Kyrie Irving made his season debut in Indianapolis on Wednesday night, but it was Lance Stephenson (yes, Lance Stephenson) who completely stole the show early.
With the Brooklyn Nets holding a 15-14 first-quarter lead over the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Stephenson checked into the game at the 6:23 mark and scored 20 straight Pacers points over the final five-plus minutes of the opening frame.
The nine-year veteran guard connected on eight of nine shots and four of five 3-point attempts, capping his monster quarter with a 3-point make at the buzzer to give Indiana a 37-32 lead.
Pacers forward Justin Holiday opened the scoring in the second quarter, ending Stephenson's scoring streak. Stephenson's 20 consecutive points were the most by any player since Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry scored 20 straight last April (h/t ESPN Stats & Info).
Stephenson made one shot and missed another before being subbed out early in the second with 22 points, more than halfway to his career high of 33 that he set as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies in March 2016.
But Stephenson ultimately fell short of recording a new career high, finishing with 30 points and five assists on 12 of 19 shooting in 32 minutes of action. His 30-point effort didn't help lead to a victory either, as Irving and the Nets stormed back in the second half for a 129-121 victory. Irving, who is only eligible to play in Brooklyn's road games due to the New York City vaccine mandate, tallied 22 points and four assists in 32 minutes.
Stephenson, 31, was out of the NBA for the previous two seasons but has gotten another opportunity with COVID-19 ravaging the league. He made six appearances with the Atlanta Hawks before reuniting with the Pacers on a 10-day contract last week. Wednesday's game was his third since rejoining Indiana and first back in front of a home Pacers crowd.
This is Stephenson's third stint in Indiana, previously playing with the Pacers for the first four seasons of his career from 2010-14 and then for one-plus seasons from 2017-18.