After a brutal defensive effort in the second half of Sunday’s loss vs. the Heat, the Knicks travel to Carolina to take on Kemba Walker and the Hornets.
After squaring off with the Miami Heat, the New York Knicks will have a quick turnaround and head down to play the Charlotte Hornets for the final time this season. Their last trip to the Spectrum Center was a good one, and they’ll be hoping for another winning performance.
The season series between the Knicks (10-38)and the Hornets (23-25) is even at 1-1. New York won the previous meeting on December 14th in dramatic comeback fashion, outscoring Charlotte 35-20 in the fourth quarter to force overtime and eventually win, 126-124. A few days before that, on December 9th, the Hornets held off the Knicks at Madison Square Garden for a 119-107 victory. Check out the latest betting odds for NBA action here.
Both teams will look to settle the score on Monday night. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m. ET.
Kemba Walker Watch
His status is unknown as of now, but Kemba Walker left the Friday night game against the Milwaukee Bucks in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter due to a neck injury. The seriousness and the extent of the damage is still uncertain, but if he’s able to go on Monday, there’s no doubt Charlotte will love to have the All-Star guard’s presence.
Like recent opponents Brooklyn and Miami, Charlotte is also on the fringe and in the hunt for one of the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.
So far this season, Walker is averaging a career-high 24.7 points per game. Not only does Kemba add a scoring punch, but he’s a calming force and a reliable playmaker. If he’s unavailable or playing limited minutes, expect the Hornets to deal with his absence by a committee of Devonte Graham, Malik Monk, and Tony Parker.
Parker—the future Hall of Famer—showed the Knicks in their first meeting this season that at 36 years old, he still has some tricks up his sleeve. He used his veteran savvy to fool Knicks’ defenders to an effective 16-point outing off the bench on December 9th.
— NBA (@NBA) December 10, 2018
The Knicks, however, were able to stay disciplined in the December 14th rematch, and he was a non-factor with just two points. Parker sat out for resting purposes against the Bucks, but an uptick in minutes at point guard wouldn’t be out of the question.
As for Monk and Graham, they’re the younger backcourt players off the bench who can also see more playing time. Graham, a rookie point guard who enjoyed a distinguished career at Kansas, is starting to get his feet wet in the NBA. He was used sparingly throughout the season, but since the New Year, he has been receiving more consistent playing time. He can score and knock down threes and has done a good job of dishing out assists while minimizing turnovers. Monk, who plays mostly off the ball and can add a scoring punch, has been up-and-down so far.
The Other UConn Husky
Walker will grab the headlines, but don’t let Jeremy Lamb’s season go unnoticed. After struggling to find his footing earlier in his career, in his fourth year at Charlotte and seventh overall in the NBA, Lamb is on pace to have his most productive season yet.
They aren’t eye-popping numbers, but there’s no denying he’s been on the upswing. So far, he’s averaging career-highs of 15.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. He’s Charlotte’s second-highest scorer right now, and when a ball-dominant All-Star like Walker is the leading man—his numbers are about right where they should be as a secondary threat.
He’s built off of a decent season last year. If Walker is out, he’ll have a lot more on his shoulders. However, if Walker is healthy and able to go, don’t sleep on this Lamb.
Next Man Up
As the Knicks continue to deal without the services of Emmanuel Mudiay, the focus has shifted to Trey Burke and Frank Ntilikina to prove their worth and showcase their talents in expanded roles. They’ve been put under the lens. Mudiay scored a season-high 34 points in the Knicks’ previous meeting with the Hornets, and if either one could even come close to replicating that, it would be a treat for New York.
Odds are Ntilikina won’t reach that mark. Amidst an offensive slump, it’s possible that this is the opponent to get him going. We have previously seen an aggressive Ntilikina score 18 points on a 7-for-11 shooting performance (including a perfect 4-of-4 from long range) against the Hornets. It was quite the second-half performance before Ntilikina fouled out—an issue that seems to hamper him.
On the bright side, there’s no denying Ntilikina’s defense has been great. He limited the red-hot D’Angelo Russell to 12 points, before fouling out in just 20 minutes of action against the Brooklyn Nets on Friday.
There’s no doubt Burke will add a scoring punch. He was buried in the rotation, but foul troubles for Ntilikina and the injury to Mudiay allowed him to play a season-high 33 minutes against Brooklyn.
Nevertheless, Ntilikina’s groin injury against Miami on Sunday could sideline the 20-year-old who flashed some potential in the one and one half games he played in Mudiay’s stead.
Burke, who didn’t play in the four games before Friday, made the most of his time on the court, scoring 22 points and dishing out five assists. He’s made the starting job interesting moving forward, while also providing a solid first impression in what will be the beginning of a showcase period with rumors swirling of a potential trade.
Not a Great Start to 2019
Tim Hardaway Jr. is the leading man for the Knicks, averaging a team-high 19.5 points per game. Since the New Year began, he hasn’t been consistent. Since averaging a solid 26 points per game in the first two weeks of the season, then following up with a solid month of November during which he averaged 20.1 points—his numbers have gradually dropped.
So far this month, he’s averaging just 15.2 points, while shooting 37.8 percent overall and a worse 32.8 percent from deep. He recently had back-to-back 20-point games against Houston and Oklahoma City—the first time since early December—but overall it’s been an up-and-down month for Hardaway. Can he find greater consistency on the floor?
UPDATE: 12:54 a.m. ET.
Steve Popper of Newsday reports Frank Ntilikina won’t travel with the team to Charlotte.