New York Knicks: Who Stepped Up Against The Charlotte Hornets?

The New York Knicks completed the second leg of a home-and-home against the New York Knicks on Saturday, November 26. Who stepped up on the road?

Nov 26, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; New York Knicks guard Brandon Jennings (3) brings the ball down court during the first half of the game against the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks and Charlotte Hornets have become unofficial rivals over the past two seasons. New York lost to Charlotte on a game-winner in 2015-16, won on a game-winner in 2016-17, and have played physical and close games in most other clashes.

On Saturday, November 26, New York and Charlotte completed the back end of a home-and-home with another close game.

The Hornets pulled even with the Knicks in the season series with a 107-102 home win. The result wasn’t ideal for New York, which fell to 8-8 overall and 1-6 away from Madison Square Garden in 2016-17.

Behind 28 points from Kemba Walker and 18 points and 17 rebounds from Jeremy Lamb, Charlotte was able to achieve a measure of vengeance.

It wasn’t the best performance by the Knicks, but it was a sign of improvement from Jeff Hornacek’s team. After allowing 38 points in the first quarter, New York held Charlotte to 69 points the rest of the way.

The question is: who stepped up for the Knicks in what was a solid performance with a disappointing result?

Nov 26, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; New York Knicks center Willy Hernangomez (14) looks to pass the ball during the first half of the game against the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Willy Hernangomez

The New York Knicks have found a gem of a second-round draft pick in rookie center Willy Hernangomez. During his brief appearances in 2016-17, he’s been an absolute force to be reckoned with.

Hernangomez entered this game on a hot streak and continued to perform well when his number was called.

Hernangomez finished with eight points, eight rebounds, three offensive boards, one assist, and a block in 17 minutes. He shot 4-of-5 from the field, and while he wasn’t perfect, he undoubtedly impressed against Charlotte.

It was the third time in four games that Hernangomez pulled down at least eight rebounds, which is quite impressive when one considers that he played 20 minutes or less in two of those games.

Hernangomez is now averaging 5.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.5 offensive rebounds in 13.8 minutes per game. Those numbers translate to 14.3 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 3.9 offensive boards per 36 minutes.

Hernangomez still has issues that he must address, including his consistently high turnover numbers, but once he adjusts to the NBA pace, he should be a starting-caliber player.

Nov 26, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; New York Knicks guard forward Justin Holiday (8) drives past Charlotte Hornets guard forward Marco Belinelli (21) and forward center Spencer Hawes (00) to score during the first half of the game at the Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Holiday

The New York Knicks have been able to rely upon Justin Holiday for production and energy in 2016-17. He hasn’t been the most productive player on the roster, but he contributes in multiple phases and defends at a high level.

Against the Charlotte Hornets, Holiday stepped up with yet another strong performance off the bench for Jeff Hornacek.

Holiday recorded five points, four rebounds, four assists, and a steal in 18 minutes of high-quality play. He shot just 2-of-7 from the field, but made a 3-point field goal and had a positive impact on New York in Charlotte.

Holiday recorded a +/- of +11 in his 18 minutes, which was the second-best mark of any player on the Knicks.

Holiday’s ability to facilitate has helped improve the consistency with which the Knicks execute on offense. More importantly, he’s elevated the overall level of defensive intensity and has provided value with his length and athleticism.

Holiday was viewed by many as a throw-in from the Derrick Rose trade, but he’s proving to be a valuable player.

Nov 26, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; New York Knicks guard Brandon Jennings (3) and Charlotte Hornets guard Ramon Sessions (7) go after a loose ball during the first half of the game at the Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Jennings

When the New York Knicks signed Brandon Jennings, most expected him to step up as a scorer. During his brief Knicks career, however, he’s galvanized the Knicks’ offense as a facilitator and done the same for the defense with his on-ball pressure and active hands.

Jennings is beginning to score at the level he’s expected to, but he’s been exceptional as a defensive player and playmaker.

