Knicks rolling as they host Hornets
The New York Knicks and the Charlotte Hornets will meet Friday in the first game of a back-to-back, home-and-home set.
The Knicks (7-7) host the Hornets (8-6) at Madison Square Garden before the two teams hook up again in Charlotte on Saturday.
The teams are going in opposite directions. New York has won four of its last five games. The Hornets have dropped three in a row after Wednesday's 119-114 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 26 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Eight Hornets scored in double figures. Nicolas Batum and Frank Kaminsky scored 13 each, Marco Belinelli scored 12, Spencer Hawes scored 11, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams and Roy Hibbert scored 10 each.
Walker played in his 378th game for Charlotte, passing Larry Johnson for eighth in franchise history. Walker is on track to play in 400 games with the franchise this season and would be only the fourth player to play in 400 games for Charlotte.
The Hornets committed a season-high 16 turnovers against the Spurs, including two crucial turnovers in the final minute on inbounds plays. They came into the game leading the NBA in fewest turnovers.
“They made the plays and we didn't at the end,” Batum said. “They made big shots. They are the Spurs. They have been there before. They know how to handle those situations. We tried to stay in the game, back and forth, it was a big battle. We played better than we have been playing, for sure.”
Kristaps Porzingis is having an All-Star type season with the Knicks. The 7-3 Latvian is averaging 21 points on 50.2 percent shooting, 39 percent from beyond the arc and 7.3 rebounds.
“I didn't add 1,000 moves,” Porzingis told the New York Post. “It's just that I'm more calm when I'm in the post when I get the ball and I turn around and nobody can really get to my shot.
“I'm realizing how long I am and how long I am and how difficult it is to block my shot.”
Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek has been favoring a “small” lineup recently that puts Porzingis at center, Carmelo Anthony at power forward and three guards — Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee and either Brandon Jennings or Justin Holiday.
The Knicks have found a solution to their recent shortcomings at point guard. Rose has been effective accelerating to the net and working the pick-and-roll and Jennings has provided a spark off the bench. He contributed 11 assists for the second time this season in New York's 107-103 win over Portland on Tuesday.
“Brandon (Jennings) doesn't have to score to have an impact on the game,” noted Hornacek. “His activity, he gets the energy going for the group he is out there with.
“I can't say enough about a guy who comes off the bench to get 11 assists.”