There were six minutes and twenty four seconds left when television cameras scanned the Charlotte Hornets’ bench.
Players wore wide grins and laughed.
It was a momentary glimpse at a group which was enjoying the fruits of their labor, this a thoroughly convincing 111-97 rout of the New York Knicks Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The Hornets improved to 45-33 with four games remaining this season. The win also snapped the Hornets’ two-game losing streak.
Kemba Walker led all players with 34 points on 11 of 18 shooting. He made a career-high seven 3 pointers. Al Jefferson had 24 points in 28 minutes and 52 seconds off the bench. Frank Kaminsky and Marvin Williams added 16 and 13, respectively.
Three who mattered
Kemba Walker: The kid who grew up a 20-minute subway ride away from Madison Square Garden was the best player on the hallowed court Wednesday night. Walker finished with 34 points and made 7 of 10 3s. He finished 11 for 18 from the field, made all five free throws, grabbed five rebounds, recorded two steals and two assists.
Al Jefferson: New York couldn’t account for Walker beyond the perimeter, and it didn’t have an answer for the Hornets’ sixth man. Jefferson scored 24 points on 11 of 21 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds.
Frank Kaminsky: The ninth overall pick in last June’s draft was solid in a secondary role. He totaled 16 points on 7 of 13 shooting, including 2 of 5 from 3 in 23:48. For good measure, he grabbed four rebounds – two offensive and two defensive – and had three assists.
When Steve Clifford met with reporters 90 minutes before the game, he stressed the Hornets’ 3-point shooting success was due to their ability to penetrate into the paint. Clifford’s rationale was that the Hornets’ shooters would have open attempts due to the penetration. Against a Knicks squad that entered the game having allowed opponents to shoot 39.6 percent from 20 to 24 feet, the Hornets made 12 of 26 from 3 and 30 of 64 from inside the arc.
He may no longer be the worldwide dynamo he was a few years ago, but Jeremy Lin has become a solid NBA player. Lin totaled six points in 33 minutes on 2 of 9 shooting, but he showed flashes of being the up tempo point guard who became a phenomenon with the Knicks. One fourth sequence in particular stood out: After Spencer Hawes forced a turnover in the paint, Lin raced up court before throwing a behind-the-head pass to the big man. Only Carmelo Anthony’s reach in foul prevented a spectacular dunk, and it really didn’t matter as Hawes made one of two free throws to extend the Hornets’ lead to 92-76.
Knicks center Robin Lopez was ejected with 3:32 left in the game after complaining to officials Justin VanDuyne and Dan Crawford. VanDuyne assessed the initial technical following a no-call moments after Jefferson collided with Lopez underneath the basket. Following the first technical, Lopez continued complaining and Crawford ejected New York’s center. Lopez clapped sarcastically at Crawford before leaving the court.
During a stoppage in play in the first quarter, Hornets assistant coach Patrick Ewing received a polite ovation from the announced 19,812 in attendance when he was shown on the video board. New York selected Ewing with the first pick in the 1985 NBA Draft, and he is the franchise’s all-time leader in 19 statistical categories, including points scored (23,665), rebounds (10,759) and blocked shots (2,758).
As benefitting any major professional sports contest at Madison Square Garden, celebrities were in attendance for the regular season series finale between the Eastern Conference franchises. Among the listed were New York Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets left fielder Michael Conforto, New York Mets relief pitcher Logan Verrett, and Knicks franchise legend Willis Reed.
They said it
“Just get better. Better than (Tuesday) night (against the Raptors, a 96-90 loss). We wanted to be better on both ends of the floor.” – Kemba Walker on the Hornets’ mindset against the moribund Knicks.
“I would say that he would (come back to the NBA next season as a head coach). There’s opportunities out there for him. … I’d say he’d be coaching somewhere. … He loves the game, loves the NBA. He’s a brilliant basketball coach and he’ll be a better coach wherever he goes next year than he was last year. You can make the argument Tom was been one of the best two or three coaches (in the NBA).” – Hornets coach Steve Clifford on Tom Thibodeau.
“We’re just focusing on finishing out the season. There hasn’t been any discussion along those lines. … The future is always going to take care of itself, one way or another. … It would be fantastic. I want to be a head coach in this league. This is a great franchise, it’s a terrific city, fanbase. It would be a thrill beyond thrills.” – Knicks interim coach Kurt Rambis on speculation he may become New York’s full-time head coach, and what it would mean to him.