Lance Stephenson rode the Hornets bench in the fourth quarter again on Wednesday, finishing with eight points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals in just 23 minutes.
The Scoop:Hornets coach Steve Clifford said before the game that rebounding was the key to beating the Blazers, which makes Stephenson's late-game absence even more perplexing -- he's the Hornets' leading rebounder at 8.2 per game. Stephenson's fantasy owners can only be patient and hope that he earns Clifford's trust sooner rather than later.
After a strong start to the season that made the Miami Heat's decision to give him a massive five-year maximum contract extension look prescient, Chris Bosh hit a pretty rough patch. The 30-year-old big man slumped hard during a four-game stretch , averaging just 13.5 points and six rebounds per game on 28.3 percent shooting as the Heat went 1-3 against the Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets. While those performances were owed in part to Heat opponents ratcheting up the pressure on Bosh due to the absence of Miami's other stars — Dwyane Wade missed three of the four, while Luol Deng sat out one — you'd still forgive Heat fans nervous that Bosh's early-season surge as Miami's No. 1 option was more fiction than fact. Bosh got right this weekend, though, putting up big numbers in a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers and a win over the Orlando Magic that helped restore confidence that he could be the Heat's go-to guy. With the clock winding down in a nip-and-tuck Sunday battle against the Charlotte Hornets, he gave Heat fans another reason to keep the faith: [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Basketball: Sign up and join a league today! ] With 48.3 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and the Hornets holding a one-point lead, Heat guard Mario Chalmers brought the ball into the frontcourt, took a screen from Bosh at the right elbow, and drove toward the baseline. Bosh popped out to the right wing, just inside the 3-point arc, where he faced up against Charlotte sophomore Cody Zeller. Bosh waited a moment for Chalmers to clear through to the left corner, then quickly attacked, driving to his right before pulling up on the baseline, using his soft lefty touch to loft a 12-foot fadeaway that splashed through, giving the Heat a one-point lead and prompting a Hornets timeout with 31.1 seconds remaining. Kemba Walker's attempt at a driving answer on the other end came up short, much to the chagrin of Hornets fans who might've preferred the point guard try to find big man Al Jefferson, who was guarded by rookie Miami guard Shabazz Napier in the post on a switch. Then again, Heat forward Luol Deng had sunk down into the paint to be able to double Jefferson on the catch. Then again , there's a great chance that Big Al draws a shooting foul there, putting him at the stripe with a chance to re-take the lead. Plus, Walker looked off Lance Stephenson — who's struggled mightily with his shot this season, yes, but who was wide open in the right corner — to go for his runner. Alas. After his miss, Walker attempted to atone on defense, forcing Chalmers into a turnover as he brought the ball back up the court. It looked like Walker was trying to foul Chalmers to stop the clock, but the refs kept their whistles in their pockets, and Chalmers — who'd been great otherwise, scoring 20 points (including 12 in the fourth quarter, on 9-for-10 from the free-throw line) to go with 10 assists and four rebounds in his fifth straight start in place of Wade, who remains sidelined by a strained left hamstring — couldn't keep possession of the ball. Stephenson came up with the ball and Charlotte called timeout, setting up one more shot at a game-winning reply: Walker could neither shake Napier nor draw a foul on his fellow former UConn triggerman, but his leaner caromed off the rim and backboard right to Jefferson ... whose put-back prayer went unanswered, sealing a 94-93 final that improved the Heat to 8-6 and gave the Hornets their fifth straight loss, and their third straight by five points or fewer. "The stretch of games we've played has definitely taken their toll on our confidence," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said after the game, which dropped Charlotte to a disappointing 4-10 on the season, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press . Losing this one to a division rival after leading by eight points with 6 1/2 minutes remaining carries a bit of an extra bite for a Hornets team that many expected to compete for the Southeast Division crown, but that has struggled on both sides of the ball — Charlotte ranks 25th among 30 NBA teams in points scored per possession, and 19th in points allowed per possession — in the early going. “There are a lot of things in any sport you have to learn how to handle – success is one, disappointment is another, frustration is another,” Clifford said, according to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer . “In these last couple of weeks, we’ve had more than our share of frustration." And as Spencer Percy of Queen City Hoops noted , with a tough trio of West Coast opponents coming to North Carolina this week — the Clippers on Monday , the red-hot Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday , and the Pacific-leading Golden State Warriors on Friday — plenty more could be on the way. While frustration reigned in the visiting locker room, relief was the order of the day among those in the home whites. “I’m just glad we won, for real,” said Bosh, who finished with 20 points on 9-for-21 shooting and 10 rebounds in the win, according to Joseph Goodman Jr. of the Miami Herald . “It was just one of those games.” And while it might not have been as aesthetically pleasing as the sorts of victories to which Floridians became accustomed during LeBron James' four-year reign in Miami, the come-from-behind win offered a glimpse at the character of a Heat team still developing its new identity, which excited head coach Erik Spoelstra. "I would have been pleased with our response even if it didn't end up with that result," Spoelstra said after the game, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel . "It's more about the resolve and the mental toughness you build up as a team." More NBA coverage: - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow BDL's Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.
Lance Stephenson was benched again on Monday against the Clippers, finishing with three points, three rebounds, six assists and one turnover.
The Scoop:He checked out with five minutes left in the third quarter and did not return. This benching speaks especially loud because the Hornets have three of their wings currently hurt and they went with a two-point guard lineup instead. His owners shouldn't totally panic, but Stephenson isn't a lot of fun to own and we can probably rule him out as a top-50 player on the season.
Indiana Pacers wing Solomon Hill entered the 2014-15 season with a chance to make a name for himself following the season-ending leg injury suffered by superstar Paul George this summer. The 23-year-old out of Arizona remains a work in progress, but he has shown plenty of reason for optimism in averaging 12.6 points over 33.7 minutes per game. It's easy to see him carving out a role on this roster moving forward. Hill added to his case with his first career NBA game-winner in Wednesday night's game against the visiting Charlotte Hornets. With 18 seconds on the clock and the score tied 86-86, Indiana held the ball with an opportunity to take the last shot. Guard Rodney Stuckey attempted to take Lance Stephenson off the dribble, but his stepback jumper fell well short in an airball. Luckily for the Pacers, Hill was there to clean it up with an athletic buzzer-beater: The Pacers' 88-86 win brings their record up to 5-7, on the fringes of the East playoff picture at this early stage of the season. The conference isn't particularly strong, but it's still a surprisingly solid start for a team that was expected to face serious struggles without the injured George and departed Stephenson. The latter entered Wednesday's game with worries about the response he would receive from Pacers fans in his first game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse since signing with the Hornets this offseason. In that context, things went OK — the crowd neither embraced Lance fully nor booed him lustily: Stephenson's play was also a mixed bag — he finished with 10 points on an unimpressive 4-of-12 from the field but also contributed eight rebounds, seven assists, and two blocks. He is now shooting just 37.4 percent on the season for the struggling Hornets. - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric