When asked for his opinion on Lance Stephenson's much-discussed antics in the Indiana Pacers' Game 5 win over the Miami Heat, Pacers president Larry Bird said he was bothered by the 23-year-old shooting guard's tactics — including, most notably, Stephenson blowing in LeBron James' ear while defending him.
OK, so the boss wants you to cut it out with the sweet nothings, Lance. But nobody said anything about just gently touching LeBron's face before an inbounds play during the first quarter of Friday's Game 6, right?
Correction: Nobody but LeBron said anything about it:
LeBron had some choice words for Stephenson, apparently: "Don't f---cking touch me."— Joseph Goodman (@JoeGoodmanJr) May 31, 2014
Stephenson likely viewed this as all-in-the-game retribution for James making contact with his face on a 3-point attempt earlier in the quarter, a play that did not result in a foul call:
But one seemed a little bit more "all in the game" than the other, I think it's fair to say.
Stephenson, who has been booed lustily by the AmericanAirlines Arena faithful from the opening introductions on Friday, got physical again early in the second quarter, this time with Heat guard Norris Cole, who has spent large chunks of the last several games defending him. And I mean physical:
Whether you think Stephenson was going for the loose ball and that the contact was accidental or that he deliberately whacked Cole in the face likely depends on which team you're rooting for in this particular game. Regardless, the referees called the play a flagrant foul-1 for "unnecessary contact," awarding Cole two shots and giving the Heat the ball back.
To his credit, Stephenson has also been one of the few Pacers providing anything of note offensively, making four of his first seven shots as the Pacers look to stave off elimination and force a Game 7 back on their home court. To their credit, though, the Heat have not found themselves disrupted by Stephenson's physicality and antics; far from it, in fact.
Erik Spoelstra's club held Indiana to just 13 points on 5-for-19 shooting in the opening frame, and took a 20-point lead midway through the second quarter behind spirited all-court play from James. After spending most of Game 5 on the bench with foul trouble, James came out extremely motivated. Neither he nor the rest of the Heat seemed to need much in the way of a wake-up call, but I'm sure Lance's unwelcome touch only helped fan the already scorching flames.
Things could get even hotter before too long, too:
Stephenson took a blow from Battier on that play. Lance looked to ref after the play. No response.— Israel Gutierrez (@IzzyESPN) May 31, 2014
VIDEO Udonis Haslem to Lance Stephenson: "I'm going to f--k you up." http://t.co/JsQnMA0sfg— Joseph Goodman (@JoeGoodmanJr) May 31, 2014
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