GAME RECAP: Pacers 100, Sixers 92

Victor Oladipo scores 19 points and grabs nine rebounds as the Pacers top the Sixers, 100-92.

Postgame 180203

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GAME RECAP: Pacers 100, Sixers 92

Victor Oladipo scores 19 points and grabs nine rebounds as the Pacers top the Sixers, 100-92.
Feb 3, 2018  |  02:02

Postgame: Pacers Locker Room - Feb. 3, 2018

Feb. 3, 2018 - Victor Oladipo, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Lance Stephenson speak with the media following Indiana's 100-92 win over the Philadelphia 76ers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Feb 3, 2018  |  02:44

Postgame: McMillan Press Conference - Feb. 3, 2018

Feb. 3, 2018 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan speaks with the media after Indiana's 100-92 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Feb 3, 2018  |  05:40

Lance Drains the Three

February 03, 2018: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Feb 3, 2018  |  04:34

Myles Finds Bojan for Three

February 03, 2018: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Feb 3, 2018  |  04:21

Thad Kicks to Bojan

February 03, 2018: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Feb 3, 2018  |  04:10

Oladipo Hits the Teardrop

February 03, 2018: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Feb 3, 2018  |  03:58

Big Al Spins and Finishes

February 03, 2018: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Feb 3, 2018  |  03:47

Lance to Domas on the Break

February 03, 2018: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Feb 3, 2018  |  03:15

Thad Goes Up and Under

February 03, 2018: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Feb 3, 2018  |  02:50

Sabonis Dishes to Young

February 03, 2018: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Feb 3, 2018  |  02:34

Thad Hits the Stepback

February 03, 2018: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Indiana Pacers - Highlights
Feb 3, 2018  |  02:16

Pacers Loving Life in Stephenson's Fun Zone

by Mark Montieth Writer

That arm-flapping thing? He's decided to call it The Bird, and even volunteered a high-pitched impression of some sort of bird to further establish the point.

The air guitar? He says he's playing "Bad to the Bone," the 1982 song by George Thorogood and the Destroyers.

Lance Stephenson was fully immersed in the Lance Stephenson Zone Saturday, a place no Pacers player has ever visited, much less occupied. Same goes for the rest of the NBA today.

It's a place that brings chaos to games, entertainment for the fans and, more often than not, good things for his teammates, who have learned to live with it and even revel in it — most of the time.

Stephenson finished the Pacers' 100-92 victory over Philadelphia at Bankers Life Fieldhouse with 14 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and two blocked shots in his 23 minutes off the bench. He wasn't his team's leading scorer (Victor Oladipo and Bojan Bogdanovic had 19 points each) but he had the game's best plus-minus rating (+15) and made the game's biggest plays as the Pacers improved their record to 30-24.

Let's stop there for a minute. Thirty wins. Remember how in the preseason so many people predicted they would win 30 games for the season? Maybe 32, maaaayyyybe 35. Or maybe even 20-some. Here they are, with 30 victories under their collective belt on Feb. 3, with 28 games still to play.

They have exceeded expectations for a variety of reasons. Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis have turned out better than anticipated. Come to think of it, so have Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic. Cory Joseph has been a welcome addition, and 33-year-old Al Jefferson showed again there's plenty of life left in his fancy footwork.

Stephenson is a major part of the equation, however. He injected life into last season's deadpan group, helping it to five consecutive season-ending victories that brought a playoff berth and five close losses to Cleveland, one in the regular season and four in the playoffs.

He has the same effect on this collection. They don't need inoculations of adrenaline as badly as last season's players, but they tolerate his persona, draw strength from it and bask in the glow it brings — even if the veterans have to tell him to cool it now and then.

"Oh, every game. Every game," Thaddeus Young said. "He understands I don't mean any harm. Sometimes it needs to be said when he's jumping out of pocket, but he's easy to reel back in. A lot of people think he's not listening, but he is. He pays attention to the game, pays attention to what we're doing out on the court, and he tries to get better each and every day.

"We know that going into the game, so we just try to prepare for it and hope we get the best Lance we can get."

The Pacers got the best Lance throughout most of Saturday's game, which resulted in their sixth consecutive home victory. He had three turnovers when he forced passes and he took a few bad shots, but mostly he made winning plays — sometimes with highlight-variety passes. Nearly all of his contributions came in the fourth quarter, when he scored or assisted on the Pacers' first 15 points and finished it with 12 points, six rebounds, and three assists.

