Pacers guard Lance Stephenson was ejected following a fourth-quarter exchange with Dwyane Wade during Indiana’s 84-83 home victory on Wednesday.
This scene won't soon be forgotten, and we can surely expect to see it replayed dozens of times should the East's top two teams advance to a seemingly inevitable conference finals showdown.
With a little more than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and Indiana leading 74-72, Stephenson slithered his way through Miami's defense for a lefty layup. After finishing the shot, Stephenson fell to the court, and he became entangled with Mario Chalmers as he sprang back to his feet.
Wade watched as Stephenson reacted emotionally and the two players engaged in a staredown. Stephenson then said a few words to Wade, and the Heat's All-Star guard simply smiled in return as Stephenson flexed towards the crowd and shouted. The outburst led Wade to raise his arms, wondering why the officials weren't assessing a technical foul to Stephenson for his extra antics.
As it turns out, Wade's request worked perfectly. Stephenson was indeed hit with a technical foul, which wouldn't have been a big deal except that he had previously been involved in a minor shoving match with Wade during the third quarter that resulted in double technicals. Stephenson's second technical therefore required an automatic ejection.
"I don't really play those games," Wade said of his first encounter with Stephenson, according to the Sun-Sentinel. "The refs took care of it."
Here's an animated look at the exchange that got Stephenson tossed.
Stephenson was booted at the 5:01 mark with Indiana leading 76-72, and Miami immediately went on an 8-0 run to take the lead following his departure. The Pacers were able to regroup, though, and they pulled out a one-point home victory.
"I'm a very emotional player," Stephenson said afterwards, according to the Indianapolis Star. "I play aggressively. I let my teammates down by doing that. I was wrong."
Despite the win, Pacers coach Frank Vogel wasn't thrilled with Stephenson's behavior, considering the stakes.
"Lance can't get himself kicked out of a game, he's too important to us," Vogel said, according to the Star. "Can't let it happen. Period."
The 23-year-old Stephenson finished with 15 points (on 6-for-12 shooting), two rebounds and two assists. Paul George led the Pacers with a team-high 23 points (on 8-for-19 shooting), eight rebounds and four assists.
Wade tallied 15 points (on 6-for-11 shooting), four rebounds and one assist. LeBron James led all scorers with 38 points (on 11-for-19 shooting), eight rebounds and five assists.
Indiana improved to 52-20 with the victory and took a 2-1 season series lead over Miami, who dropped to 48-22 with the loss.