The Knicks did not come out to play, as the injury-ridden ‘Bockers were blown out by Gordon Hayward and the upstart Hornets on the road.

The once-mighty New York Knicks (5-6) have looked brutal in their last few games. They’re riding a three-game losing streak and have sunk back under .500 on the season. Tonight’s defeat came at the hand of the Charlotte Hornets (6-5) by a score of 109-88.

The Knicks came out flatter than a piece of paper to start the game, shooting 1-of-10 from the field through the beginning of the first quarter, with the only bucket being a Mitchell Robinson put-back. The Hornets’ pressure on the perimeter forced the Knicks into turnovers while their ball movement got them open shots. Charlotte went up 10-0 in three minutes and led by 14 points halfway through the opening period.

While Charlotte played defense with intensity (which kept up throughout the whole game), the Knicks’ defense in the first quarter mirrored Burger King’s slogan, as the Hornets had it their way. They sank shot after shot after shot without committing a single turnover deep into the opening period. The Knicks forged a comeback effort on the shoulders of Nerlens Noel’s stout defense and some buckets from Austin Rivers, ending the first quarter down by just six points.

New York, backed by Kevin Knox’s hot shooting, chipped away at the deficit. They took the lead on a floater from R.J. Barrett, his first points of the game after missing his first five shots. But they gave the lead right back to Charlotte a minute later and never saw it again.

The second half was merely an extension of the first. The Knicks had no energy or urgency and could only watch as the Hornets kept growing their lead. The Hornets played harder and more in sync than the Knicks, who collectively shot 39.8% from the field and 25.0% from beyond the arc.

Gordon Hayward did whatever he wanted on offense. The Hornets’ newcomer scored 13 points in the first quarter and kept pouring on the buckets from everywhere on the floor. He posted a new career-high for the first half with 28 points at the break. Hayward’s dominance diminished in the second half, but he did more than enough to lead the Hornets to a win, compiling 34 points on 11-of-17 shooting.

Kevin Knox led the Knicks in scoring with 19 points, shooting 7-for-17 from the field and 5-of-12 from deep. Robinson recorded his third double-double on the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Starting lineup shake-up

Austin Rivers replacing Reggie Bullock, who was ruled out with hip soreness, constituted the first starting lineup change for New York this season. In his first start as a Knick, Rivers scored timely buckets in the first half to keep the game within reach early on, taking Hornets defenders one-on-one for tough finishes at the rim.

Rivers played 38 minutes and ended his first start of the season with 13 points on 5-of-12 field goal shooting and 3-for-9 three-point shooting. He didn’t record a single assist despite being the Knicks’ primary ball-handler for the majority of his playing time.

Rivers’ ball dominance pushed Immanuel Quickley into more off-ball situations, and the younger half of the “Quivers” duo didn’t respond very well, recording just three points on an abysmal 1-for-8 shooting clip. The neophyte point guard is shooting 2-of-21 over his last three games. Speaking of poor shooting…

Barrett can’t buy a bucket

R.J. Barrett has stumbled further into a subzero shooting slump. He hasn’t made over a third of his field goals in the last four games, a trend that continued tonight. He couldn’t get anything going, even as Charlotte defenders purposefully gave him space to shoot from deep. His defense was uninspiring, too.

Barrett had two strong takes in the third quarter on consecutive possessions but that was just about the only time he looked good. He forced shot attempts through defenders in the paint and none of his five attempts from behind the arc looked good. He ended the night with 11 points on 5-of-18 shooting, nine rebounds, and four assists.

Kevin Knox ’em down from deep

Kevin Knox was the Knicks’ saving grace tonight. No, really. His long-range shooting was terrific in the first half and a huge reason the Knicks were able to stay alive. He found a great rhythm on catch-and-shoot long balls, sinking them with ease. At halftime, he had a season-high 17 points and made five triples, both of which led the team.

Despite obviously having the hot hand, Tom Thibodeau didn’t look Knox’s way that much in the second half. He only attempted a handful of shots while the game was still within reach after his best offensive performance of the season. Still, Knox’s performance was great to see. As he begins the third year of his career, he has had more confidence in his shot. It’ll be key for him to keep letting the shots fly when he’s open.

The Knicks will return to the Garden and get their first look at the Kevin Durant–led Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.


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