Leading by six well into the fourth quarter, the Charlotte Hornets looked in good shape to win on the road. However, six straight minutes without scoring allowed the New York Knicks back in it, and they would go on to win 110-107. Kemba Walker led all scorers with 31 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists.
The early portion of the first quarter was dominated by Kristaps Porzingis, who totaled 10 of New York’s first 12 points. Charlotte was led by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who scored the team’s first six points, before Walker scored the next seven for the team.
New York took the lead to start and held it for much of the quarter until Roy Hibbert knocked down a hook shot to give the Hornets a 19-18 lead. New York re-took the lead soon after, and taking advantage of a couple of bad possessions by Charlotte, ended the quarter with a 29-23 lead.
A bright spot in the first for Charlotte was MKG, who scored eight points off 3-5 shooting.
Charlotte’s bench unit struggled in the second, particularly on the defensive end. Unable to secure defensive rebounds, the Knicks capitalized on second chance points and jumped out to an eight point lead.
Marvin Williams was the lone spark offensively. He knocked down a couple of 3-pointers, along with a tough driving hook to keep Charlotte within range.
That said, the Hornets struggles on defense negated any offensive production, and New York remained in front, pushing their lead out to 11 at one point. But Charlotte responded with two minutes remaining, as Walker led a run that put them just three points behind at 54-51, heading into halftime.
New York remained in the lead until around the 8:30 make in the third. Charlotte first tied the game at 62-62, then took their first lead of the quarter off a Kemba Walker 3-pointer. Nicolas Batum had a strong quarter offensively, scoring the majority of his 15 points in the third. Nic was also one assist shy of a triple-double, which he undoubtedly would have earned had the Hornets not gone cold in the fourth (but we’ll get to that in a bit).
3-pointers from Batum and Williams and tight defense helped Charlotte and take a seven point lead, but New York responded to pull within one. The Hornets countered with another run, jumping out a 84-77 lead, and they’d hold onto the lead for the rest of the quarter, and head into the fourth up by five.
The Hornets maintained a small lead midway through the final quarter. Leading by six with around seven minutes remaining, their offense then stalled, and they went six minutes without scoring. Good defense on the other end kept the score at 99-93 for a couple of minutes, until Courtney started a run of his own, scoring six straight to tie the game with 2:48 remaining. Walker broke the drought to give Charlotte a two point lead, but 3-pointers from Lee and Brandon Jennings gave New York a four point lead.
Porzingis then put New York up six, but Batum answered to cut it to three with around 30 seconds remaining. Carmelo Anthony knocked down a jumper with under 15 seconds remaining, putting the game away.
Before the fourth quarter collapse, there was a lot to like about tonight. Williams had a night from beyond the arc, knocking down five 3-pointers in route to 17 points. Walker scored 31 a day after being named an All-Star, and Marco Belinelli scored 15 points off the bench on 6-10 shooting. The Hornets for the most part, did what was required offensively, but the cold streak in the fourth gave New York a lifeline.
While the fourth quarter will be the focus, Charlotte’s defense let them down again. Unable to defend well enough in the first and fourth, the Hornets once again started and ended the game poorly. And while the Hornets played well in the third, scoring 36 points, they allowed 28, which kept New York in the game. The Knicks also got a number of second chance points, and won the overall rebounding battle by 10.
The win puts Charlotte back under the .500 mark at 23-24. It also moves them to 1-9 on the season without Cody Zeller, which speaks both to his importance, and to the fact that the Hornets don’t have another player that can replicate what he does at both ends of the floor.
Charlotte will get a chance to move back to .500 tomorrow at home, as they host the Sacramento Kings.