Pacers' Stephenson on LeBron's trash talk: 'It's a sign of weakness'
MAY 25, 2014 7:30p ET
Lance Stephenson engaged in some trash talk with LeBron James during Saturday's Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and the Indiana Pacers guard thinks it means he's gotten under the four-time MVP's skin.
Speaking after practice Sunday, Stephenson called it "a sign of weakness" from James.
"To me, it's a sign of weakness," Stephenson said. "(People) used to say that to me. I'm going to do something to get you mad. Now he's trying to do it to me. I feel like there's a weakness and I feel like I'm doing something right to get underneath his skin."
With the Pacers up 15 in the first half of Saturday's game, Stephenson drew a charge from James. After the call, the players began jawing at each other.
Stephenson has drawn James as a defensive assignment frequently in the series, and James has guarded Stephenson on the other end occasionally as well.
The two have a history. When the Pacers played the Heat in the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals, Stephenson made a choking gesture at LeBron from the Pacers' bench. LeBron's response was a classic. The Heat went on to win that series in six games.
Stephenson was a bench player then, but now he's an integral part of the Pacers' core. He's averaging 17.3 and 6.7 assists in this series so far. James is averaging 24.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and six assists in the three games.
For his part, LeBron is downplaying the dynamic between the two.
"One thing I'm not going to do is give a story line of LeBron versus Stephenson, I'm not going to do that," James said. "This is the Pacers vs. the Heat."
But don't expect Stephenson to follow suit.
"I'll never back down," he said. "He's the best player in the league. I will refuse to back down to him."
If Stephenson is getting under LeBron and the Heat's skin, it didn't show in Game 3. The Heat ultimately rallied to win 99-87 and take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. James had a game-high 26 points. Game 4 is Monday night in Miami.