Wednesday, October 4, 2023
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NBA Preview: New York Knicks (7-5) at Charlotte Hornets (6-7)

Five days removed from pulling off one of the biggest comeback victories in franchise history, the New York Knicks almost pulled off another one for the record books Wednesday night.

But even completing the comeback over the Milwaukee Bucks wouldn’t have solved the issues that keep getting the Knicks into these predicaments.

The Knicks will be seeking some answers Friday night, when they are slated to visit the Charlotte Hornets in an Eastern Conference battle.

Both teams last played Wednesday, when the Knicks stormed back from a 24-point, third-quarter deficit to tie the visiting Bucks in the fourth quarter before falling 112-100, and the Hornets snapped a five-game losing streak and salvaged the finale of a five-game road trip by beating the Memphis Grizzlies, 118-108.

The loss was the fourth in the last six games for the Knicks, who trailed by 21 points before beating the Bucks, 113-98, in Milwaukee last Friday. It marked the first time since at least 1997-98, when the NBA began tracking play-by-play in box scores, that New York won a game in which it trailed by at least 20 points.

A win on Wednesday would have gone down as the Knicks’ second-biggest comeback victory since at least 1991-92. New York trailed the Bucks by 26 points in a 103-100 win on March 14, 2004.

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau left a quartet of reserves — Alec Burks, Taj Gibson, Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin — on the floor for the final 14:01, a span in which New York finished off a 40-16 run and tied the game on Quickley’s 3-pointer with 5:06 left. But the Bucks never fell behind and ended the game on a 20-9 run.

“We try to ease into games, we try to get a feel instead of being aggressive,” Rose said. “A lot of times, you have to be the aggressor, let people know you’re there. That’s not only the starting five, that’s the bench coming in playing lackadaisical, like nonchalant. We picked it up late, but that’s everybody.

“We’re not that good to give people confidence. We’ve got to come out and be the hardest-working team.”

The Hornets were feeling better about themselves Wednesday after earning a much-needed victory. Charlotte opened 5-2 — its best seven-game start since beginning the 2016-17 season at 6-1 — before losing five straight, including three by 14 points or more.

The Hornets squandered a 14-point, second-quarter lead Wednesday and fell behind by eight points shortly beyond the midway point of the third quarter before Kelly Oubre Jr. sparked a game-ending 56-38 run. Oubre Jr. scored 26 of his 37 points in the surge, including a pair of 3-pointers in a 55-second span that gave Charlotte a 112-98 lead with 1:05 left.

The 37 points by Oubre Jr. were the most ever by a Hornets reserve.

“There was a moment tonight where we could have let go of the rope and we didn’t,” Hornets head coach James Borrego said. “We kept playing and showed that fight and resiliency. We’re getting there, but we still have a long ways to go.”

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