It's second nature for him. Kemba Walker delivering in Madison Square Garden is like Jack Nicklaus at Augusta. The Bronx native's instinctive behavior took over again Wednesday night in the sport's mecca as the Charlotte Hornets defeated the New York Knicks, 111-97.
Walker entered his second home Wednesday afternoon after a poor offensive performance the night before against the Toronto Raptors. As star players do, Walker didn't have a second bad game in a row. He poured in 13 first quarter points, helping Charlotte earn a five-point lead after the opening period. Walker and Marvin Williams scored the Hornets' first 15 points and 12 of Charlotte's opening 18 points came off 3-pointers, a welcomed performance after a string of below average shooting performances for this team.
Down after the first quarter, New York used a 14 to four run to tie the game at 34 as the Hornets made just one field goal in the first several minutes of the second quarter. Once the Knicks tied the game, Charlotte went on an 11 to three run of their own, capped by a 3-pointer from Jeremy Lin.
For much of the second quarter, the Hornets' offense was stuck in neutral. There is no coincidence that Walker sat on the bench for the majority of the period. New York once again tied the game at 45 and kept it close, allowing Charlotte to only take a one-point advantage into the break.
The Hornets broke out on a nine to two run immediately following halftime, forcing Knicks interim head coach, and former Hornet, Kurt Rambis to call a timeout to gather his team. The Knicks rushed back with a seven to two run following the break. With Walker back in control of the Charlotte's offense, his presence took control. But in the third quarter, Walker had a sidekick.
Frank Kaminsky was inserted into the starting lineup Wednesday night, marking the third start of his rookie year. Kaminsky opened the scoring in the second half with a beautiful, but tricky, fade away off of one foot. The Dirk-like bucket was the first in a strong third quarter for the first-year pro. Kaminsky scored nine points in the quarter, sinking four of his five field goal attempts.
Kaminsky and Walker helped the Hornets score seven unanswered points in the quarter's closing minutes to take a nine-point lead into the final period.
While the two took a breather to start the fourth quarter, Al Jefferson entered to take control of the floor. The former foundation of Charlotte's offense showed the inside prowess that earned him that responsibility Wednesday night in the Big Apple.
Jefferson rattled off six consecutive buckets, scoring Charlotte's first 12 points in the final period. Big Al scored 10 points in the first 4:15 of the quarter, producing his baskets in a number of different ways.
Despite Jefferson's final act, 3-point shooting helped the Knicks threaten late in the quarter. Outside gunners fueled a New York run that trimmed Charlotte's lead to seven with under two minutes to play.
The crowd roaring, on their feet, ready for a show. Walker has faced this same atmosphere, and possibly the same very people, before. With the game on the line and his team being threatened, Walker delivered a 3-pointer from the top of the key and seconds later, he struck with an and-1 to put the game away for good.
In his last three games at Madison Square Garden, Walker is averaging 31.8 points while shooting 60 percent from the field AND 60 percent from behind the arc. He scored a game-high 34 points Wednesday night, knocking down a career-high seven 3-pointers.