Following promising performances from Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina, the Knicks are facing the Hornets again — this time in Charlotte.

Rising up the Eastern Conference standings, the Charlotte Hornets (14-13) host tonight’s contest against the New York Knicks (8-21) with a three-game winning streak.

Slowly trickling down the Eastern Conference standings, the New York Knicks have now lost five in a row and face an MVP candidate and known “Knick Killer” in Kemba Walker. The Bronx-native Walker is having a sensational season thus far, averaging 26 points, 6.3 assists, and 4.5 rebounds per game in nearly 35 minutes of playing time, per Basketball-Reference.

The Knickerbockers are coming off an up-and-down game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, eventually losing 113-106 despite a late-game rally led by Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox.

Here are a few things to note before tonight’s game.


 

Frank Ntilikina’s Playing Time

After three consecutive DNP-CD’s to begin December, Ntilkina found himself frustrated but committed to getting better and helping the team in anyway, as any player would and should say to the media. Words don’t mean much in the NBA, though. Fortunately for Ntilikina, the guard has played increasing minutes in the last three games, from 16 to 20 to 24. Facing Kemba Walker, one would hope that tonight, again, his minutes see an increase.

Some might say that Ntilikina is getting this playing time due to Burke and Trier’s injuries, which is entirely a possibility. That said, Frank has taken advantage of his opportunity and, despite the losses, has had very, very solid games.

Ntilikina has a superior basketball mind, often making passes and plays that go unrecognized. His biggest struggle offensively has been his penchant to overthink instead of just playing. Coming out with more aggression has been his key to success and we can only hope that this new mindset is here to stay. Over the last three games, Ntilikina is averaging 10 shots per game, four of which are behind the arc. In addition, his shooting slashes on this road trip? 53/58/100.

Tim Hardaway Jr.’s Shooting Slump

I knew it was too good to be true. I knew it! We all knew it, in some weird, perhaps telepathic way; Tim Hardaway Jr. could not keep up his strong start to the season.

In October, Hardaway Jr. was averaging a smoking hot 26 points, 3.3 assists, and 3.0 rebounds per game on 43/41/90 shooting splits. Oh how times have changed. Slowly but surely, Hardaway Jr.’s shooting has returned to the form that we know and recognize.

Over the last 10 games, Hardaway is now averaging 16.4 points, 3.1 assists, and 2.3 rebounds on 32.7 percent from the field and 34.2 percent from three, per NBA Stats. Although his shooting slashes have most certainly taken a hit, Timmy is still hitting his free throws at a great, consistent rate. What’s been missing over the last 10 games has been his inability to get to the line.

Tim Hardaway Jr. is at his best form when he has a slasher mentality. Yes, he is a great shooter, but if THJ starts to get the line more, he’ll have a greater impact on the game even if he isn’t shooting well. Look for more attacking the basket against a mediocre Hornets defense.

Kevin Knox’s Rebounding

Kevin Knox has quietly been improving with each game since returning from an ankle injury in November.

Over the last five games, Coach Fizdale has given Knox nearly 30 minutes per game, which is a very encouraging sign for Knicks fans. While he has been inefficient from the scoring end—shooting 39.1 percent from the field—Knox has been a major playmaker for this Knicks squad.

At this moment in time, his best attributes have been rebounding and his ability to make plays in transition. I remember during the draft process, Knox had a reputation of not always being engaged throughout the games, both offensively and defensively. Fizdale has made it clear that he wants Knox to crash the boards and run out into transition. “I’ve been really stressing to him rebounding and getting in the trench. We do a lot of block-out drills, just trying to him used to the physicality of the league,” Fizdale told reporters after Knox’s 26-15 game against the Charlotte Hornets.

Can Kevin Knox repeat his stellar performance?