The Charlotte Hornets (5-5) have slid back down to .500 after back-to-back road defeats to the San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves. Kemba Walker struggled mightily with his shot on both occasions, going just 8-of-27 for 22 points. Rookie Malik Monk’s shot has also gone cold. After putting up a career-high 23 points against the Milwaukee Bucks to start the month, Monk has just eight points on 3-of-13 shooting in his last two games.
Meanwhile, the New York Knicks (5-4) have continued their resurgence with two more home wins against the Phoenix Suns and Indiana Pacers. Unsurprisingly, Kristaps Porzingis was once again the main reason for their success as he put up 77 points, 15 rebounds, and 9 blocks in those two games alone. Tim Hardaway Jr. has also been playing much better as Porzingis’ main running mate, and is averaging 21.4 points over his last five games.
Three keys to the game
Stopping the Unicorn – Porzingis has obviously been a huge part of the New York offense this season, and slowing him down would go a long way toward stopping the Knicks as a whole. As it so happens, the Charlotte Hornets have been among the best at keeping opposing power forwards quiet, so Porzingis could have a more challenging time putting points up.
Walker bounce-back game – The Hornets don’t really stand much of a chance to win when Walker is off his game. But the Hornets’ All-Star guard should be fired up to go back home and play at Madison Square Garden, which could just be the motivation he needs to get back on track.
Battle of the boards – The Knicks remain one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league, and lead the league in second-chance points with 17 per game. However, they could find it tough to get the better of Dwight Howard and the Hornets, who are inside the top five this season in defensive rebounding percentage.
Matchup to watch
Marvin Williams vs Kristaps Porzingis – Williams will have the unenviable task of trying to stop the rampaging Porzingis, but the Hornets forward has done well to help limit opposing power forwards this season. He notably helped hold LaMarcus Aldridge to just 14 points, although Porzingis will be a different type of defensive assignment due to his versatility.
Hornets projected starting lineup
PG – Kemba Walker | SG – Jeremy Lamb | SF – Dwayne Bacon | PF – Marvin Williams | C – Dwight Howard
Knicks projected starting lineup
PG – Jarrett Jack | SG – Courtney Lee | SF – Tim Hardaway Jr. | PF – Kristaps Porzingis | C – Enes Kanter
It should just be a matter of time before Kemba Walker snaps out of his recent funk and returns to being his All-Star-caliber self. And what better time to do so than in front of his home fans as the Bronx native returns to New York?
It’s hard to deny that the Knicks are the team playing with much more confidence at the moment. The MSG crowd will be pumped up for this game, which should give them an added boost. The two teams are fairly evenly matched, but with the way Porzingis has been playing at the moment, he could just be the decisive factor. Take the Knicks to win.
The Knicks extend their streak to three with a 108-104 home win over the Hornets.
This game will broadcast on MSG and Fox Sports Southeast. Tip-off at Madison Square Garden will be at 7:30 pm Eastern.
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