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Lance Stephenson may have awoken LeBron James and the Heat

By Zach Harper | NBA writer

You wouldn't think the Miami Heat would need much motivation in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, but a minute into the second quarter they were struggling horribly on both ends of the floor against the Indiana Pacers. They had more turnovers (eight) than made baskets (six), were shooting just 35.3 percent from the field, and had only mustered 14 points. The Pacers' defense combined with the a lackadaisical offensive effort provided just too much sloppiness and lethargy for Miami.

Then something happened. A switch seemed to be flipped when the mercurial Lance Stephenson drew an offensive foul on LeBron James for the eighth turnover. James stood over Stephenson as the Pacers' teammates helped their guy up. Then James started herding the Pacers' guard like a cowboy moving cattle through a valley, jawing at each other the entire way. He followed him up the court, not letting him have a straight line anywhere, and looking to be stirring the pot.

From that moment on, the Heat seemed to have another gear on defense and it eventually fueled their offense. They'd find themselves down 37-22 at one point, but James' determination to make Stephenson pay for whatever he felt the misdeed was at the 11:03 mark of the second quarter when he drew the charge was raging. Over the final 11 minutes of the quarter, the Pacers had just seven made baskets and turned the ball over eight times. Miami had flipped the defensive intensity and it eventually permeated into their offense.

They shot 64.3 percent for the rest of the quarter and turned a 15-point deficit into just a four-point margin to make up at halftime. James was hounding Stephenson. The Heat were flying around the court. And the passing and execution became much crisper in their attack of the best defense in the league.

Perhaps Lance had been jawing too much in this game or LeBron was offended by a play he felt was a flop. Whatever the issue was, James turned it into motivation for himself and picked on Lance defensively for the rest of the quarter. It helped turn the Heat into a much more competent basketball team.

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