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Oh, hey, Lance Stephenson. What's up?
If you're wondering why Stephenson's got such a quizzical look on his face as he pops into frame to divert our eyes from New York Knicks head coach Derek Fisher, it's because he's wondering why he wasn't shooting free throws after hitting the deck on the final play of the fourth quarter, when his attempt to redirect a length-of-the-court Hail Mary pass heaved with 0.8 seconds into a buzzer-beating 3-pointer was scuttled by a too-close-for-comfort amount of contact by Knicks guard J.R. Smith. The refs didn't blow their whistles — at this point, there might be a "boy who cried wolf" factor with Lance and physicality — and the Knicks held on for a 96-93 win over the visiting Charlotte Hornets at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
While Stephenson's inquiring intervention makes for a perfect bit of Internet, it was far from the most significant officiating curiosity in the late stages of Sunday's contest. That honor goes to this inbounds violation that snuffed out Charlotte's chance at tying the game when trailing by two with 36 seconds remaining, and that sure didn't seem like a full five-second count by referee Kevin Cutler:
“No, I don’t think that was five seconds,” shooting guard Lance Stephenson said after the 96-93 loss to the New York Knicks. “It felt more like three.”
And what about the man who threw the in-bounds pass, Marvin Williams?
“He called five seconds. I’m not going to say anything that gets me in trouble,” Williams said. “Do I think it was five seconds? No.”
It was a frustrating finish for a Hornets team eager to build on a somewhat surprising playoff appearance last season, and that has suffered consecutive losses after a thrilling overtime victory on opening night. (Charlotte also suffered a more worrisome loss during Sunday's game, as small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist left the game after a scary fall and is now listed as day-to-day with a rib contusion.)
After missing 14 of his first 18 shots through his first two games in teal, and getting benched during the fourth quarter of the Hornets' Saturday loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Stephenson began to look a bit more like the potential game-changer that the Hornets paid $27 million to leave the Indiana Pacers in free agency. With Kidd-Gilchrist sidelined, he battled defensively against Knicks star Carmelo Anthony and took advantage of New York's porous defense as the Hornets battled back from an early 15-point deficit against the Knicks in a comeback effort that would ultimately fall just three points — and, perhaps, a couple of seconds — short.
“I didn’t let the game come to me — I tried to make something happen,” Stephenson said after finishing with 14 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, three steals and four turnovers in 38 minutes, according to Bonnell. “I let the game come to me the first two games, and I ended up doing nothing. I was more in attack mode.”
And, for the first time since switching squads this summer, back in the ol' meme saddle. It might not have resulted in a Hornets victory, but that's a win for the rest of us, at least.
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