They knew a victory wouldn't come easily, especially not when starting point guard George Hill was ruled out with a concussion. And not when facing a team fighting for its playoff life in front of its raucous hometown crowd.
Lance Stephenson, a New York native now collecting checks in the Circle City, looked for a dagger dunk late in the second quarter.
It wasn't a bad idea. The Pacers looked lethargic early on and could have used a jolt.
But he might have missed a calculation somewhere between his two power dribbles and his liftoff. Standing under the basket was 7'1" center Tyson Chandler, a three-time All-Defensive selection and the 2011-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Stephenson made it just across the arc of the restricted circle before a jarring impact with Chandler's 235-pound frame. It was a hard, physical playoff foul—one that sent a direct message at the highlight-hopeful Stephenson and the rest of his teammates.
The former Lincoln High star deserves a bit of a break here. This is the first time in his three NBA seasons that he's seen significant postseason minutes, so he's still learning the finer points of playoff basketball, according to Steve Popper of the Bergen Record.
Chandler enforced the no dunk rule very hard there on Lance Stephenson who looks like he hurt his, well, everything.— Steve Popper (@StevePopper) May 17, 2013
It's a hard lesson to take in, but one that Stephenson won't soon forget.