Coming off a disappointing loss to Orlando three days ago, the message that Hornets Head Coach James Borrego delivered to his team before it took the floor on Monday afternoon in New York was pretty clear: respond. And respond the Hornets certainly did as they knocked off the Knicks with a not-nearly-as-close-as-it-looked 97-87 win.
With LaMelo Ball (active; DNP because of a non-COVID illness) and Kelly Oubre Jr. out of the lineup, Miles Bridges erupted for a career-high 38 points – 22 in the first quarter – 12 rebounds and five assists. His scoring total in the opening frame was tied for the 3rd-highest quarterly total in franchise history and he became just the fourth Charlotte player overall to record a 35-10-5 game, joining Kemba Walker (3x), Gerald Wallace and Larry Johnson.
“I was just staying aggressive,” said Bridges following his career-best performance. “My teammates did a good job of finding me early on. Once I saw one or two go in, that’s when I got going. Coach kept trusting me to run the offense through me this game and it worked out. Somebody had to pick up the slack with [LaMelo out]. I wanted to be aggressive from the jump, then T-Ro started being aggressive, then Gordon. It was a domino effect. We just got going.”
He added, “I just got out of slump before Christmas and I feel like I’m getting back on track now. My teammates have been doing a great job staying on me about staying aggressive and it’s paying off. I just want to continue getting better and staying aggressive for my team.”
Charlotte was all over this one from the start, ending the first quarter on a 23-11 run. The Hornets then outscored the Knicks by seven in the second to take a 62-44 halftime lead, then bumped the advantage to 19 by the start of the fourth. New York made a few buckets in the final few minutes, but never really posed a serious threat the rest of the way.
“A full 48-minute performance,” said Borrego. “I felt like from start to finish, we controlled that game and it was by the decisions and choices we made out there on the floor. Nothing [New York] did – we just had the right mentality today. To play the right way, to play for 48 minutes, to defend, to communicate. I thought it was as close to 48 minutes as we’ve played all season.”
Terry Rozier added 22 points, passing Nic Batum for 5th place on the franchise’s all-time 3-point field goals leaderboard in the process (now at 498). Gordon Hayward was also in double figures with 16 points, while Julius Randle and RJ Barrett each had an inefficient 18 points for New York. The Hornets held the Knicks to 40% shooting and forced 15 turnovers leading to 14 points.
Friday’s home loss to the last-place Magic was a difficult pill for the Hornets – who were riding a four-game winning streak at the time – to swallow, with Borrego and the players pinpointing a lack of maturity with regards to the overall team approach as the primary reason for the outcome. That being said though, the way Charlotte was able to bounce back on the road, at a raucous Madison Square Garden, without LaMelo Ball and with an early tip-off time to boot is incredibly impressive and perhaps a really encouraging sign of good things to come.
The Hornets will now wrap up their short two-game road trip on Wednesday, Jan. 19 against the Boston Celtics starting at 7:30 PM ET.