league without a steady home, Stephenson seems to have found one in his second tour of duty with the Pacers. Now in his second season back with the team that drafted him in 2010, he is the tongue-wagging, hip-gyrating, showboating guard injected into the veins of Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

“The energy is just contagious,” said Bill Manlove, a season-ticket holder in the section devoted to Stephenson, “The Born Ready Crew.”

Just how did a city kid bred on the swagger of Brooklyn street ball become so beloved in one of the NBA’s most culturally conservative markets, where the humble ethos of “Hoosiers” still lingers? It’s the story of a marriage between a flyover state with an underdog mentality and a brazen, overlooked second-round pick made good.

Stephenson couldn’t find acceptance in five other NBA cities but returned here to wide-open arms. In Indiana, basketball conquers all.

Indiana’s adopted son

The limelight followed him as a teenager.

He starred in his own reality show as a high school junior. By his senior year, he mean-mugged on the cover of Slam magazine. He was a phenom in the big city, graduating as the career leading scorer in New York state’s high school basketball history. Even after a year at Cincinnati, in which he was named Big East rookie of the year, he had to fly to 17 pre-draft workouts in search of his NBA shot. He arrived in Indianapolis as a relative unknown in June 2010 when then-Pacers president Larry Bird chose him with the 40th pick.

“Nobody had expectations for Lance,” said Tom Lewis, founder of Pacers fan blog Indy Cornrows.

But Indiana has a soft spot for the overlooked. Maybe because “Hoosiers,” a movie celebrating the underdog, is so ingrained that it seems to be a requirement for state residence — “I’ve seen it 12 times,” bragged Manlove, whose father was an extra in one of the scenes. With Stephenson, fans had found another stray.

Behind closed doors, he treated Pacers practices like Game 7, causing veterans to admonish: “Rook, you got to relax! This is just practice!” He nonetheless spent most of his rookie season as a question mark, fans having no clue that such fire and energy was bottled up in a suit on the bench.

Stephenson won the hearts of Pacers fans by not backing down from LeBron James. (Brent Smith/Reuters)

By the next season, he was becoming a cult hero, coming out of nowhere to score 22 points in the regular season finale against the rival Chicago Bulls. There he was again in the playoffs, holding a choke sign after Miami Heat star LeBron James missed a free throw in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“As soon as he did that, everybody was like, ‘I don’t know if the kid can play, but that’s great,’ ” said Scott Lagler, another longtime fan.

In 2012-13, he started 72 games. The next year, he averaged 13.8 points, flopping theatrically for calls and celebrating big shots by squatting low and wiggling his hips.

“He’s got that type of swagger to him. That’s how he gets himself going, gets himself excited,” said Cory Joseph, a current Pacer who played against Stephenson from 2011-17. “Sometimes it tends to get under people’s skin.”

He was an irritant, but he was Indiana’s irritant. And he was James’s thorn.

For three straight postseasons, the Pacers ran into Miami’s Big Three as Stephenson conducted a master class on how to frustrate The King, once going so far as to blow into James’s ear.

“Lance has swagger to go up to the biggest, baddest dude in the NBA and blow in his ear and let him know he’s here,” said Dominic Dorsey, a native and Pacers fan. “And that’s Indiana.

“They call us Naptown: Everybody sleeps on us,” Dorsey continued. “Here’s the thing: Nobody expects us to sneak up from behind and come away with the win. You’ve got Lance Stephenson on your squad, you think you might just have a shot.”

Just happy to be here

At first, Stephenson didn’t know what to make of this place.

“It’s more country-like to me,” Stephenson said of Indiana. “I’m from the city. I mean, there’s always something to do in New York. . . . When I got here, I didn’t know what to do.”

He was entering a market unlike New York in other ways, too. Indianapolis, the state capital, is a contradiction at the crossroads of America.

The Pacers play in downtown Indianapolis, a rare dot of blue in a statewide sea of Republican red, but where Stephenson has settled, 22 miles away in quiet Boone County, residents voted 60.4 percent for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was tapped as Trump’s running mate and, in October, the vice president returned for a Colts game — walking out when a handful of players knelt during the national anthem. A Republican state lawmaker recently announced plans to push legislation that would force the Colts to offer refunds to fans offended by kneeling players.

Stephenson may ooze confidence and have no problem preening on the court, but he is reluctant to wade into political waters.

“There’s been some stuff that went on, and I wanted to talk about. I feel like . . . ” he said, with a pause. “My words ain’t really going to help what’s going on. I don’t feel like I can really change . . . ”

Another pause.

“I feel like I would be hurting myself more than anything, trying to speak my own opinion and how I feel,” he continued. “So I just stay quiet, because I don’t want that type of energy and that stuff around me.”

