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He’s not the most talented player in the NBA, but you’ve got to give it to Lance Stephenson — the man always finds his way into the middle of things.
Especially when it comes to LeBron James and, in this first-round playoff series, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Stephenson, the Indiana Pacers swingman, came off the bench in Game 4, won by the Cavaliers, 104-100, and managed to accomplish the following:
* Committed a Flagrant-1 foul on Cleveland’s Larry Nance on a first-half dunk attempt.
* Was called for traveling after receiving an inbounds pass and taking three steps… then complained about it.
* Baited James into a technical foul during a dead-ball situation with 6:12 to play, resulting in a free throw by Victor Oladipo that gave the Pacers a 92-89 lead.
After years of trolling LeBron, Lance finally pissed him off at the right time pic.twitter.com/vlztKBl5cE
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) April 23, 2018
* Later, while James was in the process of posting him up on the left block, Stephenson wrestled with James for possession, earning a jump ball.
Lance Stephenson gets the jump ball on LeBron. pic.twitter.com/8V8BaWTXdJ
— RealGM (@RealGM) April 23, 2018
* And finally, threw a headlock on Cleveland’s Jeff Green with less than 10 seconds to play that was called a jump ball by official Pat Fraher and a foul by official Kenny Maurer. After the play went to review, it was ruled a foul by Stephenson and Green hit the first of two free throws to ice the game for Cleveland.
Joe Borgia, NBA senior vice president of replay and referee operations, explained to Inside the NBA after the game what happened on that play.
Joe Borgia, NBA Senior Vice President of Replay & Referee Operations, appeared on Inside the NBA @NBAonTNT to discuss the Lance Stephenson-Jeff Green play toward the end of the game in which Stephenson was called for a personal foul on Green. pic.twitter.com/OxOBBcDu4p
— NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) April 23, 2018
“On the court, you can see (referee) Kenny Mauer come in with his fist up,” Borgia said. “He has a foul on Stephenson for the headlock. They went to the ground and obviously, they rolled over and a little pushing.
“They came to replay to see if after the foul that was called on the court there was any hostile acts that maybe needed, you know, technical foul needed to be called.”
Borgia said while Fraher did call a jump ball on the play, a foul takes precedence.
“But a foul does take precedence,” he said. “And the foul obviously happened prior to Lance getting his hands on the ball, so that’s why they stayed with the personal foul.”
While Chris Webber and Marv Albert were calling for a jump ball on the play, Fred McLeod and Austin Carr of FOX Sports Ohio saw it the way it was eventually called — as a foul on Stephenson.
Emotions boiling over for Lance Stephenson. pic.twitter.com/QXwZ3LL5AJ
— FOX Sports Ohio (@FOXSportsOH) April 23, 2018
As for the technical foul called on James, the Cavaliers’ superstar had some fun explaining what went down after the game. It should be noted, after that technical foul, Cleveland went on a 12-3 run.
LeBron gives his 2 cents on the Lance Stephenson tech. pic.twitter.com/7Xi9CYWJ3f
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 23, 2018
Oh, by the way, Stephenson was once again a sparkplug off the bench for Indiana, posting 11 points, two rebounds, six assists, one steal and one block in 23 minutes, during which the Pacers were even while he was on the floor and minus-four when he was not.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue praised Stephenson after the game.
“I love Lance, he’s a throwback player,” Lue said.
“He reminds me of when I got in the league. He’s going to hit you, no easy layups. He’s going to be a physical player offensively and defensively. You love that physicality he brings and toughness. Sometimes they’re going to call it, sometimes they’re not… I like his style.”