George, Stephenson push Pacers over Knicks for 20th home win
On Thursday night, Indiana's flamboyant guard had a big night on national television.
Stephenson had a career-high 28 points, four rebounds and four assists and led the Pacers to their second-most lopsided win of the season, 117-89 over the Knicks.
"If he's flashy, he's being flashy making basketball coach," coach Frank Vogel said. "One of our assistants said, `Boy, I wish I had Lance's energy every day. His competitive spirit is as high as anyone we've coached."
Stephenson has been playing this way all season.
He leads the NBA with three triple-doubles, the most of any Pacers player since Detlef Schrempf in 1992-93. With any luck, he'd have a couple of more, too. And after a nasty crossover or spectacular move to the basket, he might show off some of that New York flair by wiggling his hips.
But the Nets and Knicks seem to bring out the best in the Brooklyn native.
This time, on a night that may serve as an audition for the All-Star selectors, he showed the whole basketball world what he could do.
Stephenson went 10 of 17 from the field, 5 of 5 from the free-throw line, 3 of 7 on 3-pointers and had no turnovers in 28 minutes. His previous scoring high (26) came Dec. 23 in a 103-86 win at Brooklyn, and before this season, Stephenson had scored 22 points just two times -- once against Chicago in April 2012; the other, of course, came at Madison Square Garden last spring.
Even a former Indiana University basketball star like Mike Woodson, who was drilled in defense under Bob Knight, came away impressed.
"You've really got to tip your hat to him," the Knicks coach said. "We had no answers for him."
That has been a league-wide problem for Pacers foes, and not just against Stephenson.
Indiana won its third straight to maintain its grip on the NBA's best record, extend its Eastern Conference lead over Miami to four games and continue its claim to the league's best home record, 20-1.
The Pacers aren't slowing down, either. They beat Washington by 27 on Friday, Sacramento by 24 on Tuesday and handed what was one of the league's hottest teams its most embarrassing road loss of the season.
For the most part, Indiana has relied on its staunch defense. Stephenson and Paul George have suddenly given Indiana a devastating offensive punch, too.
George added 25 points and seven rebounds on a night six players scored in double figures. The Pacers produced season highs for total points and points in a half (63) for the second straight game, and they even heeded the advice of team president Larry Bird, by cutting down their turnovers to a season-low five.
"We have set a goal, and we want to be the No. 1 seed (in the East)," Stephenson said. "Every night I try to bring something to the table."
The Knicks just couldn't keep up.
Carmelo Anthony finished with 28 points, nine in the first six minutes and 18 in the first quarter when it was still a game. Tyson Chandler had 13 points and nine rebounds, while Raymond Felton and J.R. Smith each had 12. Smith played nearly 28 minutes after being benched in two of the Knicks previous four games.
"They're a good team, but I don't think they're 30 points better than our team," Woodson said after the rematch of last spring's conference semifinals, which Indiana also won. "We were awful."
Things started well for New York as Anthony pushed them to a 16-8 lead.
But the Pacers rallied with an 11-2 run to take a 28-26 lead. Anthony bailed out the Knicks with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to make it 31-30 after one.
Indiana seized control with an 11-1 spurt midway through the second quarter and pulled away late in the first half with a 16-7 run. That made it 63-48 at halftime.
George opened the second half by scoring 10 points in a 15-8 spurt, which made it 78-56, and Stephenson closed it out as the Knicks couldn't get closer than 16 the rest of the way.
"We understand how good we are when we run," George said. "I think that's the best way to put and the biggest way to look at it."
NOTES: Kenyon Martin left in the second quarter and Amare Stoudemire followed him to the locker room in the third quarter. Both had sprained left ankles and did not return. ... Former Pacers All-Star Metta World Peace was inactive in New York's only regular-season game in Indianapolis. ... Fans chanted "Reg-gie, Reg-gie" when former Pacers star turned TV analyst Reggie Miller was shown on the overhead screen during the fourth quarter. ... Indiana has won four straight home games against the Knicks.