The Hornets come into this game favored by 1.5 points.
The world is still reacting to the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter. Many people were saying that the NBA should cancel games out of respect for the Black Mamba. It may be respectful, but I don’t believe it is what Kobe Bryant would have wanted. Kobe went out and played basketball every night and loved every second of it. As sad as it is that we lost this global icon, the NBA season must continue and teams must still compete. It’s what Kobe would want. He would never take a night off, and he would never want to be the reason that NBA games weren’t played. Kobe will be sincerely missed by the entire world, but I am certain that he would never want to take anything away from the sport and the league that he dedicated his life to.
With that in mind, we must march forward with the NBA season as we quickly approach the NBA All-Star game, so let’s take a look at the Knicks’ next matchup. New York will be playing it’s second game of the season against the Charlotte Hornets. These two teams were separated by just a single point in their first matchup of the season, a 103-102 victory for the Hornets at Madison Square garden. The difference in that game was Devonte’ Graham, who erupted for 29 points on a night where he went 9 for 16 from beyond the arc. RJ Barrett also had one of his best games of the season as the rookie recorded 22 points and 5 rebounds. This time, the Knickerbockers will be without RJ Barrett, who hasn’t played a game since January 16th. Regardless, I still expect this to be a close game.
This may be one of the few match-ups the Knicks have where they are the better team. Their record may be worse than Charlotte’s (13-34 vs. 15-31), but I think that New York is just playing better team basketball at the moment. The Hornets are dreadful right now. They are 2-14 in their last 16 games and they come into this one riding an eight-game losing streak! The Knicks are not a good team either, but they are way better than 2-14 over their last 16. In fact, New York has gone 3-5 in their last eight games, which is pretty respectable considering they faced the Raptors, Lakers, and Bucks during that stretch. This won’t be an easy victory though for the Knicks because the Hornets are coming into this game well-rested. They have only played one game in the last six days. An energetic Hornets team that is desperate for a win could spell trouble for New York.
The Knicks lead the Hornets in almost every important statistical category there is. New York averages more points per game, more rebounds per game, more blocks per game, more steals per game, and they have a higher field goal percentage than Charlotte. The only area that the Hornets have an advantage in is points allowed per game, and it isn’t a huge difference (New York allows 1.2 more points per game than Charlotte). This game will not be a defensive battle. These teams are 16th and 18th in scoring defense. I am sure that both teams will score over 100 points in this one.
I like the Knicks’ chances in this game. They will be without their star rookie once again, but I think New York has found a groove. They had no problem sticking it to the Nets on Sunday, a game they won 110-87. The Nets without Kyrie are basically the same team as the Hornets are right now (a bad one). Also, New York has the advantage down low. The Hornets are the third worst rebounding team in the NBA while New York is 6th in the league in rebounds per game. I think Julius Randle, Taj Gibson, and Mitchell Robinson will bully the Hornets in the paint. Furthermore, I don’t expect any Hornets players to go 9-16 from three. New York will win this game outright, but it’ll be a close one.