INDIANAPOLIS — Losers of four straight, the Indiana Pacers returned home in desperate need of a win. And, thanks in large part to the efforts of Lance Stephenson in his first game at home since returning to the Pacers, that’s exactly what they got.
Indiana trailed by as much as 19 in a miserable first half, but stormed back to post a 108-90 victory over the Toronto Raptors at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Paul George put on a show with 35 points and 10 rebounds, while Jeff Teague added 20 points.
Stephenson finished the night with 12 points — all in the fourth quarter — and three assists, but the stat line does not do his performance justice.
The atmosphere in the arena and on the floor was different than it had been for the first 77 games. When asked what is was, Paul George had a simple answer: “Lance Stephenson,” he said. “That’s just Lance Stephenson.”
“It’s contagious,” he added. “When he gets into that mode and he gets fired up it’s a contagious thing. ”
It was clear Stephenson was pressing in the first half as he went o-for-4 from the floor after receiving a solid ovation from the home crowd upon entering the game. The Pacers started the game 6-for-24 from the floor and posted a season-low 40 points in the first half.
“I just tried to come in and play smart, not do too much, be aggressive and make small plays,” Stephenson said.
After matching the season-low in the first half, Indiana posted a season-high with 68 points in the second half. The third quarter featured a sensational duel between Paul George and DeMar DeRozan, who had 20 and 18 points in the quarter respectively.
Indiana grabbed their first lead of the game at 58-57 midway through the third and the two teams traded blows, with the Pacers leading 77-75 heading to the fourth quarter.
With the starters returning to the floor to finish the game with about eight minutes left, head coach Nate McMillan elected to keep Stephenson on the floor, which paid dividends down the stretch.
Indiana extended its lead already-growing lead with a Myles Turner three-pointer and a runner from Teague, after which saw Teague let out an incredible scream, the most emotion he has showed in a Pacers uniform.
George continued to impress down the stretch as the Pacers pulled away for good.
Stephenson remained on the floor the entire quarter, until an inexplicable layup with less than five seconds remaining resulted in a skirmish between the two teams.
Stephenson and two Raptors were issued technicals in the melee.
The win moves the Pacers into a tie with Chicago for seventh place in the Eastern Conference standings at 38-40. Indiana has four games remaining, the next of which is at home Thursday night against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Austin Miller is the Indiana Pacers beat reporter for the Indiana Sports Report and student at Butler University and is recognized as an accredited member of the media and has full media access. Follow @MillerTimeXII and the @IndySportsRep on Twitter for Pacers coverage all season long.
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