The latest wave of COVID has decimated NBA rosters and slowed down some of the league’s marquee games over the past two months, but it has also led to some incredible wellness stories due to the added opportunity. given to players who might not normally see the court.
The latest example came from Lance Stephenson, who signed a 10-day deal with the Indiana Pacers on New Years Day and on Wednesday adjusted for his first home game at Indianapolis since 2018. In Game 1 of Kyrie Irving’s season for the Brooklyn Nets, Stephenson absolutely stole the show in the first quarter, coming off the bench to score 20 points in just over six minutes on 8-on-9 shots, including 4 of 5 on 3-pointers.
Stephenson became the first player in NBA history to score 20 points off the bench in the first quarter, according to Pacers reporter Pat Boylan, who noted that quarter-by-quarter statistics are only available for the 1996-97 season. They were also the the most points in the first quarter by a Pacer in franchise history.
Stephenson entertained the Gainbridge Fieldhouse crowd with his 3-point celebration of the aerial guitar and unleashed a jubilant shoulder shimmy after beating the first quarter buzzer with another 3-point bomb. He might also have taken a little more fun putting on the performance with many of his fellow Brooklyn natives watching from home.
“I’ve only been training for two years, I’m just waiting for this moment,” Stephenson said in a halftime interview on Wednesday. “I am so happy to be home here.”
Stephenson, who appeared six games with the Atlanta Hawks earlier this season after two full seasons away from the NBA, is currently in his third stint with the Pacers, the team that drafted him with the 40th pick in the total in 2010. He averages a career – high of 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists with Indiana in the 2013-14 season, while later having stints with the Hornets, Clippers, Grizzlies, Pelicans, Timberwolves and Lakers.
Stephenson’s 10-day contract will expire soon, and if he continues to play like this, it will be very difficult for the Pacers to let go.