Pacers guard Lance Stephenson ran his mouth, foolishly so, leading into Game 4. He didn’t have nearly as much to say with his game Monday night.
Neither, for that matter, did Roy Hibbert, who made even less of an impact.
Stephenson and Hibbert served up thoroughly disappointing performances in Game 4 — a big reason why Indiana now stands one loss from elimination.
A day after he made combative comments about LeBron James, Stephenson was outscored 32-9 by James, with the Pacers guard scoring eight of those points in the final 5:31.
“I tried to get into his head,” Stephenson said afterward. “I guess he stepped up and got the win. I can take the heat; I can take the fire.”
Hibbert, who often torches the Heat in postseason, went scoreless, missing all four of his shots and never getting to the free-throw line. The Pacers were outscored by 23 points in his 22 minutes on the floor.
Both dealt with foul trouble, with Stephenson picking up his third less than a minute into the second quarter and Hibbert called for his fourth with 8:32 left in the third.
“Silly fouls by both that have had no impact on the game,” ABC’s Mark Jackson said.
But their ineffectiveness went well beyond foul trouble. Hibbert, who had five rebounds, entered averaging 15.7 points and 8.0 rebounds in this series. But on Monday, he often resembled the player who looked passive and lost during several games earlier in the playoffs.
“The game plan wasn’t to utilize me as much,” he said. “Would I have liked more touches early in the game to get going? Yes. But that’s how the cookie crumbles. I can only control what I can control.”
Hibbert also was helpless to prevent Chris Bosh’s first offensive eruption of the series. Defending him is “tough, especially when he’s hitting threes,” Hibbert said. “My teammates told me he was going to cool down.”
Stephenson missed his first three shots before finally scoring when he hit the second of two free throws with 4:34 left in the third quarter, with the Pacers already down 14 at the time.
“I was in foul trouble, never got my rhythm,” he said.
Stephenson hit his first basket from the field with 5:32 left but was called for an offensive foul with 3:20 remaining, negating a basket that could have drawn the Pacers within nine.
Stephenson — who shot 3 for 7 with five rebounds and four assists — assuredly will be ridiculed, but he brought much of this on himself when he said Sunday that he not only has gotten inside James’ head, but that James responding to his trash-talking in Game 3 was a “sign of weakness.”
“If getting in his head is averaging 27 points, then I hope he stays there,” Bosh said Monday morning.
Asked earlier Monday if he has seen any weakness from James, Shane Battier cracked: “Not in the last decade.”
Cole said Monday morning: “Sometimes LeBron gets in that gear when he has to prove a point. Paul Pierce did it [two weeks ago] and LeBron had 49. It doesn’t take much.”
Asked Monday morning if his comments might motivate James in Game 4, Stephenson said: “I don’t care how he feels. When I talk junk, it makes me happier to do my job. I like the challenge. I like to bring the best out of people.”
Stephenson said no Pacers player, coach or official spoke to him about his remarks.
But George told reporters Monday morning: “He’s doing it to the wrong guy, barking up the wrong tree. LeBron feeds off that. It motivates him. Some of the stuff Lance says is genuine. Some you can dial it back, keep in house, be modest. He’s got to be smarter about it.”
George scored 23, David West had 20. The Heat shot twice as many free throws (34-17), and West said: “There were some new rules tonight.”