The Charlotte Hornets entered tonight's game as one of four undefeated teams in the NBA's preseason slate. They defeated one of their fellow unbeaten brethren, beating the New York Knicks 97-93 Saturday night at Time Warner Cable Arena.
The Hornets improve to 5-0 in the preseason, marking the first 5-0 preseason start in franchise history.
Fresh off their trip to China, and coming off their largest win in preseason history, Charlotte welcomed a New York team on the second half of a back-to-back. The Knicks would sit star Carmelo Anthony as well as starters Jose Calderon and Robin Lopez.
The Hornets rattled off Kemba Walker, Nicolaus Batum, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller and Al Jefferson as their starting lineup. Midway through the first quarter Batum had four early points to push Charlotte to a ten to six lead. Batum, acquired via trade this offseason, rolled out some post moves tonight, an element of his game we hadn't witnessed this season.
Al Jefferson was his usual self on the block, pulling some of his usual moves on the New York bigs. Jefferson and Batum scored six points each in the first quarter to give the Hornets a 22-16 lead after the first period.
An offense fueled by post-ups and dribble handoffs, the Hornets produced a solid scoring output in the second quarter. Walker and Jeremy Lamb, former UCONN teammates, began to produce off jumpers but the Knicks briefly gained the lead off back-to-back 3-pointers.
The Hornets regained the lead just before the half as Zeller supplied an emphatic block then a fast break dunk in the final minute. Walker also laid a bucket in just before the buzzer rang to give the Hornets a 50-48 lead.
Charlotte had outplayed New York for the most part but their 3-point shooting had deserted them as they went 1-of-11 from deep in the first half. The Hornets didn't attempt a trey in the second half until 1:34 left in third quarter. The shot would miss and the Hornets would find themselves trailing at the end of the period, 73-69, for the first time since the game's opening score.
Trailing to begin the fourth quarter, it was rookie Frank Kaminsky to the rescue. In his first game in front of the home fans, he made several clutch plays to give Charlotte the win. Kaminsky dropped in a jumper then assisted Aaron Harrison on a 3-pointer off a dribble-drive, a dangerous aspect of Kamisnky's game that was on display Saturday night.
After hitting one trey in the first three quarters, Charlotte would hit four in the final period of play. After a deep miss from Elliott Williams, Kaminsky grabbed the offensive rebound then pushed it back out to Williams who connected on a 3-pointer to give the Hornets the lead for good. Harrison and Williams combined for 16 points off the bench and were a 4-of-5 from 3-PT land as a duo. They hit all four treys for the Hornets in the fourth.
The Hornets closed out the Knicks thanks to extra opportunities and scoring depth. Charlotte held a 16-3 advantage in second chance points while 13 different players scored.
The starters didn't play in the second half but Al Jefferson would finish as Charlotte's leading scorer with 12 points. Batum would finish with seven points and four rebounds while Walker finished with 10 points. Zeller entered tonight's game a perfect 14-of-14 from the floor this preseason. He would make his first attempt tonight but would have his first miss of the preseason. He is now 16-of-18 from the field during these exhibitions.
Kaminsky finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, playing twice as many minutes as he entered tonight's game averaging this preseason. Tyler Hansbrough only played during the second half but tallied seven points and eight rebounds with relentless effort. Lamb contributed 10 points, his third double-figure scoring game in five preseason games, to go with seven rebounds.
Jeremy Lin (illness), Troy Daniels (hamstring), and P.J. Hairston (calf) were all out for tonight's game.
Charlotte's next preseason game is Monday night at 7 p.m. ET in Time Warner Cable Arena against the Chicago Bulls.