Lance Stephenson is not a ball hog

Indiana Pacers need more, not less, of trash-talking 2-guard to beat the Heat

Updated: May 26, 2014, 12:01 PM ET
By Tom Haberstroh | ESPN Insider

James/StephensonBrian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsLance Stephenson had only 11 points in Game 3 against the Miami Heat.
Lance Stephenson is polarizing.

The 23-year-old is as boisterous as he is talented. After exchanging heated words with LeBron James and disappearing late in the Indiana Pacers' loss to the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, his critics are the ones getting loud. The barbs call Stephenson immature and selfish, saying he refuses to play team basketball.

But a closer look at Game 3 reveals that Stephenson wasn't selfish enough.

First, let's make something clear about the verbal spat with James in the second quarter. It did not ignite the Heat's rally. Stephenson drew a charge against James early in the second quarter as James tried to pound him in the post, and each had a thing or two to say about it. On the ensuing Pacers possession, James glued himself to Stephenson and let him hear it.

So James got into Stephenson's head and the Pacers blew their lead immediately after that, right? Not at all. After James started jawing at Stephenson, the Pacers promptly ran a beautiful pick-and-roll and hit a rolling Luis Scola with a crisp pass over the top that led to a layup. Didn't look fazed there.

Over the next four minutes, the Pacers extended their lead from nine to 14 as the Heat couldn't stop the Stephenson and Scola show. If anything, the Stephenson-James chat tightened the focus of the Pacers.