The Knicks didn’t come ready to play as the Hornets walked out of Madison Square Garden with a 112-105 win, snapping the Knicks’ win streak. 

Welp.

It had to end at some point, but many wouldn’t have thought that tonight would be the night. Despite the loss, it’s still a great time to be a Knicks fan, as the team has now compiled two eight-plus-game win streaks this season. It was RJ Barrett who carried the load tonight with Jalen Brunson (sore ankle) out for the second straight game. Scoring a game-high 27 points to go along with six rebounds and four assists, he was able to get to the rim at will and find his teammates in great spots.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t Julius Randle’s night tonight. Coming off his Player of the Week honors, Julius finished with 16 points on 5-0f-17 shooting from the field as well as two turnovers and ended up a minus-20 on the floor. It was a rare off night for Randle, but he was hardly alone; the Knicks clearly didn’t have it from the jump, and it showed down the stretch in the loss.

After a career night from Immanuel Quickley, he finished with 14 points, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds, shooting 30% from downtown in the loss. We all know what he is capable of on a good night, but this was a game where it would’ve been nice to have Brunson as IQ and the Knicks couldn’t find the answers in this outing.

The first quarter saw the Knicks struggle in the first four minutes, playing down to their competition and missing a handful of shots. Julius Randle, who we’ve seen get off to scorching hot starts in recent games, finished with just five points in the first quarter, four shy of his season average for the quarter. While New York never trailed at any point in the period, they were far from playing their best basketball as their offense was somewhat stagnant and their defense a step behind. By the time the first quarter was all said and done, the Knicks and the Hornets were gridlocked at 21 apiece. Tom Thibodeau had to rally the troops to ensure that they no longer play down to their competition during the intermission.

Soon enough, the Knicks got back on track. The second quarter was better executed with the team finding their rhythm and having a sense of urgency when it comes to protecting the ball. It was RJ Barrett who took the reigns for the quarter, attacking the rim at will to get himself and his teammates easy open looks. Staying patient, he was able to recognize how the Hornet’s defense was playing him and take full advantage.

 

Barrett wasn’t done there. Whether it was blowing by a defender or using his sheer size and strength to get into the paint, RJ was not going to take “no” for an answer in this game. No matter the physicality that was being thrown at him, he played through the contact and got a variety of finishes around the rim, including this floater over Nick Richards for the and-one:

With Barrett elevating his game as well as his teammates, the Knicks began to go on a run and distance themselves from the Hornets, leading by as much as 16 in the first half. Towards the end of the half, Immanuel Quickley began to find his rhythm, following up a three with an and-one floater on their next offensive possession. Mitchell Robinson was also active in the paint in this game, getting a dunk right under the rim with just 1:31 remaining. To end the quarter, it was all Quentin Grimes displaying his skillset, nailing a three-point jumper only to finish an acrobatic layup around the rim to beat the halftime buzzer. Check it out here:

After a 45-point explosion in the second quarter, the Knicks headed into the locker room with a commanding 66-50 lead and RJ leading the way.

The third quarter got off to the start they were looking on offense coming out of the half, with Quickley, Randle, and Barrett controlling the tempo with Brunson out for this one. After the early minutes in the third, New York’s offense began to stall as nothing could find the hoop, allowing the Hornets to close the gap and eventually get their first lead of the game with 51.9 seconds remaining in the quarter.

It was Terry Rozier who helped close the gap, getting to his spots and taking advantage of the Knicks’ lackadaisical defense. New York did a poor job closing out on the perimeter, and Charlotte did not miss a beat. The Knicks’ offense masked their brutal defensive performance coming out of the locker room, but they needed to put together a solid defensive fourth quarter to keep this game out of Charlotte’s reach. At the end of the third, the Knicks led narrowly, 89-87 with the win streak now possibly on the line.

The remainder of the game saw the Knicks and the Hornets in a tight one. Between free throws and field goals, the Knicks found themselves in a drought for the majority of the fourth quarter. Scoring just four field goals in the first nine minutes of the fourth, New York allowed Charlotte to go on an 11-2 run at one point in the fourth quarter to take the lead and never look back. The Knicks may have kept it close with a driving layup from Julius Randle, but with the referees allowing the game to get as physical as it did, the Knicks’ lead slowly slipped away from them, and Charlotte moved into the driver’s seat. With just under a minute remaining, Kelly Oubre hit a heavily contested corner three to put the Hornets up five. New York was able to get to the foul line relatively quickly, but once again they could not capitalize on their chances and as the final buzzer sounded, the Hornets had come up with a sneaky victory on the road.

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