Indianapolis has long been a pocket of liberalism — at least by Indiana standards. The Pacers long had a reputation for signing more white players than the average team. In 2004, when asked by ESPN whether the NBA needed more white superstars, Bird replied, “I think it’s good for a fan base because, as we all know, the majority of the fans are white America. And if you just had a couple of white guys in there, you might get them a little excited.”

Following a few franchise-altering events — most notably “The Malice at the Palace” in 2004, when Indiana players fought with fans in the stands in Detroit, and a 2006 incident in which Stephen Jackson fired a gun outside of a strip club — four of the Pacers’ top seven players were white.

“A lot of people in Indiana want a white face for their professional basketball franchise,” said Lagler, who is white.

When Dorsey, a community organizer who’s black, planned and participated in more than a dozen Black Lives Matter protests in his hometown, he read the ugly opinions posted under reports about the events. In Dorsey’s view, a professional athlete in Indianapolis should tread carefully before tweeting #blacklivesmatter, so he doesn’t blame Stephenson for his decision to remain silent.

“The comments that you’ll see from thumb thugs and Internet warriors just sitting there watching the broadcast, saying, ‘How dare you! Go get a job! Welfare queens!’ ” Dorsey said. “[Trump] being in office has emboldened that type of behavior and that type of rhetoric. If you value your fans and you just want to make your money and go home, why would you step into that arena?”

Stephenson hoped to re-sign with Indiana but, after the sides failed to come to an agreement, he left for Charlotte. That set off a journey of playing for five teams over three seasons. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer)

Stephenson said he doesn’t censor himself because he plays in Indiana, but he remembers how low he was before this second chance. He doesn’t want to risk it.

“I was going through team to team and couldn’t figure out a role, what team needed me,” said Stephenson, who was cut in March by the Minnesota Timberwolves, concluding a journey in which he suited up for five teams over three seasons after leaving Indiana in free agency. “I was, like, at my weakest.”

Then, just as Bird was stepping down as team president in April, he brought Stephenson home on a three-year contract.

At Stephenson’s home debut April 4, the ovation was so loud that he had to stare at the rim to keep from crying. After games, fans followed him to his favorite hangout, Hooters.

“He saw my shirt and wanted it,” said Jared Beeler, who was wearing a gold “Born Ready” T-shirt at the restaurant. “I couldn’t say no.”

Fans would give Stephenson the shirts off their backs because of nights like Jan. 12. In the Pacers’ 97-95 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Stephenson was back to bothering James. After hitting a three-pointer, he got in James’s face on defense and remained there after a whistle. When James delivered a forearm to his chest, Stephenson exaggerated the contact and flashed an incredulous expression as he searched for a referee. James got hit with a technical foul. Indiana, of course, loved it.

“You hear about guys having a quiet 20-point, eight-assist night?” Indy Cornrows’ Lewis said, before screaming, “Lance! Does not have a quiet night. If he has a 10-point, five-assist night, it’s loud!”

When he’s in Indiana, Stephenson isn’t the kid from Brooklyn. The second-round pick with too much swagger. The castaway forgotten by the NBA. He is their humble Hoosier.

“I feel like I get all the energy from all the fans, and it just go inside of me and I just fight for them,” Stephenson said. “I do whatever I can to win for them, and I feel like the fans make me the player that I am now. … I feel like this is home to me.”

Nunez has Monster Game Against Brewster Academy

HIGHLIGHTS: Adrien Nunez drops 24 against Brewster Academy

Watch highlights from 2018 Michigan signee Adrien Nunez’s 24 point performance against Brewster Academy.

Adrien Nunez
(Photo: 247Sports)

Don’t sleep on Adrien Nunez.

One of the more unheralded recruits of Michigan’s five-man 2018 class, shooting guard Adrien Nunez can certainly fill up a stat sheet, which is one of the major reasons why he caught the eye of U-M assistant coach Saddi Washington.

https://247sports.com/PlayerSport/Adrien-Nunez-at-St-Thomas-More-211515/Embed

That ability to shoot the ball continued Dec. 2 as Nunez dropped 24 points against Brewster Academy.

You can watch the highlights from his performance embedded below.

Marquise Moore Drafted 8th Overall in the NBA G-League

NBA G League Draft Selections | Iowa Wolves Site

FAIRFAX, Va. – Former George Mason University men’s basketball standout Marquise Moore will suit up for the Iowa Wolves in 2017-18 after being selected eighth overall by the franchise in the 2017 NBA G League Draft Saturday.

Moore, the 2017 Atlantic 10 Most Improved Player, heads to Des Moines this week and will play in his first game Nov. 4 when the Wolves take on the Lakeland Magic. The Wolves are the G League affiliate of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves.

