Pacers | Lace Stephenson

Paul George finds groove to help Indiana Pacers survive Game 5

 <span class="cutline_leadin">Coming up big:</span> Pacers forward Paul George scored a game-high 37 points as Indiana staved off elimination Wednesday night to close the series gap to 3-2.
Coming up big: Pacers forward Paul George scored a game-high 37 points as Indiana staved off elimination Wednesday night to close the series gap to 3-2.
Al Diaz / Staff Photo

Special to the Miami Herald

On the score sheet, Paul George's 37 points and Roy Hibbert's 13 rebounds sticks out prominently, but Lance Stephenson’s play as the proverbial fly in the ointment of the Miami Heat on Wednesday night might have been just as big in helping the Indiana Pacers survive in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Pacers 93-90 victory in final seconds kept the Pacers alive. Stephenson, who had taken a beating in the press and then on the court in Game 4, decided to keep his comments and antics to the basketball floor.

His play was credited for LeBron James picking up his fifth foul as the Pacers guard seemed to pull out all of his bag of tricks, even trying to sneak in on a conversation between Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and other Miami player on the sidelines.

“I just wanted to hear what he had to say,” Stephenson said sheepishly with a big smile on his face after the game. “Just wanted to hear about what they were about to do on offense. They were trying to run the pick-and-roll and I heard it. I was just trying to figure out what he was talking about.”

There was another incident the television cameras picked up of Stephenson blowing into James’ ear between a play. When asked what he was trying to do at that moment, C.J. Watson, whose locker is next to Stephenson’s, laughed out loud as the guard searched for an answer.

“We’re just playing basketball,” Stephenson said with a laugh. “We're just having fun.”

But there was a method to Stephenson’s madness in irritating James and other Heat players and the proof came in the razor-thin margin of victory.

“I was happy he got his fifth foul and we got the win tonight,” Stephenson said. “He was very aggressive [and] we forced some fouls on him. It definitely messed up their offense and it forced other players on their team to step up. We just locked in on defense and tried to make it hard for them.”

Pacers coach Frank Vogel said he was happy with anything his players could do to slow down James.

“[Stephenson] just competed,” Vogel said. “Nobody can stop or slow down LeBron. LeBron got out of rhythm because of foul trouble. Just all of our guys, we just competed, as tough as we could, no matter who we are on. [Miami’s] shot-making was ridiculous and we were still able to prevail. So I’m very proud of our guys.”

With Stephenson doing the dirty work, it allowed George, Hibbert, David West and the rest of the Pacers to come back from a nine-point halftime deficit.

George, who had been somewhat effective all series, found his groove when Indiana needed it the most in the second half. He scored 10 points in a 33-point third quarter that erased a nine-point halftime deficit to give the Pacers a 64-57 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“I thought they had multiple opportunities to go up but we made some key plays with our hands and got some key rebounds when we needed,” said West, who scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds.

Then when the Heat got close in the fourth quarter, George’s three-point shot with 46.7 seconds left helped give the Pacers the breathing room they needed to sustain the victory.

Hibbert collected his second double-double of the series with 10 points along with his 13 rebounds.

Read more Miami Heat stories from the Miami Herald

FILE - In this Jan. 17, 2014, file photo, then-Cleveland Cavaliers forward Luol Deng looks on against the Denver Nuggets in the fourth quarter of the Cavaliers' 117-109 victory in an NBA basketball game in Denver. Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry has been disciplined by CEO Steve Koonin for making racially charged comments about Luol Deng when the team pursued the free agent this year. Ferry apologized Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, for “repeating comments that were gathered from numerous sources” about Deng.

    Miami Heat

    More comments besmirching new Miami Heat forward Luol Deng

    Days after it was revealed that Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry made racially charged comments about new Heat forward Luol Deng before Deng became a free agent this summer, additional comments made by Ferry about Deng came to light Thursday.

FILE - In this Dec. 22, 2011, file photo, Atlanta Hawks co-owners Michael Gearon Jr., left, and Bruce Levenson talk prior to the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game at Philips Arena in Atlanta. Hawks general manager Danny Ferry has been disciplined by CEO Steve Koonin for making racially charged comments about Luol Deng when the team pursued the free agent this year. The team did not provide any details of the discipline.

    Hawks discipline GM Ferry for racist comments

    The Atlanta Hawks are sticking with general manager Danny Ferry even though the team's new majority owner wants him fired for racially charged comments about Luol Deng.

Shaquille O'Neal stopped by Doral City Hall Wednesday to say hello to the city council before sitting down with the police department. O’neal applied to be a reserve officer and is undergoing a background check.


    Shaq wants to attack crime in Doral

    Former Miami Heat star Shaquille O’Neal applied to be a reserve police officer for the city of Doral on Wednesday.

Get your Miami Heat Fan Gear!

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category