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Preview: Streaking Hornets host struggling Knicks

The Hornets play host to yet another team on the second night of a back to back.

Charlotte Hornets v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (37-35) vs New York Knicks (30-42)

When: 7:00 EDT

Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

The Hornets host a team on the second night of a back to back for the third consecutive game, with the last two of those coming against teams fresh off a contest with the Atlanta Hawks. The Hornets have won all three of those games as part of a five game winning streak that has put them two games above .500 and in a decent spot heading down the final stretch of the season.

Up next on the docket is a visit from the New York Knicks. The Knicks are coming off a fourth quarter collapse and eventual loss to the Hawks. They held a 10 point lead with 8:48 to go in the fourth quarter, but they were outscored 22-6 over the next seven minutes and let the game slip away.

RJ Barrett led the Knicks with 30 points in the absence of Julius Randle. He’s been the story for the Knicks in the latter part of the season. Since the All Star break, he’s averaged 26.2 points per game, though it’s come about due to extremely high usage and somewhat mediocre efficiency. If Randle sits again, throwing bodies at RJ Barrett and making his life difficult will be the main key for the Hornets.

If Randle does play, that same logic can be extended to him. Both Barrett and Randle are willing passers, but both like to dominate the ball and are prone to forcing offense if things aren’t coming easily to them. The Hornets have done well in recent games with two different approaches to ball-dominant players. They forced the ball out of Trae Young’s hands against the Hawks and completely took him out of the game. They let Luka Doncic get hot, but they limited the output of the rest of his teammates. The latter approach would seem more feasible for tonight’s contest.

The Knicks average the fewest assists per game in the league, and the percentage of their passes that lead to assists is the fourth worst in the league. They don’t move the ball productively and are heavily reliant on isolation play despite not being very good at it. They have the 24th ranked offense in the league and shoot the fourth worst percentage from the field.

A focused Hornets team should be able to contain the Knicks offense. The current win streak is more a product of the offense, but the Hornets have shown they can defend well when locked in. Despite their struggles offensively, the Knicks still defend decently well and try to keep the pace down, so it’s not a given that the Hornets will be able to pour in a bunch of buckets like they have been recently. The Hornets may have to grind out a win like they did on Monday night against the Pelicans, but there’s no reason they can’t do that given the Knicks struggles this season.