Forget about a trip to the NBA Finals and forget about a shot at making history. Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals should be about the Miami Heat taking pride in finally shutting Lance Stephenson’s mouth by knocking the the Indiana Pacers out.
For the most part, the champs have taken the high road when addressing the fourth-year shooting guard’s antics — aside from a few quips and Ray Allen labeling it “buffoonery.” But there comes a time when you have to put the smiles away and start taking heed to what former coach Jeff Van Gundy had to say:
“If I’m the other team and he comes into my huddle, I have no problem with one of my guys coming over and physically accosting him.”
Now I’ll be the first to say that trying to eavesdrop on a play is nothing to get up in arms about, however what the Heat should take personal are the extra hits and shoves to Dwyane Wade and admitted sliding of his legs under LeBron James (“I just tried to take away his airspace”).
That’s where Miami is missing that guy to pull Stephenson to the side and make him partake in his habit of making amends — similar to the way Juwan Howard became Heat famous. But more importantly, they need to handle it on the court in the same manner that they have every other time he decided to pick at the Heat in the playoffs.
There was James’ 40 points and18 rebounds in Game 4 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals after being flashed the universal choke sign, his 32-point, 10-rebound performance earlier in this series following the “sign of weakness” comment and his 30 points, six rebounds and eight assists after Stephenson blew in his ear — for the first time — during last year’s Eastern Conference Finals.
Those were all great performances following the knuckle-headed things that the media tends to eat up — then point out that he’s from Brooklyn. But I never once noticed any man on the courts of Brooklyn blowing into another guy’s ears. Even his coach Frank Vogel (“Blowing in his face probably crosses the line.”) and team president Larry Bird (“Don’t do it again.”) were bothered by it.
You have to admire Stephenson’s heart though. He doesn’t mind being hated or potentially risking free agent dollars — at least not at the moment.
He’s strictly about getting into the heads of two of the league’s top stars, regardless of if it always works or not. And he’s doing it with zero fear. Which is obvious by the way he hustles and aggressively gets up on anyone who trots in front of him. We’ve even seen him try to bully James in the post.
It’s the catch-22 that is Stephenson. People try to love him because he has that win at any cost mentality, but he has become such an irritant that it irritates you to watch him.