Lance Stephenson makes ’em dance their way to a comeback victory

INDIANAPOLIS — After being down by 22 points with less than six minutes left in the third quarter, the Indiana Pacers outscored the Detroit Pistons 51-22 the remainder of the game to win in impressive fashion by a final of 107-100 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Pacers were kick-started by none other than the infectious energy of Lance Stephenson in the fourth quarter as he scored all 13 of his points and grabbed six rebounds in the final 12 minutes. 

“I had a tough first half,” said Stephenson, who had 0 points and 3 turnovers in the opening half, “And I told myself if Coach called my name again, when I get in there I’m going to change the atmosphere and I did it.”

Better believe it.

Stephenson went after rebounds with abandon, saved balls from going out of bounds in ridiculous, difficult ways, threw behind-the-back assists, jumped up for perfectly-timed tip-ins and danced. Perhaps most importantly, he hit a bunch of shots which has been a rarity for Stephenson this season. None were bigger than the 3-pointer to put the Pacers up four with two minutes to go.

“That was huge man,” said Victor Oladipo, who had 21 points and a career-high 15 rebounds. “Lance came in and played really well for us. He brought a lift, off rebounding, scoring and defending. It was huge for us. He was everywhere tonight. When he plays like that, the game is a lot easier.”

The crowd, as it’s prone to do with “Born Ready”, was loving every minute of it.

“I brought the energy tonight and everybody fed off of it,” said Stephenson.

His coach was pleased with his second-half play on both ends of the court.

“Lance came in the second half and gave us a spark with his energy,” said Head Coach Nate McMillan. “He made some big shots, big rebounds, defensively, he was much better than he was in the first half, and gave us a lift, and I decided to just stay with that group.”

Stephenson agreed that he was being burned by Pistons rookie Luke Kennard, who was part of a Pistons bench unit that hit six of their nine 3-point attempts in the first half.

“Kennard just kept hitting shots, felt like I couldn’t stop him,” Stephenson said. “Then, I was like ‘Man, I’m getting into him.’ It happened to work and we made a run off of it. They kept running the play to him so I had to stop it. Once I did it once, they never went that way again, so I guess that messed them all up.”

While Stephenson blew the crowd’s mind in the fourth quarter, it was the play of Oladipo that woke the crowd up in the third.

The Pacers momentum started to turn in with an Oladipo 3-pointer and a vicious block from Oladipo that sent Avery Bradley’s shot attempt halfway back to Detroit before it landed.

“Obviously, it’s really high,” said Oladipo, who was singing “Better Believe It” in the locker room after the game, on the team’s belief level to make the comeback. “We’re 16 games in, and I feel like we’ve been in every type of game imaginable. I think that’s good for us. We’ve been in that situation before when we’re down and worked ourselves back into it. Some nights we came up short; tonight was a different result. We showed some resilience. This is a very resilient team. We have very resilient people here and we have to build on it.”

They finished the quarter on a 15-3 run.

“I think that stretch gave us a lot of belief,” said Domantas Sabonis, “Knowing we had a full quarter still to win the game.”

Sabonis, who was a game-time decision after being sick from something he ate, finished with yet another double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. It’s the second time he’s had a fantastic game while playing sick already this season.

“He makes a big difference,” said Stephenson, who finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and two assists. “When he’s on the floor, he’s screening and when he gets the ball in the paint, there’s like an 80% chance that it’s going in or he’ll make the right play. I feel very comfortable and confident that when I play with him he’s going to make the right decisions.”

It was another balanced scoring effort from the Pacers: Thaddeus Young finished with 18 points, four assists and five rebounds. Bojan Bogdanovic hit three 3-pointers during the Pacers comeback and finished with 15 points. Darren Collison added 16 points.

The Pacers 22-point second-half comeback in the largest comeback win since they overcame a 21-point lead on the road against the Charlotte Hornets in 2015.

The Pacers out-rebounded the Pistons 29-15 in the second half after the Pistons out-rebounded the Pacers by seven in the first.

Indiana (8-8) will square off against the Miami Heat in South Beach on Sunday.

This article was originally posted on IndySportsLegends.com.

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