The Knicks try to to extend a five-game winning streak against Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets.
Coming off a picture perfect week, the Knicks (16-13) head down to Charlotte to take on the Hornets. The last time these two faced off in New York, the Knicks won in comeback fashion, engineered by Kristaps Porzingis. The team may be without KP for a second straight game as he will be a game-time decision with knee soreness.
The Hornets (10-19) enter Monday night healthy and hungry for a win. They have lost back-to-back games to the Heat and Blazers to drop to 13th in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks, on the other hand, have won four straight while shorthanded. Guys like Michael Beasley, Ron Baker, and Frank Ntilikina have stepped up with injuries to Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. With a Christmas showdown against the Sixers rapidly approaching, the Knicks must not overlook a pesky and talented Hornets team that will have Nic Batum in the lineup for this go around.
Let’s break down what the to look out for in Monday night’s tilt.
Feed the Bease
In Porzingis’ absence, Michael Beasley dropped 30 points on the Oklahoma City Thunder. He spoiled Carmelo Anthony’s MSG return, and it was glorious. Assuming no KP again tonight, Beasley has a nice matchup against Marvin Williams, considering that he too is a small four. The scoring prowess of Beasley has helped alleviate potential scoring droughts with Timmy also out. Even if Porzingis can go tonight, Hornacek would be wise to give Beasley a good chunk of deserved minutes.
Back on Track
Saturday night’s game against the Thunder was not one of Frank Ntilikina’s best. He was a non-factor after getting into foul trouble early. Maybe he just doesn’t fare well against OKC, but he will be looking to get back on track following an impressive showing prior to Saturday. He is starting to find out his offensive game, which is as exciting as it is necessary.
His defense will be huge tonight as he will likely have to corral Kemba Walker, but adding some scoring would go a long way to getting the Knicks the win. During that comeback against the Hornets at MSG a few weeks back, Frank was effective in every area but scoring. He notched eight assists but only scored three points. If he has improved as much I believe he has, look for that point total to increase. One thing he likely won’t have to deal with tonight is chasing Malik Monk around the perimeter:
Since Malik Monk went 7-12 in the first half vs Frank Ntilikina and the Knicks in early November, he has shot 17-60 from the field. Don't expect to see much of him tonight as Silas indicated yesterday: "We need some wins, It’s not time to develop or gift minutes right now." pic.twitter.com/5mgi3i3UlC
— Knicks Film School (@KnickFilmSchool) December 18, 2017
Matchup of the Night: Enes Kanter vs. Dwight Howard
Kemba will get his points regardless. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Lance Thomas are essentially pushes. Marvin Williams versus Beasley or Porzingis is a win for the Knicks. Courtney Lee versus Batum favors the Hornets. That leaves the battle of the bigs as the crucial matchup. Kanter has been banged up with a back issue, and Dwight is in the middle of his best season in quite some time. If the big three of Charlotte have their way, this could get ugly.,
Over his last five games, Dwight has recorded less than double-digit rebounds just once. That one game was against Steven Adams, who is not afraid to get physical. The same goes for Kanter. If there is one thing we can all rest easy knowing, it’s Kanter’s ability to be the mad dog for the Knicks. He’s not afraid of the contact, and if anything, he seems to enjoy it, which is the attitude necessary to take on Dwight.
If Kanter can get under Dwight’s skin or simply outplay him on the glass, the Knicks will be in better shape to win this game.
Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m. EST tonight in Charlotte.
UPDATE: 6:18 p.m. EST.
Porzingis will be inactive again, per ESPN’s Ian Begley, his second game out since bruising his left knee.