INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Lance Stephenson savors each opportunity he gets to beat up on his hometown teams — especially when the Pacers are winning.
On Thursday night, Indiana's flamboyant guard had a big night on national television.
Stephenson had a career-high 28 points, four rebounds and four assists and led the Pacers to their second-most lopsided win of the season, 117-89 over the Knicks.
"If he's flashy, he's being flashy making basketball coach," coach Frank Vogel said. "One of our assistants said, 'Boy, I wish I had Lance's energy every day. His competitive spirit is as high as anyone we've coached."
Stephenson has been playing this way all season.
He leads the NBA with three triple-doubles, the most of any Pacers player since Detlef Schrempf in 1992-93. With any luck, he'd have a couple of more, too. And after a nasty crossover or spectacular move to the basket, he might show off some of that New York flair by wiggling his hips.
But the Nets and Knicks seem to bring out the best in the Brooklyn native.
This time, on a night that may serve as an audition for the All-Star selectors, he showed the whole basketball world what he could do.
Stephenson went 10 of 17 from the field, 5 of 5 from the free-throw line, 3 of 7 on 3-pointers and had no turnovers in 28 minutes. His previous scoring high (26) came Dec. 23 in a 103-86 win at Brooklyn, and before this season, Stephenson had scored 22 points just two times — once against Chicago in April 2012; the other, of course, came at Madison Square Garden last spring.
Even a former Indiana University basketball star like Mike Woodson, who was drilled in defense under Bob Knight, came away impressed.
"You've really got to tip your hat to him," the Knicks coach said. "We had no answers for him."
That has been a league-wide problem for Pacers foes, and not just against Stephenson.
Indiana won its third straight to maintain its grip on the NBA's best record, extend its Eastern Conference lead over Miami to four games and continue its claim to the league's best home record, 20-1.
The Pacers aren't slowing down, either. They beat Washington by 27 on Friday, Sacramento by 24 on Tuesday and handed what was one of the league's hottest teams its most embarrassing road loss of the season.
For the most part, Indiana has relied on its staunch defense. Stephenson and Paul George have suddenly given Indiana a devastating offensive punch, too.
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