Knicks Impressed by Stephenson’s All-Star-Like Performance

by Manny Randhawa | @MannyRsports

January 17, 2014 | 12:20 a.m.

Lance Stephenson has been making an increasingly impressive bid to earn the first NBA All-Star selection of his young career. And after his performance at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Thursday night in front of a national television audience, you won’t get any arguments from the New York Knicks.

Stephenson scored a career-high 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including 3-of-7 from beyond the 3-point arc, in the Pacers’ 117-89 rout of New York. He’s now averaging 13.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game while shooting 50 percent from the field.

“Lance is a guy who when he gets it in the open court and in transition, no one person is going to stay in front of him,” said Carmelo Anthony, the man who had the task of guarding Stephenson Thursday. “We didn’t do a good job as a team of keeping him in front of us and keeping him out of transition. When he gets it going early in a game like that, he has nights like he did tonight.”

Stephenson – who leads the NBA with three triple-doubles this season – did what we’ve all gotten accustomed to seeing him do, pushing the tempo early Thursday night and using his dynamic athleticism to score at the rim. He also had multiple trademark Stephenson assists, including some highlight-reel-worthy no-look passes underneath for easy buckets.

Suffice to say: the Knicks were impressed.

“This is the first time he’s really exploded against us,” said New York coach Mike Woodson. “You’ve got to tip your hat to him because he was on his game and we had no answer for him.”

Knicks point guard Raymond Felton, who also guarded Stephenson at times during the game, said that although Paul George is Indiana’s star, Stephenson infuses the Pacers with his unique energy.

“He’s been playing well all year,” Felton said. “He’s been doing that to everybody, from what I’ve been seeing. He’s having an all-around great year. He’s hitting shots, he’s pushing the ball, he’s making plays and making passes. Paul George is the main guy on the team, but [Stephenson] is the guy that really gets them going. If he has a great game, they’re tough to beat.”

Is Stephenson worthy of an All-Star nod in Felton’s eyes?

“He’s playing like one, for sure,” Felton said.

When asked about what he thought of Stephenson’s occasional celebrations following a big play, Tyson Chandler said No. 1 earned those moments and is entitled to relish them.

“You can do it when you’re winning,” Chandler said. “It’s our job to keep him from doing all that.”

Chandler also spoke of the creativity that is at the heart of Stephenson’s game.

“He keeps the tempo going for them and he’s creative out there,” Chandler said. “The Pacers do a good job of running with him and getting a couple of easy baskets here and there.”

Amar’e Stoudemire didn’t appear at all surprised by Stephenson’s stellar showing Thursday, adding that his ability to energize the Bankers Life Fieldhouse crowd with his electric style of play is also a big element to his game that the Pacers thrive on.

“That’s Lance,” Stoudemire said. “That’s how he plays. He had a great game tonight and you’ve got to take your hat off to him, the way he played. He definitely brought the intensity and got the crowd into it a little bit, which from the home team that’s what you want to see.”

Stoudemire agreed with Felton that based on what he’s seen from Stephenson, he may be All-Star material this season.

“I haven’t been watching him as much, but I think from the times that we’ve been playing against him, he’s been playing extremely well,” Stoudemire said. “And he could deserve a bid to the All-Star Game.”

If it were up to the Knicks, it appears that Stephenson would have a good shot at making the All-Star team. And the way he’s been playing lately, his recent “Sir Lancelot” video encouraging fans to vote for him may end up being a fun, yet unnecessary endeavor.

The man who currently has the third-most All-Star votes in the Eastern Conference said he didn’t feel it was his place to say whether or not Stephenson deserves to join the East squad in New Orleans on Feb. 16. But Carmelo Anthony couldn’t deny what Stephenson is doing on the hardwood.

“That’s not for me to say,” Anthony replied when asked about Stephenson’s candidacy.

“He’s playing great basketball.”

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