The Charlotte Hornets are back at home after an exciting win against the Orlando Magic in overtime last night. This time, they're taking on the New York Knicks, winners of six of their last 10 games and one of the hottest teams in the Eastern Conference right now.
The Hornets have played the Knicks twice this year, winning one game and losing the other. In the first game, Kristaps Porzingis nearly won the game on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, but the referees waived off the bucket. The second game wasn't nearly as close, with the Hornets eclipsing the Knicks with relative ease, 102-94. After tonight, the two teams play once more on Apr. 6.
What makes the Knicks good? A few things. For one, they still have Carmelo Anthony. Anthony's isn't the player her once was, but he's still one of the best pure scorers in the league. He's averaging 21.6 points per game on the season and shooting 43.6 percent from the field, which is fine but also his lowest mark in both categories since 2012. Anthony's ability to create something out of nothing is unparalleled in the NBA, even among the NBA's elite.
Porzingis is also every bit as legitimate as we were led to believe early in the season. His averages of 14 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.1 3-pointers per game are stellar for any player but especially for a rookie. He's somewhat of a known commodity now that we're halfway through the season, but make no mistake: Zinger is good.
As a team, the Knicks have only turned the ball over 12,2 times per game over their last 10, good for third best in the NBA. They're also shooting a scintillating 46.8 percent from the field over that stretch. They're fairly efficient for a team that doesn't attempt many 3-pointers or get to the line a bunch, a rarity in today's NBA.
Three things to watch for
Last night, the Hornets were without Nicolas Batum, Cody Zeller, and technically Jeremy Lamb (he played four minutes) as well as usual suspects Al Jefferson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. None of their injuries sound all that serious, and no timetable has been given for any of their returns, either. There's a chance they're all available tonight, which would help tremendously as the Hornets lack decent matchups for Anthony and Porzingis. Then again, there's a chance none will play, too. Keep an eye out for injury reports.
The starters' minutes
The Hornets are coming off of an overtime victory against the Magic, one that required a shallow team to dig deep and exert more effort than would have been needed if the Hornets were healthy. Kemba Walker played 46 minutes last night — the only player to play more than 34, despite depth issues — and a lot will be expected of him tonight. Head coach Steve Clifford wasn't pleased with his starters last night and allowed the Hornets' reserves to play the bulk of the second half.
Luckily, the Hornets came out with a win and their starters are relatively fresh for tonight's game. I like Troy Daniels a lot, but he probably shouldn't be playing 32 minutes.
Stop the duo, stop the Knicks
If the Hornets can keep both Porzingis and Anthony under 20 points tonight, they're probably coming away with a win. In fact, when Anthony scores 20 points or fewer, the Knicks are 9-11. When he scores 21 or more, they're 13-8. Stopping this duo isn't easy for any team, and the Hornets are banged up without any many defensive options. Chances are P.J. Hairston will see the bulk of his minutes guarding Anthony if Batum's out. For Porzingis, the Hornets can probably get by with Frank Kaminsky and Tyler Hansbrough, though I have genuine concerns about Spencer Hawes' ability to meaningfully contest Porzingis' shots and stay on him when he makes a move.