NBA: Norris Cole.. Heat antidote to Lance Stephenson, Pacers

10:35 p.m. EDT May 25, 2014  MIAMI — The Miami Heat had no answer for Indiana Pacers guard Lance Stephenson. Through three quarters of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals, Stephenson had 23 points and was operating as he saw fit against the Heat defense.

Searching for a solution, LeBron James suggested that backup point guard Norris Cole defend Stephenson. Since that move, the Heat have won Games 2 and 3. Miami has been a defensive and offensive powerhouse with Cole on the floor, and he's a major reason why the Heat have a 2-1 series lead against the Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals.

"I take on the challenge," Cole said. "I love the competition. If they have confidence in me to do that, that's great. But also, you have to have confidence in yourself to get it done. Everyone can have confidence in you, but if you don't have confidence in yourself, you're done."

Giving Cole more playing time than usual is one of the key turning points in this series. The statistics with Cole playing, especially at the same time as Stephenson, reveal why the Heat have the series lead just as much as the scoring from James and Dwyane Wade does.

The Heat score more and allow fewer points with Cole on the court in this series. That is magnified when he goes against Stephenson. With Stephenson and Cole on the court, the Heat are outscoring the Pacers by 21.2 points per 100 possessions. When Stephenson's on and Cole sits, the Pacers are outscoring the Heat by 23.2 per 100 possessions.

"He makes his mark defensively," James said. "He makes us all step up our game defensively. Offensively, whatever he gives us is always extra for us. He attacks the rim, gets himself looks, gets our guys great looks and it's great to have him."

LeBron James said he isn't getting into a trash-talking headline battle with the Indiana Pacers' Lance Stephenson.

"One thing I'm not going to do is give y'all a story line. I'm not going to do that. This is the Pacers vs. the Heat. I don't get involved in that. I've already been involved in a LeBron vs. Stephenson in my playoff career. I'm not going to start with another Stephenson," James said, referring to his battles with then-Washington Wizards and Dallas Mavericks guard DeShawn Stevenson. "I'm not going to do it. You won't get me today."

  • ESPN
  • Game 5* in Indianapolis: Wednesday, May 28, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Game 6* in Miami: Friday, May 30, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • Game 7* in Indianapolis: Sunday, June 1, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
  • * — if necessary

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