Pacers say practice got physical before Game 1
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Lance Stephenson and Evan Turner were unified on three points Wednesday.
Yes, they scrapped during a practice before Game 1 of their first-round series against Atlanta. No, they didn’t throw any punches. And, for now, everything seems to be OK.
Pacers players and coaches all described the physical confrontation between Stephenson and Turner through their own prisms, but nobody — including Stephenson and Turner — called it a fight.
“We got in a little scuffle, but it was just practice related,” Stephenson said. “No blows, just hard playing and getting ready for the playoffs. I mean I’ve got no problem with him.”
The descriptions varied about what happened in the lead up to the first game against Atlanta.
While Stephenson called it a “scuffle,” Turner and Vogel both said the players got “tangled up.” Paul George explained it as two guys “bumping heads.” Yahoo! Sports, which first reported the encounter, said fists were involved.
Whatever happened, Turner had two visibly large scratch marks on the side of his neck when he entered Saturday night’s game, which the Pacers lost.
But the only thing that seemed to matter to the Pacers on Wednesday was getting back to work. They tied the series with a Game 2 win Tuesday night, then headed to Atlanta following practice.
“Every team goes through that,” All-Star center Roy Hibbert said. “Sometimes, you’ve got to get things off your chest instead of letting things fester.”
For the Pacers, it’s just the latest distraction in a postseason that has been full of them.
Critics have questioned their toughness, their penchant for turnovers, their lineup choices, even whether they’re worthy of being the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed after a second-half swoon. Losing Game 1 only amplified those voices.
Winning Game 2 didn’t quiet the chorus, either.
Hours after the reported spat between Stephenson and Turner leaked, ESPN.com cited an unidentified source who said Vogel was “coaching for his job.”
Vogel did spend 25 minutes, more than usual, talking to Larry Bird, the Pacers’ president of basketball operations, after practice. But Vogel sure didn’t sound like a man who was overly concerned.
“It’s the NBA, we’re all coaching for our jobs,” Vogel said, smiling. “All I know is that I’ve got incredible support from Larry and we’re trying to win games.”
Nor did he seem worried about the encounter between Stephenson and Turner, who acknowledged there was nothing personal about it.
“I think if a team is struggling and guys don’t get scrappy, that’s bad,” Vogel said.