Some losses hurt and others are just plain hard to get over. Friday's loss by the Atlanta Hawks to Charlotte Hornets qualifies as both as they saw the game slip away in the final moments thanks to a banked in thirty footer from Lance Stephenson.
Atlanta had the first chance to end the game at the end of regulation after Al Jefferson made one of two free throws to tie the game with 9.9 seconds remaining. The Hawks isolated Paul Millsap against Marvin Williams which was a matchup that they had gone after earlier in the game. Millsap's step back jumper fell short and the game headed to overtime.
It looked like Charlotte was going to pull away for good late in the first overtime after a pair of Gary Neal free throws and layup by Kemba Walker put the Hornets up 108-102 with 24.3 seconds remaining. The game should have been over right there before a bone headed play from Stephenson gave the Hawks a chance.
Teague scored on a layup on the next possession and Charlotte inbounded the ball to Stephenson who held it and was tied up by Paul Millsap. The Hawks won the tip and Kyle Korver drained a three to cut the lead to 108-107 with 12 seconds to go. Walker converted a pair of free throws to put Charlotte back up three. Atlanta's Mike Scott missed a game-tying attempt but Walker stepped out of bounds on the rebound. Given a second chance, Scott tied the game with a three in the corner to send the game to a second overtime.
Both teams went back and forth in the second overtime. Walker scored to put Charlotte up three 119-116 but Pero Antic tied things back up with a three-pointer on the next possession. Al Horford blocked Walker's go-ahead attempt and forced a shot clock violation with 2.7 seconds remaining. Atlanta wouldn't get an opportunity to as Kyle Korver was inexplicably whistled for an illegal screen away from the ball on the out of bounds play. That gave the Hornets the final possession and led to Stephenson's game-winner.
Al Horford led the Hawks with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Jeff Teague added 22 points and a game-high 15 assists. Kyle Korver finished with 20 points including four made threes.
Al Jefferson put up a monster performance with 34 points and nine rebounds. Gary Neal added 23 points off the bench while Stephenson finished with 17.
The loss hurts for Atlanta because they just haven't been able to get over the hump during the early part of the season. They saw a big comeback effort on opening night fall short in Toronto and fell again on Wednesday to the Spurs. They got off to a good start Friday night but had too many stretches of inconsistent play which prevented them from putting Charlotte away. You can't make a habit of falling behind early to good teams particularly on the road. You also can't let good teams hand around when you have them on the ropes.
The good news for the Hawks is that they won't have much time to think about this loss. They are right back at it on Saturday when they host the New York Knicks at Philips Arena.