After dropping a 112-104 decision to the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks welcome the visiting Charlotte Hornets on Sunday at MSG for the first of two matchups with the Hornets in three games.
This time around, the Knicks find the Hornets coming off perhaps their best win of the season, a 113-107 victory over the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets. The win, which included a dominant 40-28 second quarter, snapped a three-game losing streak for the Hornets.
Charlotte managed the win despite shooting 38.4 percent from the floor making the most of transition, as the Hornets had 20 assists in the win, with Kemba Walker leading the way with eight to go along with his 21 points.
"Something we hammered in practice was spacing the floor and making the next pass," Hornets forward Frank Kaminsky said. "In the Minnesota game, we were getting good shots and good looks, but there were better ones available. We call it 'good to great,' and that's what we were really doing well tonight. We were just moving the ball and finding the open guy."
Maybe even more important for Charlotte than the passing was the perimeter defense against Denver, which shot 23 percent from deep.
Against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday, the Knicks' perimeter defense doomed them almost as much as their own outside offense. New York let Brooklyn shoot 50 percent from 3-point range while making just 8 of 26 attempts.
Tim Hardaway Jr. was the primary culprit for the offensive meltdown, shooting 2 of 12 from the field and going 0 of 5 on 3-pointers. Backups Allonzo Trier and Damyean Dotson helped make up for some of Hardaway's misfires with a combined 27 points off the bench in the loss.
"I was searching that whole game for a lineup that could just compete defensively and move the ball offensively," Knicks coach David Fizdale said. "We were in mud for pretty much two and a half, three quarters of that game, and then the young guys came in a provided a big spark."
Frank Ntilikina, who has lost time in the Knicks' rotation and become the subject of trade rumors, played an important 16 minutes off the bench, scoring seven points and finishing with a team-high plus-seven plus/minus ratio.
"Huge. I'm very proud of the way he handled everything," Fizdale said. "That's the thread of our team now. I'm starting to see a consistent strain in these guys, show they respond to not playing. I'm really proud of the way Frank approached it."
New York is also going to have to shut down Charlotte's bench, which combined to score 53 points against Denver with Tony Parker leading the way with 19 points and Malik Monk adding 16.
"I thought the bench was great tonight, especially in the first half. They got us going, brought great energy," Borrego said. "They scored. They moved the ball.
"Malik was really big for us there. I thought he had a really good night. It was one of his best nights in a while so give Malik a lot of credit. He stayed ready. We trust him. He's been working hard behind the scenes getting ready for these moments and I think he delivered tonight."