It is a testament to how many holes there are in my brain that I wrote a whole bunch of words on Wednesday afternoon about the Indiana Pacers playing the Cleveland Cavaliers, and that it at no point occurred to me that the matchup meant a resumption of unpleasantries between longtime foils LeBron James and Lance Stephenson. As luck would have it, though, Lance made a point of reminding me all about it midway through the second quarter.
With the Pacers holding a 49-40 lead, the Cavs rebounded an Indiana miss and looked to get out in transition. James took a pass at center court and made a beeline for the bucket. As he passed the 3-point line, Stephenson elected to leap up in the air — maybe to try to take away a lob pass; maybe for reasons that pass understanding — only to find that LeBron was continuing to dribble past him rather than pulling up.
Intent on making a play, Stephenson did what came naturally: slapped down his right hand to try to swipe the ball free, only to whack LeBron below the belt instead.
After a video review, the referees decided to hit Stephenson with a flagrant foul-1 for the low blow. I’d say that was the most painful hit LeBron took on Wednesday night … but then, after the “clear the air” meeting heard round the world, the Pacers whipped up on the Cavs, drilling 16 of 26 3-point tries to run away with a 124-107 win, that dropped the three-time-defending Eastern Conference champions to 3-5 on the season. Somehow, I suspect that’ll hurt LeBron — who finished with 33 points on 14-for-22 shooting, 11 assists, six rebounds, two steals, one block and eight turnovers in 38 minutes — more than the shot south of the border.
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