Today was the biggest stage the Pacers have played on this season, the Sunday afternoon ABC slot for Indiana's opening playoff game in Cleveland.
IN led 28-10 before gaining a possession off of a series of missed LeBron James shots and sprinting out in transition.
Turns out, there was something new.
So now we know: Without desire, health won't be enough to carry the Cavaliers to a fourth straight NBA Finals, although Coach Tyronn Lue had a difference perspective after losing Game 1 to the IN pacers, 98-80, at Quicken Loans Arena.
"He's a competitor", James said of Stephenson.More news: Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell suffers foot injury; status for Game 2 unclear
But while he knows the narrative before Wednesday's Game 2 will be on the struggles of Cleveland's playoff newcomers, James isn't anxious.
"I'm down 0-1 in the first round", he said.
"I was down 3-1 in the Finals. I'm the last guy to ask about how you're gonna feel the next couple of days".
The Pacers are feeling confident after beating the Cavs for fourth time this season.
IN was in control from the outset, opening a 21-point lead in the first quarter and leading by 23 in the third. He hit 6-9 from behind the arc, and needed just 19 shots for his 32 points, while adding 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals (!), and a block.More news: Mariah Carey's Rep Responds As Former Manager Accuses Singer Of Sexual Harassment
They calmly walked off, business as usual. "We just have to stay under control, don't let this get to our head and take the next game as our first game". "We take it one game at a time and whether we win or we lose, we want to come out and be better than we were in our last game". Games 3 and 4 will be in Indianapolis.
The likes of Jordan Clarkson (2-for-6 in shooting), Rodney Hood (3-for-7), Jose Calderon (0-3), and Jeff Green (0-7) were all off with their shots but the three-time National Basketball Association champion believes they will perform better as they continue to gain playoff experience.
James had his 98th career double-double, and 20th career double as the four time MVP finished the day leading the Cavs in points (24) and assists (12). Starting guards Rodney Hood and George Hill combined for 16 points. But that makes it all the more important for IN to shore up any deficiencies they saw on film. That's why we came to play this game is to win, not just to come here and just be OK.
"They were more physical". As a team, the Cavaliers shot just 38 percent from the field and eight of 34 from the three-point line but maybe we should just credit the Pacers' defense for this one because the Cavaliers certainly had plenty of wide open looks in that first quarter. It was also the first time James suffered a playoff-opening loss in his career. The 33-year-old is trying to get to his eighth straight Finals, and already the path is tougher than imagined. He had averaged more than 27 points per game in the playoffs for the Pacers the past two years.
Last summer, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert declared, unsolicited, that IN "could've done better than it did" IN the trade that sent Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder IN exchange for a package that included Victor Oladipo. "They still don't believe". He didn't attempt his first shot until only 1:52 remained in the first quarter. You get the idea. Now everybody sees, so it's like, it's kind of shocking to everybody, I guess you could say.More news: White House says no decision yet on fresh Russian Federation sanctions
Oladipo wasn't seen as a franchise-changing player when IN acquired him along with Domantas Sabonis IN the trade for Paul George. "You could say it added fuel to the fire", Oladipo said. However, coach Nate McMillan said the guard wanted to prove himself and did with hard work.