The dynamic guard is offering a mea culpa after the 102-90 Game 4 shellacking handed to him and the Pacers by the Miami Heat, as he recognizes that he may have provided the two-time defending champions and four-time NBA MVP with a bit too much fodder for their bulletin board.
On Sunday before Game 4, Stephenson poked the tiger when he claimed to have found a soft spot in LeBron's game.
"To me, I think it’s a sign of weakness,” the guard told reporters on Sunday. ”He never used to say anything to me. I always used to be the one who said, `I’m going to do something to get you mad.’ Now he’s trying to do it to me. So I feel like it’s a weakness. I feel like I’m doing something right because I’m getting under his skin, but I’ve definitely got to keep stepping up to the plate and be more aggressive when he does that.”
On Wednesday ahead of Game 5, Stephenson walked his 'weakness' comments back.
"It's part of the game. I think I said some things that shouldn't have been said. Also Paul [George]. We just gotta play basketball and stop worrying about all the other stuff," Stephenson said following the 102-90 beatdown that wasn't even as close as the score might indicate, via Zak Keefer of The Indianaopolis Star.
Surely, Stephenson doesn't need to be told this, but the only thing he should be focused on going forward is Wednesday night's Game 5.
After all, the Pacers are 2-0 in elimination games during the 2014 postseason, but need to move that record to 5-0 in order to avoid watching the NBA Finals from the unfortunate comfort of their own couches and living rooms.
And Game 4 didn't exactly go well for Stephenson.
He was plagued by foul trouble throughout the game, finishing with nine points on 3-of-7 shooting, five rebounds and four assists. Even more importantly, Indiana was outscored by 14 points when he was on the court; only Roy Hibbert had a worse plus/minus during the Monday-night affair.
"It's part of the game, but it's between you and the guy on the floor," Stephenson continued. "And that's where I think I messed up. It was between me and him, not everybody else. I been learning since I got in the league. I came a long way. And I'm gonna keep learning 'til I get to that point where I'm a real pro."
Well, LeBron James helped him learn.
LeBron, the subject of the initial trash talk that sparked this whole saga, had his best game of the series directly after he was provoked by Stephenson, regardless of whether the four-time MVP admits to caring about what his opponent says to the media. With 32 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals, he was nothing short of dominant while teaching his younger counterpart a lesson he clearly took to heart.
"It was easy to see what was on the horizon. Even Stephenson's teammate, Paul George, said the Pacers guard had barked up the wrong tree," wrote SportingNews.com's DeAntae Prince after Game 4. "James proved George to be right."
And as Prince relays, LeBron even did a little talking of his own after the game.
When asked about Stephenson, he simply said, "I got a smirk out of it."
Does anyone think that'll come back to bite him? Lance, don't answer that question.
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