Lance Stephenson returns to the Indiana Pacers, gets praise from teammates

Indiana Pacers, Lance Stephenson - Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana Pacers, Lance Stephenson - Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

Lance Stephenson has returned to the Indiana Pacers for the third time in his NBA career. The Pacers took on the Cleveland Cavaliers on Jan. 2, 2022, and Lance Stephenson came off the bench.

The Indiana Pacers are missing eight players due to health and safety protocols – the team was in need of guard depth.

Caris LeVert, Malcolm Brogdon, Chris Duarte, Isaiah Jackson, Jeremy Lamb, Goga Bitadze, Kelan Martin, and T.J. Warren are all OUT.

Lance Stephenson makes a debut with his second team this season. After completing a 10-day contract with the Hawks, Lance has returned to the Indiana Pacers and Domantas Sabonis has high praise.

Stephenson’s last game for the Pacers was April 29, 2018 – 1,344 days ago. It was game seven of the playoffs against, LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

With just under four minutes to go in the first quarter, Lance checks into the game for Indiana and upon entering the game, he assists Oshae Brissett for a three-point shot in transition.

Then, with 1:23 left in the first quarter, he scores his first basket while fading on the baseline.

Lance played quite well off the bench in the first half of the contest. He was on the court for six minutes and thirty seconds.

In that time, he scored 6 points, 2 assists, and 1 rebound – going 3/4 from the field.

One thing I noticed from Lance was his attempts at creation for others. Something similar to how T.J. McConnell operates with control of the ball – driving to the basket and looking at the wing for the pass.

This is really what I want to see more of throughout Stephenson’s 10-day contract.

If he can add these reads to his arsenal while maintaining his confidence offensively, I think he’s a really capable player for what this team needs right now.

Of course, Lance loves to create for himself and is great when he can connect on those shot attempts.

The Pacers need that creation and Stephenson does already have established relationships with both Myles Turner and Domas Sabonis that can help him funnel his creation.

Filtering his offense through the bigs could allow him to be more selective of shots – which could be more effective and allow him to continue his high-level energy plays.

Both Myles and Domas are the only “normal” starters that are available to play at the moment.

This means their leadership will be key and Lance’s chemistry with them is a big factor if the Pacers want to have success in the absence of other players.

If Stephenson can get in lineups with either of those two (which will be always with Bitadze and Jackson out) and do this well, then he can provide a lot more for the offense than just his energy.

Lance has notoriously been explosive offensively so I believe him leveraging that into ball movement will create more opportunities for others and keep him in the game.

He did seem to be somewhat tired out on the floor, walking up the court. It could still be an adjustment period for him of the NBA pace.

Nonetheless, he was hitting shots from the mid-range and his ability to move the ball to teammates stood out. Nothing major, but for Lance, there were some good mannerisms to take away.

Although he had a few ups, there were a few downs. He struggled to deliver the pass on this drive to the paint, where he lost his footing while trying to kick the ball out to Turner.

He would only play for another two minutes but was subbed out by Rick Carlisle. He missed a three-point shot and then a turnover shortly thereafter led to this decision.

The Pacers were getting good production from their other guards in Duane Washington Jr. and Keifer Sykes, so the minutes for Lance weren’t the first option in this game.

Washington Jr. finished the game with 20 points, 1 assist, and 2 rebounds. Keifer Sykes had 10 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds.

Lance would not return to the game until the end of the third quarter – about three minutes remaining. The Indiana Pacers led the Cavs 84-76.

However, the Pacers would not score again until the fourth quarter – the Cavs took the lead, 88-84. A 15-0 run by Cleveland to end the third quarter would lead to this outcome.

Lance returned to the game to start the fourth quarter – where he dished an assist to Washington Jr. to score the first points and end Cleveland’s 15-0 run. This would be it for Stephenson.

He finished the game with 6 points (3/7), 3 assists, and 1 rebound in 12:34 of play. He was a -8 in those minutes.

It was fun to see Lance back in an Indiana Pacers uniform – if you have to sign guys to a 10-day contract, why not Lance?

There is no question he loves being a Pacer and his energy is something that the team has lacked as of late. Oshae Brissett has provided some of that spark off the bench with a healthy roster multiple times this season.

Stephenson will certainly grab the attention of Pacers fans who could be tuning out in a somewhat underachieving season thus far.

Of course, we can’t expect everything from Lance. However, it was good to see him trying to get the ball to other teammates and make the right play.

Domantas Sabonis was asked about what it was like to have Lance back on the team after the game in a post-game press conference.

“It’s great. He is a great guy and we love him, the fact that he is back is really big. He knows how we play and he knows the culture here so it is fun having him back”.

The Cavs handled the Pacers, winning 108-104.

The Pacers’ next game will be at home against the Brooklyn Nets, where Lance Stephenson will get his first opportunity to play in front of Pacers’ fans in 1,344 days.

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