Indiana Pacers: As Goes Lance Stephenson, So Go The Indiana Pacers [Opinion]

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Lance Stephenson was a huge part of the Indiana Pacers’ Eastern Conference Finals runs a few years back. While Paul George was the face of the franchise, Stephenson was the glue that did a little bit of everything to help make the Pacers one of the top teams in the NBA.

During the Pacers’ preseason, Stephenson was a star. He looked like a potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate. Unfortunately, he was unable to start the season the same way that he played in the preseason. Now, however, Stephenson is back on track and is a huge part of the reason that the Pacers have a 12-11 record and are looking like a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.

Throughout the course of the season thus far, Stephenson has averaged 8.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game, according to ESPN statistics. He has shot 43.9 percent from the field overall and knocked down 32.7 percent of his three-point attempts.

Over the last five games, Stephenson has not scored less than 11 points and has led the Pacers to three huge wins in the fourth quarter. He has even stepped in when Victor Oladipo went out with a minor knee injury to start against the Boston Celtics. While the Pacers may have lost to the Celtics, Stephenson still scored 16 points while grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out five assists.

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Indiana is far from being a one-man team, but having a threat like Stephenson off the bench has made them a much more dangerous basketball team.

Not only does Stephenson bring the ability to impact the game in many different areas, he has also brought infectious energy that the Pacers feed off of. His ability to bring energy to the game has helped players like Victor Oladipo, Darren Collison, Myles Turner, and especially Domantas Sabonis in a big way.

Needless to say, it will be interesting to see how the Pacers fare throughout the rest of the season. Indiana certainly looks good enough to be a playoff contender, but some members of the national media still believe that they are playing above their potential.

Nate McMillan has done an excellent job getting Stephenson back on track. He has not lost faith in his dynamic shooting guard and has continued with a hands-on coaching technique both during games and off the court. Stephenson is, without question, one of the most important players for the Pacers this season, and his play will have a major impact on where the team ends up when everything is said and done.

Expect to see Stephenson continue improving as the season moves forward. As the team continues growing together and their chemistry continues improving, Stephenson will figure out his role.

Stephenson is certainly loved by the Pacers’ fan base and is obviously much more comfortable being back home. His play in the last couple of weeks has proven that, and the sky is the limit for him throughout the remainder of the 2017-18 season.