Early in the second quarter of the Pacers win over Charlotte on Monday night, Cory Joseph lost control of the ball as it squirted across half court. Joseph went to the floor to keep the ball away from Jeremy Lamb. As several players joined the fray, Lance Stephenson somehow gained control of the ball and turned a potential turnover disaster into a delight for the fans at the Fieldhouse.
”We were scrambling for a loose ball on the floor and all of a sudden Lance was able to get it and make a play,” Joseph explained.
A play? Two points?
From Lance’s perspective there was a little more to it.
”It was a blessing from God,” Stephenson said. “I just tried something and it happened to work.”
Yes it did.
From where I was sitting, just tying up the loose ball to avoid giving up a transition bucket off the turnover would have been a solid play, but maintaining possession gave the Fieldhouse a quick jolt of energy.
But preserving the possession was just the start of what was yet another signature play for Lance. Stephenson’s behind the back dribble caught Michael Carter-Williams leaning and then, like Le’Veon Bell patiently finding a hole and then bursting to daylight, Lance shot forward ahead of the defense for a mini 3-on-2 break.
With T.J. Leaf lurking baseline, Lance didn’t so much as draw Frank Kaminsky away from Leaf as he froze the big man in no-man’s land with a little gallop and series of hand movements off the ball. After a sweet bounce pass the Fieldhouse erupted as Leaf cashed in the bunny.
To appreciate all that was going on requires two angles of the play, one from up top to see Lance control the possession and lose MCW with the dribble and then the slow-mo from baseline to see Leaf’s perspective.
We must protect Lance Stephenson at all costs.pic.twitter.com/2NNsju6wdO— Leading NBA (@LeadingNBA) January 30, 2018
Before getting the ball, Leaf said he saw a lot of blurs and then Lance being Lance which means he has to assume the ball may come his way even if it seems unlikely.
”It’s almost like baseball, gotta keep your eye on the ball and hands ready when he starts going like that,” Leaf said. “I just tried to be in the right spot and he’ll find you eventually.”
After the play, cameras caught Victor Oladipo on the bench trying to digest what happened.
Lance doing some Lance voodoo and Victor Oladipo mocking him pic.twitter.com/OgzqCXVNhm— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) January 30, 2018
”I saw the replay and tried to imitate my man Lance’s, ‘Genie in the Bottle,’ so I tried to see if I could tell the future like he was doing,” Oladipo said. “But it was a great play and got the crowd into it too.”
So yes, the play simply tied the game up at 30 early in the second quarter and reads as a layup by Leaf in the play-by-play stats. But it was also a great play, a blur, a blessing from God -- all of that depending on your perspective.