MIAMI -- This time, Lance Stephenson didn't have very many brash words.
Late Monday night, shortly after the Heat's 102-90 win in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals gave the two-time defending champions a 3-1 lead as the series shifts to Indiana, the Pacers guard sat at his locker and quietly answered question after question.
He said he had no regrets for saying LeBron James had shown a "sign of weakness" by responding to his taunts early during Miami's Game 3 win on Saturday. He also admitted he was trying to get into the four-time league MVP's head, though his efforts clearly backfired.
"He was in attack mode the whole game," Stephenson said. "He stepped up tonight."
That was an understatement.
James was a force for the Heat on Monday recording his fifth 30-point game of the postseason and his seventh career 30-point postseason game against the Pacers. He had 14 of his game-high 32 points in the third quarter helping the Heat build a lead that grew to as many as 19 in the period.
"I got a smirk out of it," James said later when asked about Stephenson's comments.
Stephenson, meanwhile, played just 32 minutes after spending most of the game in foul trouble.
He didn't score until he connected on one of two free throws with 4:34 left in the third. His first field goal--a driving lay-up--didn't come until there was 5:31 left in the game.
"I tried to play ball. I tried to get into his head. I guess he stepped up and got the win," Stephenson said. "I can take the heat. I can take the fire...I was in foul trouble. I never got my rhythm until the fourth quarter. They did a good job of getting me in foul trouble and I just never got a rhythm out there."
Several of his teammates said they hoped Stephenson, a third-year player, would learn from the experience.
They didn't mince words either.
"I don't know if it affected him, but we've got to stay away from giving guys bulletin board material. They're the defending champs. I don't know if they need motivation...I think he'll learn from it because he wants to play better," said Pacers forward David West, a 10-year veteran and one of the more experienced players in Indiana's locker room. "He wants to perform better. For us, he knows he has to be on the floor."
Added Paul George, "When you make comments regarding trash talking and just being caught up between another player in a matchup, you've got to bring it. You've got to bring it. I'm pretty sure a lot of people were going to be tuned in to see what Lance was going to do because of what he said. Maybe there's a lot of pressure on him and everybody goes through situations where you just struggle. Just because of what was said and what was done, it just wasn't a good time for him."
Officiating a sore spot
Stephenson's comments about James weren't the only thing to rile the Pacers after Monday's loss.
Several Indiana players bemoaned the officiating and pointed to the fact the Heat went to the free throw line 34 times, while Indiana had just 17 free throw attempts.
"Looking at the stat sheet, we outplayed them. You've got to give them credit. They won this game at the free throw line," said George. "They really just were able to get to the line more than we were, but I thought we outplayed them tonight."
James, when told of George's comments was incredulous.
"We did only have five turnovers, seven steals and 20 points off their turnovers," he said. "That has nothing to do with the free throw line."
West, too, seemed unhappy with the officiating.
"We played a tough game. I thought we were aggressive. I thought we were consistently getting two feet in the paint," he said. "Like I said, we learned some new rules tonight and we've got to do a better job of adjusting."
Roy Hibbert had another rough night Monday, missing all four of his field goal attempts. He played a little more than 22 minutes after getting into foul trouble early and Monday's loss marked the fourth time this postseason the 7-foot-2 center has been held scoreless this postseason.
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Original headline: After Game 4, Stephenson changes his tune on LeBron James
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