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Charlotte Hornets 95, New York Knicks 93: Notes and observations

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Much like the Hornets' game against the Timberwolves two nights ago, three of the Hornets' offseason additions came up big against the Knicks last night.

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

What a game.

The Charlotte Hornets won their second game in a row last night, with many thanks to the New York Knicks. It's no secret that the Hornets might have snuck away with that win, though, as Kristaps Porzingis' near-buzzer beater was off by no more than a fraction of a fraction of a second. How close was it, you ask?

Yeah.

Still, a win is a win, and there was a lot to be learned from last night's game. Let's hop into it.

Steve Clifford coached a hell of a game

Seriously, Clifford masterfully managed the Hornets last night. Take a look at the minutes spread from last night.

Player Minutes played in game +/- before fourth quarter Minutes played in fourth quarter
P.J. Hairston 25:51 -8 0
Marvin Williams 29:01 -13 5:59
Al Jefferson 22:33 -10 0
Nicolas Batum 36:21 -11 12:00
Kemba Walker 27:17 -9 0:25
Cody Zeller 25:27 -15 12:00
Spencer Hawes 19:08 0 6:04
Jeremy Lamb 24:43 3 11:32
Jeremy Lin 21:08 -1 12:00
Frank Kaminsky 9:31 14 0

Clifford recognized what worked and what didn't, and played that night's best players in the fourth quarter. He often gets crap for being stubborn in regards to lineups, but seeing no Kemba or Al down the stretch — the correct move, for the record — shows that he's continuing to grow.

Even the small things, like Clifford's decision to take Lamb out late in the fourth quarter. Hawes' combination of height, shooting, and playmaking made him a threat as the inbounder on the potential game-winning play. Even though the ball was tipped out of bounds, Clifford made a great call under pressure.

The Hornets' bench is very, very good

Prior to last night, the Hornets' bench played the ninth-most minutes of any bench in the NBA. They've surely moved up the ranks after last night, too.

That shouldn't surprise anyone. Currently, the Hornets' bench scores the sixth-most points per game of any bench in the league, and a quick glance at their roster makes it easy to see why. Lin and Lamb are the team's go-to scorers when the starters need a break, and collectively, they're averaging 26.4 points per game on 51 percent shooting from the field. Last night, the duo scored 31 points on 61.4 percent shooting.

Yeah, they're good.

Beyond scoring, Zeller is beginning to find his role on both ends of the floor. Hawes is carving out a niche as a tertiary playmaker (He actually led the Hornets in assists last night, with five.). Kaminsky hasn't received much run as of yet, but statistically, the team plays better when he's on the floor. Whether or not he's directly responsible for that is debatable, but it's encouraging nonetheless.

Free throws and turnovers decide games

If you look at the stats from last night's game, you'll notice the Knicks outperformed the Hornets in a couple of key areas.

Stat Hornets Knicks
Total rebounds 33 52
Field goal percentage 41.7% 48.8%
Free throw attempts 28 7
Turnovers 5 16

Interesting, no?

Despite losing for roughly half the game, the Hornets maintained their composure and made smart plays. Sure, the Knicks recovered significantly more rebounds and shot a better percentage overall, but the Hornets forced turnovers and limited their own, all while suckering the Knicks into dumb fouls. It was fairly impressive, to say the least, especially after the last few seasons' offerings of unsuccessful hero ball down the stretch.

If the Hornets can continue to play with poise, they should continue to win as well — regardless of how much their defense has regressed this season. Turnovers and free throws have a tremendous impact on the pace and flow of the game, and generally speaking, whichever team performs best in those two areas tends to win more often. That said, you know Clifford is giving his team crap for its defensive lapses.

But hey! A win is a win.