Pacers

Indiana Pacers will reflect on season after suffering embarrassing exit at hands of Miami Heat

 

bjackson@MiamiHerald.com

His season over, cartoonish Lance Stephenson now has four months to either grow up or dream up some more sophomoric shenanigans.

His Indiana Pacers face another long summer, too, to contemplate roster moves and bemoan how they could play so dreadfully in a defining game against the team they spent three years trying to topple.

“They’re built for those moments,” David West said. “They are able to get to a level that for some reason we can’t.”

This 117-92 loss was a deplorable and embarrassing exit for Indiana, the Eastern Conference’s top seed eviscerated Friday by a Game 6 Heat avalanche and undone by first-half no-shows by Paul George, Roy Hibbert, George Hill and their entire bench.

“I thought we were going to win,” Stephenson said. “We worked so hard to get to this point. Everybody is hurting.”

West (16 points before fouling out) and Stephenson (11 points) were the only Pacers who did much of anything offensively in the first half, when Indiana was overwhelmed by a 58-25 avalanche that erased an early 9-2 Pacers lead.

But Stephenson simultaneously served up another silly sideshow, elbowing LeBron James at the start of a timeout, putting his hands over James’ mouth, swiping Norris Cole across the face and unnecessarily egging on a crowd showering him with boos.

After two weeks of foolishness, the Heat has had just about enough of Stephenson.

After he cupped James’ face during a first quarter stoppage, James blurted: “Don’t [expletive] touch me.”

Stephenson irritated the Heat further when he jumped in the air and slapped Cole in the face while both were going for a loose ball.

“It was a loose ball — I was going for a loose ball,” Stephenson said. “I know it looks bad. I didn’t do it on purpose.”

Stephenson was charged with a flagrant foul on the play with 8:47 left in the second quarter.

He didn’t score again, missing both his shots in the second half.

Soon after that play, Udonis Haslem — from the Heat bench — was seen telling Stephenson: “I’m going to [expletive] you up.”

It never came to that. In fact, Stephenson hugged Dwyane Wade and James after the game, with James patting Stephenson on the stomach.

Stephenson said James told him: “Keep working hard. You have the talent.”

Stephenson closed with 13 points (4-for-9 shooting) but was helpless to stop James’ forays to the basket.

He said afterward that he has “no regrets” about anything in this series. “I am very passionate about basketball,” he said.

“Sometimes I tend to do things out of control. It’s my heart and competitiveness to win the game. Nobody is perfect.”

George, off a 37-point Game 5 epic, did nothing of consequence when the game was close, scoring one point and shooting 0 for 6 in the first half. He finished with a largely empty 29 points, nearly all of those coming after the outcome was decided.

Hibbert, who shot 0 for 4 in Game 4, was thoroughly outplayed by Heat center Chris Bosh, took only three shots and closed with eight points and four rebounds.

The Pacers were outclassed by most every statistical measure, unable to come close to matching the Heat’s intensity, energy or execution.

The Heat shot 57.9 percent to the Pacers’ 46.4. Indiana was outrebounded 37-28 and was annihilated in points in the paint, 50-32.

In all, it was dismal closing act for a team that fashioned itself as a serious title contender.

The Pacers claimed the No. 1 seed after prioritizing it all season, but ultimately it meant nothing, with the Heat taking Game 2 on the road and winning all three of its home games.

“We can’t beat them [at this time],” West said. “They were able to neutralize our size. They are more seasoned for this moment. We fell short to a great team in the midst of an unbelievable run led by the best player on the planet.”

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