Knicks Aim to Remain Hot Against Hornets in Charlotte
1. Emotions ran high on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden with the return of Carmelo Anthony for the first time since the offseason trade. The Knicks honored the 10-time All-Star by showcasing a tribute on GardenVision prior to the contest. After the opening tip, New York quickly showed Anthony and the Thunder it was not the team they met in the season opener. The Knicks put together a 27-18 second quarter, which led to a 50-44 advantage at the half. Down the stretch, the home team converted on key plays to hold Oklahoma City below the century mark while six players for the orange and blue reached double figures in scoring. Russell Westbrook managed to score 25 points but Anthony and Paul George were limited to a combined 30 points. The Knicks shot 55.1 percent from the floor and a scorching-hot 60.9 percent behind the arc. New York concluded the season series against Oklahoma City by capturing the exhilarating 111-96 win.
2. New York’s recent four-game surge moved the team to the sixth spot in the latest Eastern Conference standings. In fact, the Knicks (16-13) only trail Detroit and Indiana for the fourth position behind the Toronto Raptors. At the friendly confines of MSG, New York boasts a 14-5 mark, which is tied (San Antonio) for the best home record in the league. The Knicks rank in the top 15 in points per game, points allowed, rebounds per game, and top ten in assists.
3. Kristaps Porzingis exited Brooklyn on Thursday night with a sore left knee. He did not return after departing in the third quarter and was inactive on Saturday night against Oklahoma City. The big man traveled with the team to Charlotte and will test his knee at shootaround while remaining a game time decision, per head coach Jeff Hornacek. New York is also missing Tim Hardaway Jr. with a stress injury to his lower left leg. The shooting guard is expected to be re-evaluated in the near future.
4. Michael Beasley earned the starting nod in place of Porzingis on Saturday night and the power forward delivered a monster performance. In 38 minutes, Beasley tied a season-high with 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the floor to go along with two buckets from deep. The 28-year old enjoyed a nice all-around game as well by grabbing five boards, dishing out four assists, and swatting two shots. Doug McDermott also played a pivotal role on Saturday and is becoming a key contributor off the bench. Over his last five games, McDermott is averaging 13 points per game while shooting 55.1 percent from the perimeter and 47.1 percent from the arc.
5. In the first meeting between the two teams, New York blasted past Charlotte in the fourth quarter by outscoring the road team 35-19 en route to a 118-113 victory. Since the November 7 contest at MSG, the Hornets are 5-13 and 10-19 overall heading into tonight’s game. Charlotte has dropped its last two games to start a four-game homestand, including Saturday’s narrow defeat to the Blazers. Kemba Walker continues to the lead the team from an offensive standpoint as he averages 21.9 points and six assists per game. Defensively, Dwight Howard controls the paint for the Hornets by averaging 12.7 boards and 1.3 blocks this season.