Gordon Hayward and Miles Bridges combined for 46 points while LaMelo Ball flirted with another huge triple double as the Charlotte Hornets outscored the New York Knicks 86-62 over the final three quarters to take the win, 104-96.
The Knicks jumped out to an early lead thanks in large part to 14 very early points from Kemba Walker. That pushed the Knicks up by double figures by the midway point of the first quarter. The lead grew as large as 16 by the end of the quarter as the Knicks hit seven triples, four from the hands of Walker. The Hornets meanwhile made 7-of-22 field goals and 1-of-10 threes. They trailed 34-18 after one.
The teams played a mostly even, ugly second quarter. The Hornets turned up the defensive intensity and made the Knicks live with tough contested jump shots. They struggled a bit on the boards but ultimately weren’t too badly affected by it. Gordon Hayward steadily kept the Hornets afloat until they were able to make a late mini-run to cut their deficit to nine heading in to the half. This despite the Hornets making just two of 17 3-point attempts in the first half.
Hayward converted and and-1 seven seconds into the second half and then scored off a steal a few seconds later. He and Rozier each scored to cap off a 10-1 run in a minute and 40 seconds to tie the game and force a Knicks timeout. Hayward turned into an assist man after the timeout as the Hornets continued to pour it on. He assisted on three straight Hornets basket as they built their lead up to eight after a 22-5 start to the quarter. Terry Rozier and Miles Bridges put in strong quarters as well. The Hornets led by 10 late before Immanuel Quickley hit back-to-back 3-pointers for the Knicks to make it an 80-76 game heading into the fourth quarter.
The Knicks started the fourth quarter on a mini-run to even the game up, and the game went crazy from there. The Knicks stuck with their reserves deep into the fourth quarter. The two teams traded buckets and windmill dunks, with Spectrum Center erupting after seemingly every made basket. Kelly Oubre hit three 3-pointers, and Miles Bridges answered an Obi Toppin windmill with one of his own a minute or so later.
That dunk kicked off a 12-3 Hornets run that featured a couple of unreal Bridges dispy-doos and a LaMelo Ball steal and score that few players in the NBA could pull off. The run put the Hornets up eight with just over a minute to play. The Hornets cruised to a win from there as both teams tripped over their own feet a bit with turnovers and missed free throws to close the game out.
For as gross as the first half was, the second half was the most exciting basketball the Hornets have put on TV in the last couple weeks. The arena was bouncing for plays from both teams, and the players seemed to feed off that energy.
Bridges scored 24, Hayward scored 22 to go with seven assists. Ball had a rough shooting night, but he finished with 12 points 17 (!!) rebounds, nine assists, and five steals. Rozier and Oubre finished in double figures as well.
Perhaps the most encouraging part of this win was the defensive intensity over the final three quarters. They played with a ton of energy and competitiveness and made it very difficult for the Knicks to get anything going. The Knicks only scored 62 points in the final three quarters after getting whatever they wanted in a 34-point first quarter.
The Hornets will look to get back above .500 with some quick revenge over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday.