Call it the Goran Dragic and Lance Stephenson Revenge Game.
On the night the NBA announced the All-Star reserves, Dragic and Stephenson found themselves on the list of snubs, and then they went head-to-head in Indiana.
Behind 28 points and seven assists from Dragic, the Phoenix Suns knocked off the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers 102-94 on Thursday night.
And after Phoenix's recently snubbed point guard helped his team jump out to a 36-19 lead after one quarter, Indiana's Stephenson dominated on the other end to keep the Pacers within striking distance.
He finished with his league-leading fourth triple-double, tallying 14 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
His snub was more egregious than Dragic's. After all, Dragic is in the much more competitive Western Conference and still has an outside chance of replacing the injured Kobe Bryant.
In the East, there are at least two guards you could argue aren't quite as deserving as Stephenson. Joe Johnson for sure, and maybe even DeMar DeRozan.
Start by looking at the numbers—first basic:
One of the stats that jumps off the page for Stephenson is the rebounding. Not only is he better than both DeRozan and Johnson, no guard in the league is close on the glass.
Stephenson leads all backcourt players at 7.1 boards a game. Russell Westbrook is second with an average of six.
Add to that the assists and defense, and it's pretty difficult to see how Stephenson was the guy left out among the three compared above.
For DeRozan, you could make the argument that he's the better natural scorer. But you also have to consider the possibility that his numbers may be slightly inflated by his role in Toronto.
If he traded places with Stephenson, how would the numbers of each look?
And what about the whole winning thing? Charles Barkley made a great point on TNT's coverage of the reveal, saying that Miami and San Antonio always got three All-Stars when they were the top teams in their conferences in the past.
Shouldn't that have helped Stephenson get in? Especially when you consider how much better Indiana has been than every team in the East not named the Heat?
Whatever the reason for leaving him off, there doesn't seem to be a ton of logic to it.
As for Dragic? Yeah, it's a lot harder in the Western Conference, and it would be tough to argue against any selection other than Kobe Bryant. But Dragic's play this season deserves some recognition.
When Phoenix traded away Marcin Gortat and Luis Scola this past summer, it looked like management was aiming toward the 2014 lottery right along with the Utah Jazz and Philadelphia 76ers.
But Dragic has had none of that. Behind his 19.7 points and 6.1 assists a game, the Suns have gone a surprising (understatement) 28-18.
His player efficiency rating and true shooting percentage both trump Tony Parker's. He also has more win shares than San Antonio's All-Star point guard.
Anthony Davis will likely take the spot of the injured Kobe, but if commissioner Adam Silver opts to go with a guard, it would be hard to argue against Dragic.
Both he and Stephenson have been making their cases all season long. And they came out with a bang on the night they were officially denied the chance to play in the NBA's All-Star Game.
Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.
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