The last time the Charlotte Hornets and New York Knicks met, Charlotte cruised to their easiest victory of the season. Tonight, they struggled to score for much of the game, but managed to win 76-71 in what was arguably the ugliest Hornets game of the season.
The Hornets shot 32.6 percent from the field, and only 64.9 percent from the free throw line, shooting 24-37. Brian Roberts led the team with 17 points on 5-9 shooting, and 6-6 from the free throw line. He has now made 14 free throws in a row. Gerald Henderson added 14 points, while Al Jefferson scored just nine points off the bench, a night after scoring 22 against Cleveland. Jefferson made a couple of key baskets in the second half, but largely struggled to score for much of the game, as did many of the Hornets.
P.J. Hairston only scored five points, but they came at a crucial moment in the second half when the Hornets were looking to build on their first lead of the game. He only played 11 minutes tonight, but was 2-for-3 and made a number of good decisions on offense.
For New York, Tim Hardaway Jr. led the team with 25 points, six rebounds, five assists, and five 3-pointers. Lance Thomas (yes, Lance Thomas) finished with 16 points and eight rebounds, and played a total of 41 minutes. Langston Galloway added 11 points, five rebounds, and was the only other Knicks player besides Hardaway Jr. and Thomas to score in double figures.
Tonight's game started about as badly as last night's game in Cleveland. The Knicks opened up a 9-0 lead as the Hornets struggled to score or get high percentage shots. The fluid offense Hornets fans were used to seeing much of this month (even in the games Walker was out) was non-existent tonight, and against any other opponent the Hornets would have likely been out of the game early into the first half, much like they were last night. After the 9-0 start however, the Knicks went cold, and points became a premium for both teams.
The Knicks lead at the half 37-36. To put that in perspective, Klay Thompson scored 37 points in one quarter last night. While Charlotte certainly made it tough for New York to score, tonight was more the result of two terrible offenses than any team excelling on defense. Still, that's four opponents in five games the Hornets have held under 80 points.
In the second half, the Knicks held the lead for much of the third quarter until the Hornets took the lead 55-54 with 3:09 left thanks to a Jason Maxiell hit a jump shot. From that point, the Hornets would hold the lead the rest of the game, though the Knicks would hang in until the very end.
Now, some bad news. Bismack Biyombo (knee) and Marvin Williams (concussion) both left the game and did not return. Lance Stephenson also appeared to aggravate his groin, but remained in the game. Just as the Hornets were back to full strength, injuries are plaguing them once again. At this point, there is no word on the seriousness of Biyombo's knee injury. Williams on the other hand, could be a doubt for Wednesday's game against San Antonio depending on the seriousness of the concussion.
Tonight was an ugly shooting night for most of the Hornets, but if there was one player who continued to lower his stock, it was Gary Neal, who finished with zero points on 0-for-6 shooting in 16 minutes. Neal played as the backup point guard tonight, but once Kemba Walker returns, it'll be hard to argue for Neal to play over P.J. Hairston, who is shooting better as the season goes on. Neal is shooting 15-60 from the field over his past 10 games, and 4-23 from deep. Hairston could provide a quick string of points from the bench, as he did tonight. It's a shame Neal has struggled as much as he has the past two and a half months, given how well he shot in November. At this point though, the team needs to go with the players who are playing well right now.
A loss tonight would have been a huge set back given last night's performance, but the Hornets managed to hold on and now sit at 19-26. As of this moment, the Brooklyn Nets are losing by over 20 to the Utah Jazz. If that result holds, the Hornets would hold a half game lead over Nets for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
Next, the Hornets will travel to take on the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday January 26th.