While many across the nation will be honoring the men and women who died while serving in the armed forces, the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat will be engaged in an intense Game 4 that could very well set the tone for the rest of the Eastern Conference Finals. Despite the Heat having a 2-1 edge in the series, the Pacers’ Lance Stephenson believes he has found a weakness in LeBron James’ game. More importantly, he intends to exploit that weakness to the fullest on Memorial Day.
“To me, I think it’s a sign of weakness,” Stephenson said, according to Sports Illustrated. “He never used to say anything to me. I always used to be the one who said, `I’m going to do something to get you mad.’ Now he’s trying to do it to me. So I feel like it’s a weakness. I feel like I’m doing something right because I’m getting under his skin, but I’ve definitely got to keep stepping up to the plate and be more aggressive when he does that.”
It’s not necessarily a weakness in James’ physical game. However, Stephenson believes that James trash talking reveals an important aspect to how Indiana has been handling the superstar. The fact that James has gone outside the norm in a critical part of the season means that the Pacers are clearly doing something right. Specifically, Stephenson and the rest of the team are accomplishing something that not many defenses in the NBA are able to do, which is to frustrate the king.
As far as getting under his skin, that might be a different story. James has averaged 24.3 points per game while shooting 58.0 percent from the field in three contests during the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s not too far away from his season average of 27.1 points per game and 56.7 percent from the field, which means that James is the one who continues to supply the frustration. If anything, James might be trash talking to get in the head of Stephenson, who has shined brightly at times during the playoffs.
Regardless of who’s getting in whose head, Stephenson thinks he will be able to use the weakness he supposedly uncovered to his advantage. Even if it isn’t a weakness at all, the fact that Stephenson is convinced that it is will give him the upper hand in the mental aspect of the game. It will make him want to be more aggressive on defense and more confident on offense. That alone could give the Pacers the necessary advantage in defeating the Heat in Game 4.