CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Lance Stephenson is the new kid on the Charlotte Hornets’ block, and for five games he didn’t make much of an impression.
That all changed on Friday night as Stephenson banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Hornets a wild 122-119 double overtime victory over the Atlanta Hawks.
Stephenson inbounded with the Hornets in possession with 2.7 seconds remaining, immediately got the ball back, and banked in what officially went down as a 33-footer over the outstretched arm of reserve guard Kent Bazemore.
Stephenson, who signed a three-year, 27.4 million contract during the offseason after spending four seasons in Indiana, said it was the first game-winning shot of NBA career.
“I was feeling confident I could make the shot and I told coach,” Stephenson said. “He drew up a play for me and I just made the shot. It was a tough shot. I mean, I haven’t made a shot all season, but I made that shot. Hopefully it’ll give me confidence and I’ll start hitting my shots.”
Stephenson came into the game shooting just 26.7 percent from the field through five games, and hadn’t hit a 3-pointer all season.
“I can’t hit a swish, so I just tried to throw it off the backboard and it went in,” he said.
The victory gave the Hornets (3-3) their second win in three nights and was their first win over the Hawks at home since 2011, a span covering six games. The Hornets beat Miami at home on Wednesday.
“We haven’t found our identity yet, but we’re fighting now,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “The last two games, we’ve had some fight. I think before you can really play well consistently, you’ve got to find your group intensity. We have new guys, it’s going to take longer sometimes, but I think we’re on the right track now.”
Al Jefferson led the Hornets with a season-high 34 points and nine rebounds. Gary Neal scored 23. Stephenson finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds, Kemba Walker had 15 points and 10 assists, and Cody Zeller and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 10 each.
Al Horford led the Hawks (1-3) with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Jeff Teague had 22 points and 15 assists, Kyle Korver scored 20, and DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap score 13 each.
Both teams had plenty of chances to win in regulation and the first overtime.
Jefferson could have given the Hornets the lead with 9.9 seconds left in regulation but made only one of two free throws for a 97-97 tie, and then Millsap missed a fallaway 17-footer at the buzzer to win for the Hawks.
Charlotte led 108-102 with 24.3 seconds left in the first overtime, but Mike Scott’s 3-pointer with 3.5 seconds left tied the score at 110-110 to cap a comeback that also included a 3-pointer by Korver. Walker missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the first overtime.
Walker had another chance on a drive in the lane in the closing seconds of the second overtime and the score tied 119-119, but he missed everything and the Hawks took possession after a shot clock violation with 2.7 seconds left.
Then came the most controversial play of the game, as Korver was called for an offensive foul setting a pick on Marvin Williams on the inbounds.
That gave the ball back to Charlotte with 2.7 seconds left, and Stephenson turned into the hero from there.
“We had run so many pick and roll plays with Kemba, and Al was cramping up, so the play was really for Lance to try and drive it,” Clifford said. “I don’t know if he meant to bank it, but he made the right play because they sprinted under and he had space, so he shot it.”
The Hawks were livid afterward about Korver’s offensive foul, claiming that Williams flopped.
“My view on Kyle is that the league is working really hard to monitor and gauge when players are overreacting,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “I think there may have been a case where Kyle set a good screen. That’s part of the game. Calls go against you. I obviously don’t agree with it.”
“I just tried to set a good screen,” Korver said. “I wasn’t shoving or anything. What was called was called, and we can’t say anything about it now. Tough finish for us.”
NOTES: Hornets F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returned after missing the previous two games with a rib contusion. … The Hawks were coming off a 94-92 loss at San Antonio on Wednesday. … Two Hornets players, F Noah Vonleh and C Bismack Biyombo, have yet to play a single minute this season. … The Hawks were without F Adreian Payne (plantar fasciitis). … Hornets G Jeffery Taylor remains away from the team as the NBA continues to investigate his domestic assault case. He has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced to probation. … The Hawks will return home to face New York on Saturday. … The Hornets will play the Lakers on Monday in Los Angeles to open a four-game Western trip. They’ll also play at Portland, at Phoenix and at Golden State.
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