The Pacers got a win over the Hawks in Game 2 Tuesday night, but questions still surround the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. After imploding down the stretch, but still managing to keep home court in the East, the Pacers started off their playoffs with a fight of a different kind right before they fell to the visiting Hawks on Saturday in the opener. Mid-season acqusition Evan Turner and Lance Stephenson got into a fistfight the Friday before the series began.
It seems the trouble between the two had been brewing for a while, and finally came to a head the day before the playoffs tipped off. Two Pacers, Luis Scola and David West, had to physically remove a “cursing” and “cut” Evan Turner from the court.
Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports:
On the eve of this Eastern Conference series, the wobbling No. 1 seed punctuated its final playoff preparations in a most self-destructive way: Two Indiana Pacers dragged a cursing, cut Evan Turner out of the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court, untangling him from a practice-floor fistfight with teammate Lance Stephenson.
Turner hadn’t been the first Pacer to lose his temper with Stephenson these tumultuous several weeks, and Stephenson’s relentlessly irritable nature suggests Turner won’t be the last. These scrapes aren’t uncommon in the NBA, but this confrontation had been weeks in the making and that reflected in the ferocity of the encounter, sources told Yahoo Sports.
“This stuff happens, but the timing wasn’t ideal,” one witness told Yahoo Sports.
Turner was a new addition in the middle of this season, a player in the final year of his rookie deal replacing a former Pacers star, Danny Granger, to help them in their quest for a 2014 NBA Championship. But Turner isn’t the only one that’s beefed with the mecurial Stephenson.
In the midst of their late-season near-collapse, Stephenson and the normally quiet, and self-contained George Hill got into on the sidelines and had to be separated by teammates.
We’re guessing veteran David West had to intercede in that scuffle as well. West admitted to Yahoo the Pacers faltered late in the season, but he thinks they’ve done a great job dealing with their issues by remainimg honest with each other rather than letting it fester:
“We’ve been on the ropes a little bit. Every team goes through that. But I thought we did a great job of dealing with whatever issues we had. The great thing about this group has always been that we’re very open with one another, always been able to get through the ups and downs of a long NBA season.”
Except, it seems the fistfight was a long time coming between Stephenson and Turner and Stephenson will likely fall into another with a teammate again soon.
The Pacers better get through this down portion of their NBA season. The series shifts to Atlanta in the next two games, and everyone is looking for them to falter again. It’s no fun being the favorites, and so far the Pacers have handled the pressure about as poorly as you can. Reports of in-team fighting and players looking disengaged during a Game 1 thumping at home will continue to feed the 24-hour news beast.
All will be wiped clean if they win the next three against Atlanta to move on to the next round, but the road to the 2014 NBA Championship keeps getting bleaker for the Pacers.
What do you think?
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