The Pacers are 3-0 against the Nets this season. In those match-ups, Lance Stephenson is averaging 21 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists. From this gaudy stat line alone, it is probably safe to say that the Brooklyn native comes prepared to put on quite the show against the team that hails from his old stomping ground. As such, do not expect tonight's latest contest between the two squads to be any different. If anything, Born Ready may show up for the game.... ahem, extra ready.
This time the game is not just about winning, recording a triple-double, or impressing the eyes of spectators from his hometown. No, this time it is a little more personal. According to the New York Daily News, Lance is looking to prove to the Eastern Conference coaches that they erred in their decision to not to select him as an All-Star Reserve:
I already had a chip on my shoulder and it made me even worse," Stephenson said about not making the Eastern Conference reserves. "Now I'm going to kill everybody who is in front of me."
On this evening's match-up against one of the chosen reserves, Lance told the New York Daily News:
"Like I said, whoever made it in front of me or whoever is in my position who people think whose in front of me, I'm definitely going to go after them," Stephenson said. "You'll definitely see that tonight - me going after (Johnson)."
It is no secret that, Lance and, at least, a few of his teammates were disappointed that he would not be announced in New Orleans as an All-Star. Meanwhile, Johnson, who has averaged 14 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 4 assists in head-to-head match-ups against Stephenson, admitted to being caught off guard by the selection. However, to those that believed Kyle Lowry or Stephenson should be headed to the 63rd All-Star game in his place, Johnson vehemently defended his status as an elite shooting guard, telling ESPN New York:
"I don't care what they think. It is what it is. You can say whatever you want. What's done is done, and it's over with."
In Johnson's defense, throughout this season he has put on numerous All-Star worthy performances. Look no further than the Nets win over Philly for evidence in which he scored 29 points in the fourth quarter. Moreover, ESPN.com notes that, in a six game stretch during the month of January, Johnson averaged 24.5ppg on 51% shooting.
Even so, from Stephenson's perspective, that probably does not change the fact that he has Johnson beat in every other statistical category including "Ws", except points, in which the Nets' shooting guard averages only a little over one more point per game.
Regardless of whether readers believe Lance or Joe Johnson was more deserving of the All-Star nod, the dynamic between the two players should bring an extra element of intrigue to what should already be a great match-up tonight. Who will come out victorious? Lance (with a chip, or, what could be construed as a boulder, on his shoulder) and the Pacers coming off a frustrating home loss to the Phoenix Suns, or Joe Johnson and the Nets looking for validation coming fresh off a blowout loss last night against the Oklahoma City Thunder?