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Recap: Hornets clinch spot in play-in, beat Knicks, 125-114

Miles Bridges scored 31 and LaMelo Ball notched a career high in assists.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Miles Bridges scored 31 points while LaMelo Ball tallied a career high 15 assists to go with his 20 points as the Charlotte Hornets clinched a spot in the play-in tournament with a win over the New York Knicks, 125-114.

The Hornets got going with a couple of easy layups inside, but the Knicks scored eight straight to respond. The Knicks got a few fortunate bounces on the offensive glass and hit a few early threes. The home team hit a very high percentage of their early looks despite their difficulty, and the Hornets struggled to keep pace at first. Miles Bridges where he picked up in the last visit to Madison Square Garden with 11 first quarter points to keep the Hornets tight. Kelly Oubre scored three early field goals to pull the Hornets within two at quarter’s end.

The Hornets outplayed the Knicks in a frenetic early phase of the second quarter to recapture the lead. Oubre continued his strong run of play with aggressive defense and pursuit of loose balls. Ball set up his teammates with a bunch of open looks to help the Hornets to a very efficient first half. They didn’t do the best job keeping the Knicks out of the paint, so the game stayed close. The Hornets led by three at the break, though it could have been six, but the officials removed a LaMelo Ball 3-pointer and ruled that he was out of bounds, so they took away the basket.

The Hornets forced some early Knicks turnovers to get out on the break and score inside. They continued to play defense with a lot of energy and a lot of random breakdowns that led to easy Knicks baskets. It ended up being a pretty even quarter throughout without anything of much note happening besides of Evan Fournier getting hot for the Knicks. The Hornets scored the last seven points of the third quarter to take a 91-83 lead into the fourth.

The Hornets played disruptive defense and scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to take a 12 point lead and force a Knicks timeout. The teams started trading baskets from that point, which would have been an acceptable outcome for the Hornets. But that wouldn’t stay the case all quarter long. The Knicks scored eight straight as the Hornets got sloppy on both ends to make it a two point game just over halfway through the quarter. The game yo-yoed from there. The Hornets would go up a couple buckets, then the Knicks would answer. Miles Bridges hit a three and then threw down this slam to start a run that would put the Knicks away for good.

It was part of 12 straight Hornets points scored by Bridges as the Most Improved Player candidate locked up the win for the visitors.

We’re getting confident Miles Bridges for the last few weeks, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. He showed the closer mentality that this Hornets team sometimes lacks and stepped up when the Hornets needed someone too. Ball was facilitating from the tip and picked apart the Knicks defense all game long. Oubre chipped in 21 points off the bench and played one of the most energetic games we’ve seen from him in a while. PJ Washington made a few key plays down the stretch is proving to be a sneaky clutch player in crunch time.

The Hornets defend as well as you’d like to see, but they got the job done. They’ll have a couple days off to tidy things up before a Saturday matinee with the 76ers.