If the Knicks (like many of the fans) thought they would coast to their 10th straight win, the Charlotte Hornets did not agree.
The Knicks blew a 16 point, halftime lead and were stung by the Hornets, 112-105 at Madison Square Garden last night to snap their nine game win streak. Charlotte came into the game with a 20-46 record, 9-26 on the road but they were pumped to spoil what was expected to be an easy night for the home team.
Jalen Brunson missed his second straight game and it showed in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter when the Knicks offense stalled and could not get anything going. As good as Immanuel Quickley has been playing, he’s not the floor general that Brunson is.
The Knicks (39-28) shot 19% (5 for 26) and were 0 for 7 from three in a disastrous fourth quarter as they were outscored, 25-16 in the final 12 minutes and 62-39 overall in the second half.
The Hornets win came thanks in part to their work on the boards. The overall numbers (42-39 Charlotte advantage) may not show it but the Hornets had 10 offensive rebounds, including six in the third quarter when they frustrated the Knicks and got back into the game. “They beat us to the long rebounds. Ball went over our heads. It’s important when the ball is shot, particularly shot from the perimeter, we gotta get to bodies, because if you run in, it’s gonna go long,” Coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game.
R.J. Barrett led the Knicks with 27 points but he failed to score over the final 7:30 minutes of the game. Julius Randle (who looked a little fatigued) had a rough night with 16 points on 5 of 17 from the floor. Quickley scored 14 points but was 3 for 10 from three.
Hornets guard Terry Rozier scored 25 points including 13 in the third quarter when Charlotte used an 11-0 run to take their first lead of the game, 87-86. On the ensuing possession, Obi Toppin’s three gave the Knicks an 89-87 lead entering the fourth quarter.
With less than eight minutes left, Barrett hit a driving lay up for a 97-89 lead but the Knicks would hit only two more field goals the rest of the way.
Randle hit one of two free throws to make it a 98-89 lead but the Hornets used a 14-2 run to grab a 103-100 lead on Gordon Hayward’s three point play with less than three minutes left. Hayward had a strong game with 25 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, 9 rebounds, 4 offensive and 8 assists.
After the Knicks tied the game at 103 on Randle’s lay up, Hayward gave the Hornets a 105-103 lead with a short turnaround jump shot with a 1:49 remaining.
After Rozier missed a lay up, Josh Hart got the rebound and tried to go coast to coast to tie the game but Charlotte’s P.J. Washington blocked the lay up. Kelly Oubre Jr. who led the Hornets with 27 points, then hit a three pointer from the corner that proved to be the dagger, as the Hornets took a 108-103 lead with less than a minute left.
The Knicks had a chance down the stretch. A pair of Randle free throws made it a 108-105 deficit, but the Knicks forward was called for a pair of loose ball fouls in the final :30 seconds that nullified any comeback attempt.
The Knicks were porous defensively, especially in the second half. Charlotte was 14 of 25 from the floor in the third quarter when they outscored the Knicks, 37-23. “We gave ‘em confidence to start that third quarter, was just trading baskets and then we ran out of gas and they kinda picked it up a notch,” Randle said.
“Some nights, the ball doesn’t go in. When it doesn’t go in, we gotta be able to win it with our defense and our rebounding and I thought those two things weren’t there,” Thibodeau said.
The Knicks head out on a pivotal four game, Western road trip that begins in Sacramento on Thursday night. Back to back games at the Staples Center on Saturday and Sunday against the Clippers and Lakers before completing the trip with a game at Portland next Tuesday