James led the Heat to a 3-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals during a 102-90 victory over the Pacers on Tuesday night. The four-time NBA MVP had a game-high 32 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals a day after Stephenson said he showed "a sign of weakness" by trash talking in the previous contest. Stephenson was hoping to frustrate James with his words, but it appeared to have an opposite effect.
"I was trying to get into his head, but I guess he stepped up and got the win," Stephenson said.
James had a lot of words for Stephenson during the Heat's 97-89 victory in Game 3 on Saturday. After repeated questions about Stephenson after Sunday's practice, James said he wasn't going to engage in a battle of words to give the media a story. Stephenson, however, made headlines.
"To me, I think it's a sign of weakness because he never used to say nothing," Stephenson said on Sunday. "I used to always be the one who would say, 'I'm going to do something to get you mad.' "
When asked what James thought of Stephenson's words, he said: "I got a smirk out of that."
James let his game do the talking on Monday. He had 29 points through the first three quarters.
"I don't know if I made a play call for him," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Maybe one post-up where I called it. But the rest, it was just in the context of what we do."
James downplayed Stephenson's words.
"I'm motivated enough to get back to the Finals," James said. "That's motivating enough, and being one of the leaders of this team. I have to do my job. I have to do my part to help us win. That's what it's about."
Stephenson scored all nine of his points in the second half and was slowed by five fouls.
"I have no regrets," Stephenson said.
Indiana complained about the officiating and the 34-17 free-throw differential in Miami's favor. Pacers guard Paul George and forward David West also regretted Stephenson's trash-talking.
"Sometimes you got to watch what you say," George said. "You're on the big stage. Everything you say is going to be bulletin board material. It's really going to have a powerful meaning behind it. We've just got to be smarter with situations and just voicing our opinion sometimes."
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