Knicks Look to Protect Home Floor in Matchup Against Hornets
1. The Madison Square Garden crowd was treated to a stellar comeback performance from the home team on Sunday night. Trailing by 19 points, the Knicks rallied down the stretch with a 15-2 run in the fourth quarter to drop the Pacers in a 102-99 victory. New York outscored a formidable Indiana team 36-17 in the final stanza while it shot 57.9 percent from the floor and buried three long buckets. The win pushed the Knicks overall record to 5-4 on the season and they remain hot with five victories in their last six outings.
2. Kristaps Porzingis is sending shockwaves around the league. The third-year big man erupted for a career-high 40 points on Sunday night and became the first player in NBA history with at least 40 points, six blocks and two 3-pointers in a single game. As part of the 40-point night, Porzingis connected on 62.5 percent of his shots, snatched eight boards, and swatted six shots in 45 minutes. Porzingis has scored 30-plus points in seven of his last nine games while setting a franchise mark for the most points through his first nine games of the season. Due to the tremendous output over the last seven days, Porzingis earned Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors.
3. Frank Ntilikina hit some clutch buckets in Sunday’s win and showed a glimpse of his potential for the future. The rookie played the entire fourth quarter where he scored six points, dished out four assists, and recorded two steals. His two 3-pointers helped the Knicks turn the tide and eventually capture the win. When Ntilikina and Porzingis were on the floor together, New York outscored the Pacers 45-20 in 14 minutes, according to ESPN’s Mark Simon. When examining Ntilikina’s numbers on basketball-reference.com, the 19-year old averages 9.1 points, 7.8 assists, and 3.6 steals per 36 minutes.
4. Lance Thomas played a huge role in Sunday’s win with aggressive defense in the second half. Head coach Jeff Hornacek placed Thomas on Indiana’s leading scorer, Victor Oladipo. The move paid off as Thomas registered a +23 number when on the court. During the postgame media availability, Hornacek praised Thomas’ defense that helped New York limit the Pacers to 39 points and 39 percent shooting in the second half.
5. This summer, Charlotte traded for Dwight Howard (probable with sprained right foot) to secure a defensive anchor in the paint. Additionally, the Hornets drafted Kentucky standout Malik Monk with the hopes of pushing their squad to the postseason after a 36-46 finish last year. Charlotte is 5-5 this season but only 1-4 on the road and with two consecutive defeats to the Spurs and Timberwolves. Nicolas Batum is out with a torn ligament in his left elbow and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will miss tonight’s contest with a personal matter. Hornets head coach Steve Clifford has utilized Jeremy Lamb at the shooting guard spot in place of Batum and rookie Dwayne Bacon at the small forward position. As expected, Kemba Walker is the force that drives Charlotte by leading the team in points, assists, and steals.