So was that a legitimate five-seconds in-bound violation on the Charlotte Hornets Sunday night?
“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.”
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That was one of two key turnovers late in this game that helped the Knicks hold off the Hornets. The Hornets trailed by two with 36 seconds left when the pass Williams threw to Stephenson was negated by a whistle from referee Kevin Cutler.
A five-second violation is a rare sort of turnover, but it wasn’t the only one for the Hornets down the stretch. With a minute left, Stephenson’s pass to Al Jefferson in the post was picked off by Iman Shumpert.
Even with all that, the Hornets still had a chance for a tying basket, but point guard Kemba Walker’s 16-foot jump shot fell off the rim with just under two seconds left.
The Hornets fouled Carmelo Anthony, who made one of two free throws, and the Hornets, without a timeout to advance the ball to midcourt, couldn’t get off a viable shot with eight-tenths of a second left.
This was the second close loss in as many nights. The Hornets fell 71-69 at home Saturday against the Memphis Grizzlies. They sit 1-2 with a game Tuesday at the New Orleans Pelicans.
Beyond the loss, Sunday night was costly in that small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist suffered a rib contusion in the first half.
He was taken to a New York City hospital for a CT Scan after an ugly fall. He landed hard on his right side and stayed on the court several minutes before being helped up.
Kidd-Gilchrist’s availability for the Pelicans game is yet to be determined. Prior to the injury, he was having a fine game, particularly with his defense on Anthony, who finished with 28 points.
With Kidd-Gilchrist out, Stephenson spent long stretches guarding Anthony. Stephenson said he did fine when Anthony was on the perimeter, but that Anthony’s huskiness makes him a tough cover in the post.
Stephenson didn’t play in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss. He was much better Sunday playing in his hometown, finishing with 14 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
Stephenson said he attacked more aggressively than in the previous two games.
“I didn’t let the game come to me – I tried to make something happen,” Stephenson said. “I let the game come to me the first two games, and I ended up doing nothing.
“I was more in attack mode.”
The Hornets offense seemed to run far smoother in this game. They reverted to the style that won last season, making sure the ball found center Al Jefferson in the paint.
As in the previous two games, the Hornets suffered from a slow start. They trailed by 24 in the opener against the Milwaukee Bucks and were down 14 to the Grizzlies. Sunday the Hornets trailed the Knicks by as much as 15 in the first half but cut the deficit to two by halftime.
In the second half, they went to Jefferson, who scored seven quick points and finished with 21 on 9-of-17 shooting.
“We got it going ... putting our players in great position to score. We got guys open shots,” Jefferson said.
“That’s the way we’ve got to play offensively – attacking the paint. I liked the way that got us back in the game.”