Lance Stephenson picked up five defensive steals Wednesday night against the Boston Celtics and put in the type of defense his Indiana Pacers are going to need to make a strong run in the NBA playoffs.
The Pacers lost 83-81 to the Celtics, but Boston has been on a roll lately and the Pacers can’t be perfect every night.
Stephenson displayed some defensive spark that the Pacers have wanted him to show for quite some time.
It’s the most steals he’s had in a single game all season although he’s had other games with a handful of thefts. He had gone the last two games without one, but Stephenson demonstrated his defensive skills in a big showdown with the Celtics. He didn’t have a bad offensive night considering he scored 12 points and had two assists.
Stephenson has doubled the number of steals he’s collected this season. All of his stats are up since the Pacers have made better use of his talents this season compared to the past. Right now, he’s at 8.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. He’s shooting 44 percent in field goals and 30.7 percent in threes, which are all down from a year ago.
His contributions have earned him more playing time from the Pacers. He’s averaging 28.8 minutes per game compared to 10.5 minutes a year ago and 9.6 in his first season when he didn’t start a game.
But as the regular season nears its final weeks and the Pacers get ready for the playoffs, the extra effort on defense will be critical. Stephenson, more than anyone, will need to step up his defense in a major way.