“It’s been a long process to get to this point, with a lot of working out and waiting to see where I’d be playing,” Moore said. “After not getting drafted, I knew the G League was the route I wanted to take. I’m grateful to receive this opportunity. I’m ready to start my professional career and prove what I’m capable of doing as a player.”

This past season in 2016-17, Moore put together one of the best all-around seasons by a guard in NCAA history. The NABC District 4 First Team pick led the Patriots in scoring (16.9 ppg), rebounding (10.9 rpg) and assists (3.5 apg) while shooting 48.3 percent from the floor.

His 20 double-doubles were tied for the most by a guard since the stat has been kept (2009-10), while his 10.9 rebounds/game and 9.1 defensive rebounds/contest were tops by all Div. I guards since the 1993-94 campaign. The 6-foot-2-inch guard ranked third in the nation in 2016-17 in defensive rebounding and was eighth in the nation in overall rebounding.

In addition to leading the conference in rebounding, Moore ranked ninth in the A-10 in scoring, eighth in minutes played, 11th in assists and 12th in field goal percentage. He posted 10+ points in 28 of 34 contests and 20+ points in 11 games. Moore also registered the first triple-double in George Mason history after a 17-point, 16-rebound, 10-assist performance at Penn on Dec. 10.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moore led the Green & Gold to the first Atlantic 10 Tournament win in program history on March 9 vs. Fordham, tallying 25 points, a career-high 19 rebounds and five assists in the game. His 18.0 rebounds/game over the course of the tournament set an Atlantic 10 record and helped the senior garner A-10 All-Tournament accolades for the first time in his career.

Moore set a new Mason single-season rebounding record with 367 boards on the year. He ended his career seventh all-time at Mason in assists (363), seventh in free throws made (373), 12th in rebounding (694) and 21st in scoring (1270 points). He is the only player in Patriot history to post 1200+ points, 600+ rebounds and 300+ assists in a career.

Behind Moore’s efforts, the Patriots put together a turnaround season in 2016-17. Mason set a new program record for Atlantic 10 victories (9) and its 20 overall wins were the most by the program since 2012-13. After winning 11 games total and five A-10 contests in 2015-16, Mason ranked as one of the nation’s 20 most improved teams this past season.

#GetPatriotic

Stephenson’s Stellar Play Contributing to Pacers Success

INDIANAPOLIS – As Lance Stephenson strutted over to the scorer’s table, ready to re-enter Friday’s 107-104 win over the Toronto Raptors, an Indiana Pacers fan in the front row shouted to him:

“They can’t stop you, Lance! Take this game over!”

Stephenson didn’t look up. He just nodded his head in approval, as if to say, “Funny you should mention that, because that’s exactly what I’m about to do.”

With less than five minutes to go in Friday night’s game, the Pacers owned a slim five-point lead over their foes from the north. Time and time again, Indiana had tried and failed to put away Toronto in a game that saw momentum swing wildly from one side to the other throughout.

The Pacers have been in games like this before, and more than once failed to put them away.

But that wasn’t going to happen Friday. The Pacers’ peacock and his frenzied Bankers Life Fieldhouse crowd weren’t going to let it happen.

It really is Stephenson’s crowd. They respond to him like no else. Every shot he hits, every rebound he rips down, the crowd cheers just a little bit louder. They dig his dancing and scream their heads off when he pounds his chest.

https://uw-media.indystar.com/video/embed/108003748?sitelabel=reimagine&platform=desktop&continuousplay=true&placement=uw-smallarticleinlinehtml5&pagetype=story

Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo banged up his right knee in the team’s win against the Raptors on Friday. Jim Ayello / IndyStar

When he drained a step-back 3 to put Indiana ahead 100-92 with just under five minutes to go, they went berserk.

They adore the man who dubbed himself Born Ready. They are enchanted by his swashbuckling bravado, and their love fuels him.

Less than 30 seconds after he ignited the crowd with his first 3, he sent them into a full-scale frenzy with another. Bankers Life Fieldhouse hasn’t been louder this season than when he came off a Myles Turner screen and stepped into another trifecta, giving Indiana a 103-92 lead.

Stephenson is the modern day Samson — except he doesn’t extract his power from long locks of hair like the Biblical strongman. He draws his strength from the fans’ love. He feeds off of it.

“I get my energy from the crowd,” Stephenson said not for the first time. “When the crowd tells me, ‘Let’s go! Get it going! I just feel like this power is in me.”

Despite hitting what were probably his two biggest shots of the season, the Pacers, the fans needed him one more time.

The Raptors had rallied to score eight straight points and close within three of Indiana. It was a time for a hero to step up, and this time Victor Oladipo wasn’t there to save the day. Indiana’s leading scorer and All-Star candidate was on the bench with a knee injury.