Playoff seeding was on the line for both teams when the New York Knicks hosted the Charlotte Hornets for a Saturday matinee.
The New York Knicks couldn’t rest after clinching a playoff berth. No, that devastating loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday bumped them down to the No. 6 seed.
As a result, Saturday’s tilt with the Charlotte Hornets mattered all the more. New York took the sting out of Charlotte in beating them 109-97 on April 20, but this was a different game. LaMelo Ball was back on the court for the Hornets, and his team was playing for play-in game seeding.
Did the New York Knicks tame the Hornets, or did they let Charlotte’s sting consume them a la Nicolas Cage in The Wicker Man?
1st quarter: Let the 3’s fly
The New York Knicks led 36-27 after the first quarter, and they made that lead look pretty. New York shot 7 of 9 from three in the opening frame, but were otherwise just 5 of 13 from the field. Save for Reggie Bullock nailing all four of his attempts from long range and Julius Randle adding 12 points of his own, the rest of the team struggled.
Yet, the Knicks’ defense held firm as it has all season and overcame the inconsistencies on offense. Ball was held to a single basket and Charlotte shot 40.9% as a team. With that kind of effort, the Knicks could afford to be aggressive from beyond the arc.
Halftime report: Devonté Domination
The New York Knicks led 63-54 at halftime, but make no mistake. The Hornets struck back just how they needed to in this important game.
The star of the show was Devonté Graham, who scored all 15 of his points in the second including four three-pointers. Charlotte also tightened up their defense, even as the Knicks managed to bend but not break on defense.
One thing was certain. If the New York Knicks were going to win this game, they’d have to do better across the board.
3rd quarter: Burning Bridges
The fact that the New York Knicks led 89-86 after three is a miracle, especially after the Hornets outscored them 32-26 in the third. Charlotte’s hero was forward Miles Bridges, who scored 16 of his 25 points in the third quarter. The Knicks had no answer for him.
The Knicks managed to play strong defense, particularly with Nerlens Noel blocking four shots in the quarter. Yet, the offense had a hard time going up against the Hornets’ tight zone defense.
It was time to finish the game, and a winnable one at that.
4th quarter: Pandemonium
What a ridiculous quarter of basketball. The Hornets, at one point, scored one point in six minutes. The New York Knicks went nearly four minutes without scoring at all. LaMelo Ball was an absolute non-factor.
And yet, thanks to a no-call on a loose ball foul with 10 seconds left, the game headed to overtime. Needless to say, this was not the game the New York Knicks expected.
Overtime: The real Knicks arrive
Maybe the New York Knicks just needed a break because in overtime, they came out swinging and outscored the Hornets 14-5. Alec Burks and Reggie Bullock hit timely threes, and Julius Randle walked off the court to deafening MVP chants after another stellar performance.
It wasn’t a pretty win, but the Knicks pulled off the 118-109 victory and their 40th win of the season.
Player of the Game: Julius Randle
And why did Randle get the MVP chants for what seems like the 98,321st time? Simple. He accomplished his sixth triple-double of the season with 33 points, 10 rebounds, and 13 assists.