Knicks look to maintain focus against struggling Hornets
The New York Knicks hope to avoid a letdown between attention-grabbing matchups Monday night when they make a one-day trip to Charlotte to face the Hornets.
The Knicks prevailed in an emotional reunion with Carmelo Anthony and the Oklahoma City Thunder 111-96 on Saturday night. They will host the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Celtics on Thursday.
In between, they will head south to deal with the Hornets, who have lost 10 of their last 12, including two in a row to begin a four-game homestand.
The Knicks outscored the Hornets 118-113 in an earlier meeting in New York with Kristaps Porzingis leading the way with a game-high 28 points.
New York might have to do without their leading scorer Monday night as he missed the Oklahoma City game with a sore left knee and remains questionable.
Michael Beasley responded to the challenge of Anthony’s return and Porzingis’ absence to score a career-high 30 points in the win over the Thunder.
“It just shows the resiliency, the perseverance of this team,” Beasley said of the short-handed win. “It shows you that we’ve got a lot of guys who can step up and fill the void if needed. Me being one of them.”
The Knicks will see a Hornets team with both its star players healthy but coming off subpar efforts in a 93-91 loss to Portland on Saturday.
Kemba Walker was outplayed by rival point guard Damian Lillard, limited to 14 points on 9-for-26 shooting.
Walker, who sprained his left wrist in Friday’s home loss to Miami, misfired on short jumper and a driving layup in the final seconds that could have been difference-makers in the loss.
“Kemba obviously had a rough night, but he gutted it out,” Hornets interim coach Stephen Silas assessed. “The plays that he had down the stretch, I wouldn’t want the ball in anybody else’s hands.”
The two late misses gave Walker a season-high for missed shots (19). He also recorded his lowest point total since another 14 almost a month earlier — Nov. 20 against Minnesota.
Lillard, meanwhile, had an 18-point, 11-assist double-double in the win.
Howard had a game-high 15 rebound against the Trail Blazers, but like Walker had a tough time putting the ball in the hoop. He shot just 3 for 10 and finished with nine points, snapping a streak of 15 straight games in double figures.
Walker and Howard scored 21 points apiece in the earlier loss at New York.
The game matches a team that’s been bad on the road against a team that has struggled at home.
The Knicks are tied with, coincidentally, the Hornets and Dallas Mavericks for fewest road wins (two) in the NBA this season. They have lost six of their last seven away from home.
After Thursday’s home matchup with the Celtics, the Knicks will play seven of their next nine on the road.
Charlotte, meanwhile, has failed to take advantage of a stretch of eight of 10 at home. The Hornets have dropped five of its first six home games in the run.