Talk about bad timing.
With their injured star out and a bench that has underperformed, to put it nicely, the last thing the Indiana Pacers needed was an injury. That’s exactly what they got when starting shooting guard Lance Stephenson had to be carried to the locker room early in the third quarter in the Pacers 96-81 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers Wednesday night.
Stephenson was driving to the hoop on a fast break when he rolled his right ankle before kicking out to Paul George for a corner three. Stephenson fell down and slapped the floor numerous times in obvious pain. Indiana’s training staff diagnosed it as a moderate sprain.
“I don’t want to speculate but I doubt he plays Friday,” said Pacers Head Coach Frank Vogel after the game.
Stephenson seemed more optimistic than his coach about his availability.
“I’m going to try to get back as soon as possible. It’s just an ankle sprain. In two days, I think I’ll be alright. I heal real quick.”
If Stephenson can’t go against the Philadephia 76ers at home Friday, Vogel will have to fill the SG spot with either Gerald Green, who began the year as a starter, or Sam Young. Neither option is a particularly good one given the struggles the Indiana bench has had this season. The Pacers rank 24th in bench scoring (26.6 ppg) and 27th in bench field goal percentage (37.9%).
Vogel has already demoted free agent pickup D.J. Augustin in favor of Ben Hansbrough and has hinted at providing opportunities to bench warmers Jeff Pendergraph and rookie Miles Plumlee if the bench production does not improve. Vogel prefers to play a 10-man rotation, but he must make a choice between shortening the rotation and playing his starters more minutes or giving an unproven younger player a chance while Stephenson gets healthy.
Given the way the bench has looked so far, I hope Stephenson is a miracle healer. Better to dance with the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.
Follow Jay Neal on Twitter @JayNilla