The Indiana Pacers again came so close to the NBA Finals in the 2012-2013 season, falling to the eventual champion Miami Heat. This offseason they have made a couple of moves that should shore up their bench in a better way than it looked last year, and they believe they have a shot to knock off the Heat in this upcoming campaign.
One of the biggest reasons the Pacers came so close again in the postseason was due to the play of not-so-talked-about shooting guard Lance Stephenson. Entering his second year in 2012, Stephenson had little to no experience in the playoffs as he averaged just 3.0 minutes per game in the 2011 postseason.
In 2012, that statistic changed drastically. Last season, Stephenson averaged over 35 minutes per game and was a big part of the Pacers’ postseason success. Not only was he a very solid defender, but brought tons of energy on the fast break and even had his share of offensive surges.
Game four against the Heat and game six against the New York Knicks were Stephenson’s highlight games of the playoffs. Both games he scored 20-plus points and had a period of time during the game where the offense seemed to run through him and his attacking the hoop.
Against the Heat in game four — though he scored less points than game six against New York — is where people were most surprised and quite impressed with his performance. It was the way he showed he could attack a very good defensive team. Miami plays fast and traps with the best of them, and Stephenson was able to break them down with ease.
In 2013, I expect his role to increase in a big way because of how he performed last year. The experience from last year’s playoffs will surge into this season and head coach Frank Vogel would be wise to gear plenty of the offensive sets toward Stephenson. With the composure he displayed against the defending champions, there is no reason why he couldn’t vastly improve his game and overall statistics in the upcoming season.