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Preview: Hornets return to The Hive to host Knicks

City edition uniforms and court for some Friday night hoops.

Charlotte Hornets v New York Knicks Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (7-18) vs. New York Knicks (12-13)

When: 7:00 PM EST

Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, N.C.

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

Outfitting: Hornets — City (granite); Knicks — Association (white)

Injury report:

CHA: LaMelo Ball (ankle sprain), OUT; Gordon Hayward (fractured scapula), OUT; Cody Martin (knee surgery), OUT; Dennis Smith Jr. (ankle sprain), OUT; Mark Williams (ankle sprain), OUT.

NYK: Ryan Arcidiacono (ankle), OUT; Obi Toppin (fibula fracture), OUT.

Following a close loss to the other New York team, the Charlotte Hornets come back home with a chance to rebound against the New York Knicks.

The Hornets fell to the Knicks on the road in overtime, 134-131, in the fourth game of the season in spite of Gordon Hayward’s 21/9/4 and some late-game heroics courtesy of Dennis Smith Jr. The Knicks come into tonight winners of back-to-back contests, beating Cleveland in a low-scoring affair on Dec. 4 before topping Atlanta on Dec. 7 behind 34 points and 17 rebounds from Julius Randle.

Since the first meeting of the year, New York has been a middle-of-the-pack NBA team statistically. They rank 15th in offense and 18th in defense on their way to a sub-.500 record through 25 games and are one of three teams in the league that shoot a lower percentage from downtown than Charlotte; the Knicks shoot 32 percent from three-point land as a team, good for 28th in the league. Both the Knicks and Hornets are solid on the offensive glass, ranking sixth and seventh in offensive rebounding percentage, respectively.

The Knicks have been a weird team, for lack of a better term. Typically, Tom Thibodeau-led squads are stout defensively, but New York hasn’t been better than an average defense since finishing fourth in defensive rating in 2020-21, and they don’t score efficiently (55.5 true shooting percentage, 25th) or play with pace (13th) to help counteract the fact that they’re often pulling the ball out of their own net to start an offensive possession.

On the bright side, Jalen Brunson’s production has been a boon for the Knicks. Brunson is posting career-high marks of 20.5 points and 6.2 assists per game to go with 3.4 rebounds while continuing his dominance from the mid-range, slotting into the 83rd percentile among guards in mid-range field goal percentage and hitting an impressive 50 percent of his shots between four and 14 feet, per Cleaning The Glass. Julius Randle has been his usual self, putting up 21.6 points and 8.8 rebounds on a team-leading 16 field goal attempts per game.

Back to the not-so-bright side; RJ Barrett is shooting just 40 percent from the field and 28.5 percent from distance on reasonable volume and has offered very little on the defensive end. Barrett is still an effective free-throw generator and judging by what he showed the last two seasons, can certainly get back to playing high-level defense. If his shot can pick back up soon, it wouldn’t be surprising if his defense did in turn.

Don’t look now, but Charlotte’s offense is slowly improving. A 107 offensive rating is still the league’s worst, but the Hornets are only a half-point behind the 29th-place Spurs. Over the last five games, they’ve shot the ball much better from beyond the arc and have benefitted from former role-players Jalen McDaniels and Kelly Oubre Jr. settling in as top options within the offense, and the spark provided by young players like Kai Jones, Théo Maledon, Bryce McGowens and Nick Richards has boosted the second unit. To top this recent hot-stretch off, Terry Rozier dropped a season-high 29 points last time out. Some of the bad juju from earlier in the season seems to have been expelled.