He opened the scoring by hitting a field goal with his toes barely across the 3-point line. He drove hard to the basket on the next possession, drawing a foul, then threw the ball out of bounds when play resumed. He then snatched a rebound of Philadelphia's missed shot, charged downcourt and hit Jefferson with a one-handed pass from midcourt for a dunk that ignited the sellout crowd.

He followed that with a 3-pointer that forced Sixers coach Brett Brown to call timeout.

He missed a driving shot on the Pacers' first possession following the timeout, but followed with a breakaway dunk off Collison's feed after Joseph deflected the ball. Collison scored on a jumper from the baseline off Stephenson's assist on the next possession.

Both teams floundered over the next two scoreless minutes, but Stephenson broke the ice with a perfectly-placed floor-length two-handed chest pass over a Sixer that landed in Young's hands for a layup and forced Brown to call another timeout.

Stephenson crouched and flapped his arms as the players headed for the sideline. Unlike his strums of the air guitar, which has been part of his celebration repertoire for several weeks, this was something new.

"I don't know, man," he said. "I just felt like I was flying. I was having fun. That just came out of nowhere."

Stephenson had some Bad Lance moments, though. He constantly complained to the referees about the lack of foul calls, seemingly of the belief he had been fouled on every missed shot. Following the timeout that had begun with his arm-flapping moment, Myles Turner, who wasn't in the game, attempted to gather the players in the game for a few words of advice, but Stephenson was too busy resuming his complaints to a referee to even notice.

That's just one of the things the Pacers are willing to put up with for the fringe benefits of Stephenson's hustle, however. He stole an inbounds pass a minute later, drove to the basket, drew a foul and hit two free throws. Another couple of minutes later he hit a 3-pointer to open a 13-point lead with 3:19 left, which prompted another air guitar riff.

Bad to the bone, indeed.

Stephenson said none of the Sixers had words for him during the game. Sometimes veteran players do, but not the younger ones, who are probably intimidated by his relentless energy and spirit. Philadelphia's coach, however, had only good things to say about him afterward.

"That's what he does and he's really good at it," Brown said. "You are sort of happy for him, just from a human standpoint. You know he has left and come back and the community, the organization, have embraced him and he has been rewarded and he has delivered.

"It's a reciprocal thing and he came in and really just kind of changed the game with that lightning-in-a-bottle, off-the-bench mentality."

Stephenson did that with more than shot-making and showboating, though. He jumped into batches of taller players for nine defensive rebounds. He also combined with Bogdanovic to contain Sixers rookie Ben Simmons, who finished with 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Other Pacers, meanwhile, combined to limit J.J. Redick — who hit eight 3-pointers on his way to 31 points in Philadelphia's win over the Pacers earlier this season — to six points on 1-of-8 shooting. Redick's lone success was a 3-pointer that was well-defended by Stephenson.

Roam the Pacers' locker room, especially after a victory, and it's clear Stephenson's teammates don't just put up with Stephenson's antics and mistakes, they appreciate them — even if veterans such as Young occasionally have to settle him down.

Bogdanovic, who finished with 19 points, smiled and broke into a chuckle when asked about Stephenson's fourth-quarter outburst.

"Lance always brings energy and involves the crowd in the game," he said.

Understatement, that.

Jefferson, who scored nine points and taught Philadelphia's rising star of a center, Joel Embiid, a thing or two about the intricacies of post play, said he knew Stephenson had something in store for the game.

"Lance was saying before the game, 'It's going to be a big game. It's going to be a big night. Big night,'" Jefferson said. "He just kept saying that. I just know when he's in that little zone, nine times out of 10, it's going to work out for us."

It certainly works for Stephenson, the most exciting, impactful and popular nine-point-a-game scorer the Pacers have ever had.

"Just having fun, man," he said. "I try to show the crowd it's a serious game but it's also fun at the same time. I try to get everybody involved and having fun."

For this team, this early in the season? Thirty wins qualifies as big fun.

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Mark Montieth's book, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," covers the formation and early seasons of the franchise. It is available at retail outlets throughout Indiana and online at sources such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.