Lance Stephenson explains what leads up to one of his moments

Lance Stephenson got the ball with 2:12 left before halftime. He dribbled three times with his right hand, then sent a behind-the-back pass — he practices them hours before each game — to Myles Turner at the top of the arc. Two seconds later, he got it back.

With it on the right arc, Lance went to work.

“I just had a feeling,” he recalled after the Pacers hammered the New York Knicks, 115-97. “I don’t know, it just happens. I can’t explain it.”

Going against rookie Frank Ntilikina, Stephenson showed off moves like he was once again at Rucker Park. He did a figure 8 with the ball in and around his legs, dribbled left, then right, hesitation, right dribble, spin to his right — and then finished with a finger roll from his left palm.

He pranced, slapped the hand of one fan courtside, the sprinted his way down the floor.

It was a move that sent many Pacers fans out of their seats, and piled up thousands of retweets on Twitter. And it took just 12 seconds.

“I don’t know, it just comes out,” he said smiling, while putting on his shoes. “Sometimes I play normal, sometimes I see … like he [Ntilikina] went for it once, so I did it again, then dribbled and crossover. I just be trying stuff, it just comes out.”

Because it happened just before intermission, it’s likely that Stephenson viewed the clip — either on his phone or one of his teammates — in the first few minutes before the team in an adjacent room.

“We’re going to joke about that tomorrow for sure,” said Victor Oladipo (16 points, five rebounds, four assists).

10 minutes after the game, there was Lance viewing it on his phone while chatting with his locker mate, Joe Young.

Of course he shared the video on his Instagram page.

“I love it,” said Myles Turner, who finished with 12 points and five rebounds. “Lance brings a different element to the team that gasses everybody up. Whenever he gets to going, he sparks us up and gets our energy up even more.

“You definitely laugh. It’s just Lance being Lance. The thing we laugh at the most is the other team’s reactions. The look on their face … is like demoralizing.”

With Stephenson, you must take the bad with the good.

Lance finishes with the finger roll. [Photo: Frank McGrath/PS&E]

“Lance can get a little crazy at times, sometimes you got to slow him down but I like that,” Pacers President Kevin Pritchard said back on media day. “I like that he brings us unique experience to the games and he gets fired up and he gets his teammates fired up.”

The Pacers (13-11) didn’t need fired up as much Monday as they may in other games. The Knicks, playing on the second night of a back-to-back, were without Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr., both back in New York with injuries.

I asked Oladipo what it’s like out there when Lance…

He cut me off.

“Makes em dance? It’s good. He gets everybody involved. It gets us hyped, gets the crowd hyped. It’s definitely great, man. We need Lance in general, we need him to play at a high level. When he plays at a high level, the game is a lot easier for us all.”

The Pacers were in full control of this one, never trailing and leading by as many as 38 points, their largest lead in 24 games this season. The bigger point is that Stephenson’s teammates understand him, appreciate him, and encourage him. That belief and confidence was notably absent on the other five teams Stephenson spent time with over two-plus seasons.

“When you do stuff like that, I think it gets them out of the game and makes them bow down a little bit,” Stephenson said, adding that it no longer is meaningful to face New York, a team that was competitive in his area growing up in Brooklyn. (The Nets played in New Jersey until 2012.)

It’s obvious that coach Nate McMillan isn’t all about the theatrics that Stephenson displayed in Monday’s win, but he’s not against them. He understands Stephenson like the rest of the organization but wants to be sure they are respecting the game in how they play – both while on their court and in their celebrations.

“There’s a fine line there in respecting the game,” he said postgame. “We always want to respect the game in how we play. I want guys to have fun but showboating and those types of things, respect the game. Play the game the right way and we’ll be okay with that.”

Stephenson’s slow start was the biggest surprise to start the season. He reached double figures in just one of the first 10 games. The team’s sixth man, however, scored 11 or more in the previous five games entering Monday’s clash with the Knicks. He finished one point short of doing it in six straight games, with nine.

With Good Lance, the Pacers are a better team. The team’s chemistry is much improved over last season, and it’s obvious they’re having fun with one another.

Lance is back home, moved into a house, has his own fan section, slimmed down, and is accepting of his role. There’s great value in having a guy that can be counted on for high energy during the grind of an 82-game season. And Lance is it.

“He puts on a show!” Pacers television analyst Quinn Buckner shouted after Stephenson’s finish.

It’s good for the team, and good for his social media game. Like the Pacers, his followers are on the rise.

One Response to Lance Stephenson explains what leads up to one of his moments
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