LaMelo Ball scored 32 points through three quarters, but an early deficit and an apparent lack of urgency caused the Charlotte Hornets to drop a bad loss to the New York Knicks, 121-106.
The Hornets dug themselves into yet another early hole. They played apathetic defense and let the Knicks get hot. The Knicks scored 40 first quarter points on 15-of-22 shooting from the field and 8-of-14 from three. Seemingly every Knicks shot was a dunk or an uncontested three, so the Hornets gave themselves a 40-24 hole to dig out of over the final three quarters.
The Hornets promptly lost Taj Gibson in the corner for another three to start the second quarter. The lead grew as large as 20 as the Knicks hit their 11th three of the game less than two minutes into the second quarter. The teams yo-yoed a couple of runs, but it ended with the Hornets within a manageable 13 point deficit. LaMelo Ball scored 14 of the quarter and his energy on both ends of the floor was a key reason the Hornets were able to chip away at the Knicks lead.
The Knicks scored seven straight to start the second half in much the same way as the first. The Hornets quickly responded though, and some high energy plays and double pump dunks cut the deficit back down to 11. LaMelo Ball caught fire, and his sixth 3-pointer and 32nd point of the game got the Hornets within six with two minutes to play in the third. But for as good as the offense was, the defense did not pick up to match. The Knicks got wide open looks with little effort, and though they didn’t hit them at the rate they did in the first half, they did enough to keep the Hornets from completely wiping away their lead. After three, the Hornets still trailed by 12.
Terry Rozier and the Knicks exchanged threes to start the fourth quarter as the Hornets tried to make up ground without LaMelo Ball. Rozier tried a bit too hard to take the game over from there, and it resulted in some bad offensive possessions until Jalen McDaniels and Isaiah Thomas hit a pair of 3-pointers. Ball was left on the bench for over six minutes despite his offensive outburst and the Hornets struggles without him on the floor. Miles Bridges wasn’t reinserted for the struggling Jalen McDaniels until the 4:26 mark of the fourth. To that point, the Hornets bench had done nothing to come back into the game and the big guns were left very little time to make a difference. The Hornets couldn’t build any momentum as they clanked a number of key 3-point attempts and the game got away from them.
It’s an extremely disappointing result to a very important game with a tough stretch of the schedule coming up. The Hornets didn’t have any interest in playing defense for a large part of the game as if the Knicks would just miss shots on their own. They started to play with more energy in the third and fourth quarter, but an ineffective bench unit was given way too much rope despite the Hornets key players playing a manageable amount of minutes.
The Hornets will have a day off before playing the Jazz on Friday. They’ll need to figure out the defense or the Jazz will drop 30 3-pointers on them.