Charlotte Hornets

Hornets shot terribly against Knicks on Monday. One guy, in one quarter, saved them.

Charlotte Hornets’ Kemba Walker (15) drives against New York Knicks’ Tim Hardaway Jr. (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Charlotte Hornets’ Kemba Walker (15) drives against New York Knicks’ Tim Hardaway Jr. (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) AP

Every team has its bad shooting nights — the trick is figuring out how to overcome them.

That is exactly the predicament the Charlotte Hornets (24-25) faced Monday night against the New York Knicks (10-39), in what was easily one of the team’s worst offensive nights all year. Against a hapless Knicks team tied for the fewest wins in the Eastern Conference, Charlotte shot a meager 41.1 percent from the floor and 32.4 percent from 3.

And yet, largely thanks to a sublime fourth quarter effort from second-year guard Malik Monk, the Hornets were able to muster a 101-92 victory at Spectrum Center. Monk scored 12 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, including two 3-pointers during an 8-0 Hornets run that put Charlotte ahead for good.

Up to that point, the game had largely been a back-and-forth swap of ugly offense and ill-timed fouls. Outside of guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and wing Kevin Knox, the No. 9 overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, the Knicks were practically unable to put the ball in the basket. Still, New York kept things close and even entered the fourth quarter tied at 71 because of the Hornets’ similar struggles, plus getting to the free throw line 26 times.

But once Monk started knocking down 3’s in the final frame, the Hornets’ lead grew and grew. On bad shooting nights, sometimes it is those natural shooters who can make the difference.

Three who mattered

Tony Parker: On a decidedly lackluster night energy-wise, Parker’s spark off the bench (and team-leading 15 points) was especially pronounced.

Kevin Knox: The rookie forward from Kentucky showed why he was a lottery pick, dropping 19 points and scoring from every level.

Willy Hernangomez: His third double-double of the season kept the Hornets in striking distance all night, even when the rest of their offense faltered.

Observations

After struggling with a sore neck he suffered during Friday’s loss to the Bucks, Walker was far from himself Monday. He scored just 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting, while showing more hesitation than normal driving to the basket.

Along that same line, Walker didn’t attempt his first free throws until two minutes into the fourth quarter.

It took an 8-0 fourth quarter run, highlighted by two Malik Monk 3’s, to put the the Hornets up for good after several lead changes throughout the night.

The Hornets were called for three technical fouls, the most surprising of which was on the normally mild-mannered Marvin Williams. Williams was frustrated with a lack of no-calls on Charlotte drives into the paint.

Monday’s game marked the Hornets’ 49th game of the season — they still have not strung together more than three consecutive wins (or losses) at any point.

Worth mentioning

Monday was the Hornets’ first gameat home since Walker was named an All-Star starter last week, and he took time pre-game to thank fans for their part in voting him to that spot. Walker is Charlotte’s second three-time All-Star, along with Glen Rice.

Hornets coach James Borrego said center Cody Zeller, out with a broken hand since New Year’s Eve, is probably still a week from playing, although his practice workload has steadily increased.

Forward Noah Vonleh, who the Hornets selected No. 9 overall in the 2014 draft, started for the Knicks on Monday.

They said it

“Probably our best half of the season, and our worst.” – Borrego on his team’s overtime loss to the Knicks the last time these teams played.

“Anthony Davis asked for a trade? I locked myself in my hotel and just watched film today. I turned my phone off. I got yelled at by my wife today. So I have no idea. What happened?” – Knicks coach David Fizdale when asked about Pelicans forward Anthony Davis’ request to be traded.

Report card

C+ OFFENSE: Making 10 of their first 15 attempts in the fourth quarter saves this grade a little.

B DEFENSE: For as bad as the Hornets were offensively, they still held the Knicks to just 40 percent from the floor and 30.4 percent from 3.

B COACHING: Borrego’s willingness to ride Monk late, plus reserves Hernangomez and Parker for large stretches of the game, proves a flexibility that will continue to be valuable as the season progresses.



Brendan Marks is a general assignment sports reporter for the Charlotte Observer covering the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, NASCAR and more. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has worked for the Observer since August 2017.
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