Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker drove past the New York Knicks’ Willy Hernangomez for a layup with 31 seconds left for a six-point lead and an eventual 107-102 victory at Spectrum Center Saturday.
The victory broke a four-game losing streak for the Hornets, who improved to 9-7. Walker led the way with 28 points. Jeremy Lamb, making his first start as a Hornet, added 18 points and a career-high 17 rebounds.
The Knicks got 25 points from emerging superstar Kristaps Porzingis and 18 each from Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose.
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The Hornets played without two injured starters, power forward Marvin Williams and shooting guard Nic Batum.
The Hornets won despite missing 13 of their 42 free throws.
Three who mattered
Jeremy Lamb: He supplied energy, rebounding and shooting in his first start as a Hornet.
Kemba Walker: His 18 first-half points were primarily about getting to the rim. That also got him to the foul line five times.
Kristaps Porzingis: He can score in so many different ways and kept getting to the foul line.
▪ The Hornets will be without starting power forward Marvin Williams for at least a week, based on the MRI examination he had Saturday. The MRI confirmed a hyper-extended left knee, plus a bone bruise. No structural damage to the knee was detected. Frank Kaminsky made his first start of the season, replacing Williams.
▪ Williams suffered that injury in the third quarter Friday in Madison Square Garden. Prior to that, the game against the Knicks had been the first time this season Hornets coach Steve Clifford had all nine of his top rotation players healthy.
▪ Shooting guard Nic Batum missed Saturday’s game with an eye injury suffered in Friday’s game in New York. Jeremy Lamb started in place of Batum.
▪ Lamb and Hornets point guard Kemba Walker started together for the first time since they played together at Connecticut. This was Lamb’s ninth NBA start.
▪ Clifford made some pointed comments pre-game about how the Hornets have declined of late defensively. He said they “pick-and-choose” when to play defense and rebound, adding the past four games have likely been the worst stretch of defense since he became coach.
▪ This was Lamb’s first start as a Hornet, and he had an impressive first half with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
▪ Dipping far into his bench, Clifford played third-string point guard Brian Roberts meaningful minutes in the second quarter. It was Roberts’ third game appearance this season.
▪ The Knicks made just two of their 12 first-half 3-point attempts.
B OFFENSE: They’ve had a nasty habit lately of not making enough free throws.
C+ DEFENSE: Minus the injured Marvin Williams, there was no real preferred option for guarding versatile 7-foo-3 Kristaps Porzingis.
B COACHING: Steve Clifford is scrambling for options, as in when he went with three point guards early in the fourth quarter.
Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell