Lance Stephenson said his return to Indiana would be like Michael Jordan returning from retirement. But I don’t think Lance could have scripted how perfect his return would actually be. The Indiana Pacers started the night ninth place in the East and found themselves down 19 to the Toronto Raptors in the first half. It looked as if the Pacers’ playoff chances were all but over. But then Lance Stephenson happened.
The takeover started in the third quarter, where the Pacers scored 37 points with Lance giving energy to the entire team. It continued in the fourth with Stephenson getting run late in the game, including this classic Lance move on DeMar DeRozan.
Lance breaks down the defense and dishes to Thad: pic.twitter.com/A070idT4MP— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) April 5, 2017
Jeff Teague, who is always calm and collected on the court, even screamed with emotion after a huge basket with Lance on the floor while the Pacers completed their comeback.
But this is where the Lance Stephenson experience comes into full effect. It’s an unwritten rule in the NBA that if the clock is running out and your team is ahead, you don’t score a go-ahead basket. The Pacers were up 15 with less than 10 seconds left, and Lance went ahead and took the layup anyway. The Raptors did not like it one bit, causing quite a scuffle at halfcourt between the two teams. Another classic Lance moment. Lance apologized after the game.
lance lays it up where he could've just dribbled it out. raptors took offense pic.twitter.com/9umCTKsWAw— nbaayy (@nbaayy) April 5, 2017
While Paul George acknowledged that Lance should not have taken that last layup, he also could not give him enough credit in his postgame interview.
Paul George is pretty happy Lance Stephenson is back home. pic.twitter.com/l1PSEYkBik— SB Nation NBA (@SBNationNBA) April 5, 2017
Stephenson finished the night with 12 points, three rebounds, and two assists off the bench. George finished with 35 points and 10 rebounds, but the energy that Lance brought to the entire team is what everyone could feel.
In a season that has been up and down for the Pacers, Lance Stephenson, for better and worse, has given them energy and heart that they so desperately lacked. They took the Cleveland Cavaliers to double overtime on Sunday, and just won a big game against the Raptors. They may have found something in these final games, or it may be too little, too late. We’ll have to wait and see.