Lance Stephenson scores career-best 26 as Pacers roll
December 23, 2013 (AP) – Lance Stephenson gave the home fans something to cheer, and that hasn’t happened often in Brooklyn this season.
And the way the Nets are going, it may not happen many more times.
“I think it’s getting very close to just accepting losing,” coach Jason Kidd said.
Stephenson scored a career-high 26 points in his hometown, Paul George also had 26, and the Indiana Pacers went on to their third straight easy victory, 103-86 over the Nets on Monday night.
Stephenson, who recorded his NBA-leading third triple-double of the season Sunday in a rout of Boston, did most of his damage as a scorer, back where he did plenty of it in high school. He became the career scoring leader in New York state, with nearly 3,000 points at Abraham Lincoln High School.
Dozens of fans saluted him as he exited the court through the tunnel, and Stephenson, unable to hide his grin afterward, figures he knew most of them.
“I just was very motivated and hyped for this game. I couldn’t sleep at night. I’m just happy we got the W,” said Stephenson, who coach Frank Vogel said should be the leading choice for the Most Improved Player award that George won last season.
David West finished with 13 points for the Pacers, who pulled away in the third period, when Paul Pierce was ejected for a flagrant foul in only the second scoreless game of his career.
Indiana followed its only losing streak of the season by beating Houston and Boston by a combined 60 points, then blew this one open after a competitive first half.
“Lance Stephenson and Paul George just keep putting in special performances and they’re really giving us a big lift,” Vogel said.
Joe Johnson scored 17 points for the Nets, who lost their third straight. Kevin Garnett, moving to the center spot after Brook Lopez was lost to a broken right foot, had 12.
Lopez was the Nets’ leading scorer, and his loss — and watching how easily the Pacers dominated the third quarter — make it hard to believe the Nets can turn around their 9-18 record and reach their lofty expectations.
“We’re kind of getting comfortable with losing and we’ve got to make a stand with that because when things get tough, do we just give in?” Kidd said. “And most of the time right now we do.”
The Nets host Chicago on Christmas. Deron Williams, who shot 3 of 9 in an admittedly poor performance, disagreed with Kidd’s statement about accepting losing.
“I’m not comfortable with losing. It’s not fun,” he said. “It’s not fun not only when we’re losing during the game, but when you go home sitting and thinking about it.”
Neither team managed a double-digit lead in the first half. The Pacers went ahead by eight late in the second quarter on Stephenson’s 3-pointer, and they took a 45-39 advantage into halftime.
George hit a 3-pointer to open the third and it was all Indiana from there, highlighted by a 20-4 run that turned an eight-point lead into a 71-47 bulge.
Pierce was ejected during the blitz. George Hill stole a bad pass and was going in for a layup and Pierce hustled back and appeared to be trying to wrap him up, but his arm ended up going around Hill’s neck for a clothesline tackle. Referees ruled it a flagrant 2 after review, an automatic ejection, though even Hill wasn’t sure it warranted that.
“It was a basketball play. I think back in the day, hard fouls was good,” he said. “So, it was a hard foul, but at the end of the day, don’t let it rattle you and that’s what I thought about.”
Pierce finished 0 for 7. His only other scoreless night in a 15-year career came in a 10-minute outing against the Charlotte Hornets on March 9, 1999, during his rookie season, according to STATS.
Nets reserve Jason Terry had 11 points in his first appearance since Nov. 20 after he missed the last 15 games with a bruised left knee. Andray Blatche also scored 11.
*Photo courtesy of Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images