Gordon Hayward exploded for 34 points and New York’s offensive slump continued as Charlotte (6-5) handed the Knicks their third straight loss 109-88 Monday night. It was the third contest in a row that the Knicks (5-6) failed to break the 90-point mark.
Once again New York got off to a cold shooting start. The Knicks opened the game 1-for-10 from the field. Their first five misses all came from behind the arc. Meanwhile, Hayward was putting on an absolute clinic for the Hornets. Hayward poured in 28 of his points in the first half. Hayward had his entire arsenal on display as he scored using three-pointers, dunks, mid-range shots and transition baskets. He was 8-of-12 shooting and made 10 straight foul shots in the first half.
New York shot just 34-for-87 from the field for 39.1% and 9-for-37 from long range for 24.3%. The Hornets shot 48.7% from the floor and 40.6% from three-point range.
“I think when you struggle sometimes to make shots, it takes away from the other aspects of the game,” Knicks coach TomThibodeau said. “But we’ve been a very unselfish team. Some nights, the ball’s going to go in, some nights it won’t.”
Charlotte looked like they may put the game out of reach early. The Hornets took advantage of the Knicks inept shooting to build a 31-14 lead. New York finally started to get some shots to fall, ending the first quarter on an 11-0 spurt to pull within 31-25.
The Knicks took their first lead of the night at 38-37. Back-to-back treys by Hayward and Miles Bridges extended the Hornet’s lead back to 10, but Kevin Knox nailed a three in the closing seconds of the second to make it 57-50 at the half.
Knox, who has been much maligned by New York fans was the catalyst. Knox enjoyed perhaps his best half as a Knick, connecting on six three-pointers and accumulating 17 points. Nerlens Noel and Immanuel Quickley also gave the Knicks a spark off the bench — Noel with his defense on the interior and Quickley by helping to speed up the tempo.
Charlotte came out in the second half and increased their lead back to double-digits at 70-59. The margin hovered between nine and 12 points for most of the third quarter. The Hornets could not pull away, but the Knicks were unable to make the game tighter. Finally, a three-pointer by Devonte’ Graham in the stanza’s final seconds gave the Hornets a 14 point lead at 82-68.
In the fourth, New York’s perimeter shooting failed them once again. Charlotte switched to a matchup zone and the Knicks offense became stagnant. A three-pointer by P.J. Washington early in the quarter returned the Hornets to a 17-point lead and the Knicks were back where they started. After an RJ Barrett bucket made it a 15-point game, LaMelo Ball nailed a trifecta to give Charlotte their biggest lead at 18 and New York could not manage to mount any kind of a rally.
Graham recorded 19 points for the Hornets with Bridges and Washngton adding 13 points each. Terry Rozier chipped in 12.
Knox scored just two points in the second half, but still paced the Knick with 19 points. Elfrid Payton finished with 15 and Austin Rivers 13 in his first start of the season. Mitchell Robinson had a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards. Leading scorer Julius Randle had a quiet evening with 11 points. Barrett also had 11.
“We have a bunch of guys that love to be in the gym so I know it’ll get better,”Thibodeau concluded.
The Knicks return to Madison Square Garden Wednesday night to battle the rival Brooklyn Nets for the first time this season.
(AP Photo/Nell Redmond)