With a short-handed lineup, the Charlotte Hornets needed someone else other than Kemba Walker to step up.
Jeremy Lin and P.J. Hairston – along with some timely defense – came through for the Hornets in their 97-84 victory over the New York Knicks on Saturday at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Lin – playing the team where he made “Linsanity” a household term – scored 26 points, and Hairston added 20 points and 10 rebounds as Charlotte led by as many as 22 points in the third quarter in winning its second straight and third in the past four home games.
And Walker? A night after putting up 40 points in an overtime win over Orlando, he scored 26, 11 of those coming in the fourth quarter to stave off the Knicks’ comeback.
The Hornets had three players out Saturday: guard Nicholas Batum (right second toe strain), center Cody Zeller (right shoulder strain), and guard Jeremy Lamb (right big toe sprain).
Add forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (shoulder) and Al Jefferson (knee) rehabbing from surgery, and Charlotte had a third of its 15-man roster sidelined with injuries.
While the Hornets shot just 34.1 percent from the field (28 of 82) and made 9 of 31 3-pointers, they held the Knicks to 37.7 percent shooting (29 of 77, including 7 of 24 on 3-pointers) and forced 15 turnovers.
Charlotte also went 32 of 37 from the free throw line, while New York struggled to 19 of 32.
Three who mattered
Kemba Walker: Had his struggles, going 7 of 25 from the field (3 of 9 on 3-pointers). But hit 9 of 9 from the line, 7 of 7 in the fourth quarter. Also had six rebounds and five assists.
Jeremy Lin: Had his problems shooting as well (7 of 17 from the field, 2 of 5 on 3-pointers), but hit 10 of 10 from the free throw line. Also had five assists.
P.J. Hairston: Shot 7 of 14 from the field (2 of 7 on 3-pointers) and 4 of 4 from the line in a career best scoring night. Also equaled his career best in rebounding.
▪ Charlotte got off to a horrendous start shooting in the first quarter, making just 2 of 18 from the field (0 of 5 on 3-pointers) by the midway point of the quarter, allowing the Knicks to take a 10-4 lead. But the Hornets finished the first half respectably – 34 percent from the field (16 of 47, but only 3 of 14 on 3-pointers) and 10 of 14 from the free throw line in leading 45-43.
▪ Hairston drew the primary responsibility of guarding Knicks star Carmelo Anthony (backed up by Williams), and did a good job of it – just nine points of 4 of 11 shooting. Hairston also had an impressive strip steal on Anthony midway through the second quarter when the Hornets were battling for the lead.
▪ The Hornets had problems scoring inside in the first half against the Knicks’ big men, who had five blocks in the first quarter alone and eight for the half. But it was a different story in the second half – the Knicks had zero blocks, while Charlotte had three.
▪ The Knicks shot 41.2 percent from the field (14 of 34) in the first half, but only 1 of 6 on 3-pointers. What kept the Hornets in the game was the Knicks’ free throw shooting (only 14 of 23) and turnovers (eight).
▪ Both Anthony and Robin Lopez, who finished with 10 points, sat out most of the second half, and were not in the game at all in the fourth quarter.
▪ Derrick Williams came off the bench to lead the Knicks with 19 points. Kristaps Porzingis had 13 points, and Arron Afflalo added 10.
▪ Zeller underwent an MRI earlier Saturday, and Hornets coach Steve Clifford said that “he will be out a while” during his pre-game availability. Later, team officials said that Zeller had a sprained ligament in his right shoulder, and will be re-evaluated in a week.
▪ With Batum, Lamb and Zeller out of action, the Hornets recalled rookie guard Aaron Harrison from the Oklahoma City Blue, two days after he had been sent to the NBA Developmental League team.
▪ The Hornets begin a four-game West Coast road trip on Monday night against the Sacramento Kings. Charlotte follows that with games against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday and the L.A. Lakers on Jan. 31.