Jennings finished the Hornets game with 12 points, four assists, one rebound, and five steals in 25 minutes of action. He shot 5-of-10 from the field and 2-of-5 from 3-point range, and had a +/- of +2 during this five-point loss.

With the Knicks’ defense slacking and the offense looking stagnant, Jennings stepped up to lead the Knicks to invaluable improvements on both ends.

The Knicks have been consistently inconsistent on the defensive end of the floor during road games. Jennings’ activity and uncanny ability to create turnovers was one of the defining factors in this performance by the Knicks.

Jennings may not be posting gaudy numbers, but he’s been a legitimate X-Factor for a Knicks team that’s been scorching hot in recent games.

Nov 25, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Courtney Lee (5) reacts to the win against the Charlotte Hornets at Madison Square Garden. New York Knicks won 113-111. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Courtney Lee

This wasn’t the best defensive performance of Courtney Lee’s career, but it was important for his confidence. He went off from beyond the arc and proved to be more of an offensive threat than some believed he could be.

Some may chalk this up to his return to Charlotte, but Lee’s ability to space the floor will be critical to team success.

Lee poured in 14 points, three assists, and two rebounds on 5-of-9 shooting from the field in 30 minutes of play. He shot 4-of-7 from beyond the arc, which is nothing short of a brilliant display from 3-point range.

Lee has now made at least two 3-point field goals in three of his past four games, which is a positive trend for the Knicks.

The Knicks know what they’re getting from Lee as it pertains to efficient 3-point shooting and quality defense. The fact he can facilitate and go off from distance, however, is a promising truth to build with.

This wasn’t the finest performance of the Knicks’ season, but Lee helped establish the future of the offense.

Nov 26, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; New York Knicks forward center Kristaps Porzingis (6) drives past Charlotte Hornets center Roy Hibbert (55) to score during the first half of the game at the Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Kristaps Porzingis

The New York Knicks have wisely invested in Kristaps Porzingis as the future face of the franchise. He’s been nothing short of sensational in 2016-17 and was a unanimous selection to the All-Rookie First Team in 2015-16.

Against the Charlotte Hornets, Porzingis continued to build towards a second season that would put him in rare territory.

Porzingis had another outstanding performance with 25 points, six rebounds, and two blocks in 37 minutes. Porzingis shot 7-of-16 from the field, went 2-of-5 from the field, and shot 9-of-11 from the free throw line.

It was Porzingis’ ninth 20-point game in 16 games in 2016-17—a sensational improvement after he had 14 in 72 games in 2015-16.

Porzingis has scored at least 25 points in five different games this season. He’s been confident in his jump shot and has displayed increased confidence in his ability to attack the rack and play through contact.

Porzingis is the future and the present for a Knicks team that’s still in a great position to make a run at the 2017 NBA Playoffs.

Nov 26, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (25) looks to drive to the basket as he is defended by Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) during the second half of the game at the Spectrum Center. Hornets win 107-102. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose didn’t shoot very well against the Charlotte Hornets, which is reason to keep him off of this list. He attempted 20 shots, made just six of those field goal attempts, and had a +/- of -9 in 34 minutes.

This was an incredibly well-rounded effort, however, which is an encouraging sign for a Knicks team that needs Rose to be able to contribute more than points.

Rose finished with 18 points, eight assists, eight rebounds, five offensive boards, two blocks, and a pair of steals. He hit a 3-point field goal, went 5-of-6 at the free throw line, hit a pair of clutch free throws, and committed just one turnover in his 34 minutes.

It’s hard not to be upset with Rose shooting as poorly as he did, but he played an exceptional all-around game and continues to improve defensively.

Rose is still one of the most explosive athletes in the NBA, which is the type of presence New York has been longing for. When his shots are more under control than they were tonight, he’s the perfect complement to Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.

6-of-20 is tough to ignore, but when a point guard has eight assists, eight rebounds, five offensive rebounds, two blocks, and two steals, it’s hard to downplay.

The Knicks are 8-8, one of the Top 8 teams in the Eastern Conference, and playing with better effort on the road.

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