Post-Game Grades: Pacers Eliminate Knicks, Lance Stephenson Grows Immortal


Game 6 was one of the best games in Pacers’ history. Sure, they won and played well, but moreover, I can’t remember the last time this team was so fun to watch. Usually, when they are at their best, the other team falls apart and they win by a landslide. See the Hawks series, or the regular season wins over the Heat. Indiana starts making shots, clamps down on defense and gets front-running. Then they bury the opponent 16-feet under, just for good measure.

But Game 6 wasn’t the one-sided affair I’ve grown accustomed to seeing when the Pacers are playing high-level defense and also making shots. The Knicks were equally impressive.

Well. Not “equally.”

One team lost the game by seven points, and that team wasn’t the Pacers. But the Knicks were every bit the Joe Frazier to Muhammad Ali in the second half. One team was just a little bit better and did just enough things more correctly than the other. But the puncher wasn’t going nowhere, especially in the third quarter when New York hit 6-of-7 threes and out-scored Indiana 34-26 to set up this instant classic.

It’s been 36 hours since this game ended. (The link we make the grades with was broken.)

By now, you already know how this went down or you don’t care.

The biggest takeaway is obvious.

Lance Stephenson did his thing. He did your thing. And my thing. And the Pope’s thing. And Yogi Bear’s thing. He was everything to everybody. The Bulls should probably build a statue of him outside of the United Center.

That good.

Otherwise, it was just a really well played game — a first for this series — that was won by the better team. Because the better team played like the better team down the stretch.

The Pacers were magnificent in the fourth quarter, parrying Chris Copeland threes while not letting anyone else on the Knicks get hot. In total, the Knicks made just 6-of-18 shots in the fourth. Two were Copeland treys; another was a J.R. Smith trey. The other three makes all came in the paint, but those weren’t easy to come by. Indiana only allowed New York to shoot 3-for-7 in the paint in the final quarter.

On the other end, the Pacers just got it done, hitting 8-for-11 two-pointers (and 0-for-6 from deep) while getting to the line 15 times and not once turning the ball over. That’s the “smash mouth” offense that Frank Vogel has been talking about for years now.

All in all, it was entertaining

It was effective.

It was “What We Do.”

They protected the rim, forced jumpers and pounded the paint.

Oddly, it almost wasn’t enough. The Pacers trailed 92-90 with five minutes to play. The Knicks had the ball. Carmelo Anthony was attacking the hoop.

Then Roy Hibbert gave us the best block since Lego, and Lance Stephenson got a layup on a nice little cut. A minute later, Stephenson Rod Woodson’ed a terrible cross-court pass by Carmelo and got his Raiders of the Lost Ark boulder routine on, rolling the whole court and running over J.R. Smith for a layup, plus the foul.

Weight room, Mr. Smith. Weight room.

Just for good measure, Lance would add one more pretty highlight to his night, abusing Carmelo on a post move that served as the proverbial dagger. Wait? A post move? By Lance Stephenson? An up-and-under that started with a back-to-the-basket, turnaround shot fake?

Why the hell not?

“Night of his life,” said Mike Tirico on the ESPN broadcast.

It sure was. He finished the game breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s record of 100 points in a game. Or at least that’s how it felt by the time he was doing Kevin McHale stuff to seal the win.

We’ll remember this as the Lance Stephenson Game, of course. And that was the difference. It was the anomaly that ensured the win. But more than anything, this was just the Pacers playing Pacers basketball.

Now they get to try to do it against LeBron.

Pacers fans have been waiting a year for the rematch. They got it. Time to get to work.

Here is how each guy played individually tonight. Agree? Disagree? Express your thoughts below in the comments or yell at me (@8pts9secs) or Tim (@TimDonahue8p9s) on Twitter.

David West, PF 38 MIN | 6-12 FG | 5-6 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 17 PTS | +12

Though he was still missing some shots that make you scratch your head (not because they’re easy, but because they have historically been easy for him), this was a nice game to re-boot. The Pacers will need West to have a huge series to beat Miami. Seems a lot more possible now, after he followed up a 2-for-7 start by making 4 of his final 5 shots.Paul George, SF 45 MIN | 9-15 FG | 3-9 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 23 PTS | +3

This kid might have a future. At the end of the game, I look down and see the 23 points on 15 shots — and that’s with all the blown free throws. His commitment to driving over pulling up was great. Four of his 8 second-half shots came in the paint and zero were threes. Eight of his 9 FTAs also came after halftime. And: His defense was again better than his offense.Roy Hibbert, C 42 MIN | 6-13 FG | 9-12 FT | 12 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 5 BLK | 2 TO | 21 PTS | +10

Block of the century? That thing. Man. What a play at the biggest of times on the biggest of stages. Two years ago, this guy was a Most Improved Player candidate in December who seemed to go into a funk because his coach was a little bit of a jerk to him. Now? Dude is the most ferocious, grimiest rim protector since Dikembe. I half expect to look over and see him eating barb wire on the bench instead of drinking Gatorade.George Hill, PG 42 MIN | 2-10 FG | 7-7 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | +12

Didn’t play well. But played. And that was probably bigger than anything he could have added production-wise. Made all of his free throws.Lance Stephenson, SG 34 MIN | 9-13 FG | 7-8 FT | 10 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 25 PTS | 0

If this Lance Stephenson, the aggressive and unstoppable force of nature who is gravitationally pulled to the basket, shows up all series against Miami, the Pacers have a definite shot. His Game 6 was the basketball equivalent of Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway hunting dinosaurs. Badass.

Tyler Hansbrough, PF 11 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 0 PTS | -8

Can’t recall a single thing he did. Neither does the box score, apparently.Sam Young, SF 9 MIN | 1-2 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +3

Sammy Young doing some things. I always struggle to write anything about what he does in a game. I think we’ll just start doing this: Sammy Young is the hardnosed defender who makes a few plays to help the team; Samuel Young is an can’t-shoot relic of the 1960s who should have stayed there. Sammy showed for Game 6.Ian Mahinmi, C 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +1

Didn’t really need him with all the Roy minutes.D.J. Augustin, PG 13 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | +2

I like him as a backup/spot-up shooter. Let’s just never try the whole staring point guard in a huge playoff game on the road thing again.Frank Vogel

Out-coached Mike Woodson in the series. Jumping into the league’s upper echelon. Looking like a guy who could be Indiana’s coach for a decade. Just graduated high school like four weeks ago.