When: November 16, 7:30 EST
Where: Madison Square Garden; New York, NY
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
After getting off to a better than expected start to begin the season the Hornets had come crashing back to earth with a four game losing streak that was finally snapped last night on Malik Monk’s thrilling buzzer beater against the Detroit Pistons. The Hornets can start another mini-winning streak tonight against the Eastern Conference’s cellar dweller, the New York Knicks.
The 3-9 Knickerbockers are a case study in dysfunction. After last Sunday’s loss team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry held a bizarre, impromptu press conference in which Mills said he is “not happy” with the team but still has confidence in coach David Fizdale. This statement from the notoriously tight-lipped Knicks front office naturally led most NBA pundits to begin speculating that Fizdale’s days are numbered. This is a team in turmoil.
The Knicks may have the most random team leading scorer in the entire league. I’ll give you three chances to guess the name of New York’s leading scorer…(pauses)...and sorry but you’re probably wrong. The Knicks offense is led by Marcus Morris at 18.6 points per game. Morris is a 30-year-old, nine-year veteran who has never averaged more than 14.1 points in a season. And it’s not like Morris has found the offensive fountain of youth somewhere in the bowels of Madison Square Garden as his 40.6 percent field goal percentage is his worst since his rookie season.
Rounding out the Knicks roster is Julius Randle whose stats look good on paper - 15.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 3.8 assists - but he’s an inefficient scorer who requires 14.1 shots per game to generate those 15.8 points. Randle isn’t known for his defense, either. But it’s not all doom and gloom for the perpetually rebuilding Knicks. Rookie RJ Barret, the No. 3 overall pick this year, has been impressive with averages of 15.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 3.9 assists. Second-year center Mitchell Robinson has shown potential to be a dominant defensive presence but has struggled with a plethora of injuries this year. Fellow sophomore Kevin Knox is only 20 years old and has shown some promise but he hasn’t made the “second year leap” as the team had hoped.
Not surprisingly, through Thursday’s games the Knicks had the league’s worst field goal percentage at 41.9 percent and their 100 points per game were second worst in the league. Put that together and New York has the NBA’s worst team offensive rating at 100.2. Defensively the Knicks are about average by allowing 109.7 points (18th in the NBA) on 46.1 percent shooting (13th).
This is clearly a winnable game for the Hornets but the schedule isn’t doing Charlotte any favors. This will be the Hornets third game in four days and the second game in a back-to-back set. Charlotte’s roster is loaded with young players whose legs may be a bit fatigued. Plus, visiting New York City can be a distraction for players of any age and we’ll see what impact that has on the Hornets energy level. Don’t be surprised if the Hornets come out a bit sluggish in this one before pulling out a victory against a struggling Knicks team.