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Knicks vs. Hornets Preview For 2/26/2020

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New York looks to end a four game skid in Charlotte where they are two point favorites

The Knicks and Hornets will face off for the third time this season later tonight in Charlotte, NC. Both teams are looking to turn things around as they have lost their last six games combined. New York has lost four straight games while the Hornets come into this one in the middle of their own two game slide. Both squads will be looking for a turn of fortune tonight as the Knicks come into this game favored by just two points.

These teams have played each other close in their previous match-ups, but the end result has been the same both times. New York and Charlotte first faced off way back in mid-November. That game was decided by a single point as Devonte’ Graham nailed a three pointer for the Hornets with 2.8 seconds left on the clock to lift Charlotte over the Knicks 103-102. Graham ended up hitting nine threes in that game and led all players with 29 points on a night where he shot the ball 10-19 from the field. The second game of the season series came much more recently as the Hornets topped the Knicks once again, this time by a final score of 97-92. Terry Rozier was the player of the game in that contest as the former Boston Celtics Point Guard led all players with 30 points. The Knicks will be looking to turn things around against one the NBA’s more mediocre teams.

Defense has been New York’s main issue during this skid. Over their last four games, the Knicks have allowed opponents to score 120.8 points per game on average. It’ll be interesting to see how the Hornets match up against the Knickerbockers’ unimpressive defense, since Charlotte’s main issue comes on the offensive side of the ball. The Hornets are dead last in the NBA in scoring, as they average just 102.2 points per game, two points fewer on average than the next closest team. The offense has been playing even worse than that though as of late. In their last eight games, Charlotte is 3-5, which isn’t terrible, but they are only averaging 97.6 points per game over that time. This is going to be a matchup of a moveable force vs. a stoppable object.

I think the mediocrity of New York’s defense and Charlotte’s offense will kind of cancel each other out. That means that this game will be decided by how well the Hornets’ defense can matchup with the Knicks’ offense. When you look at the entirety of this season, this seems like a no-brainer. New York is 28th in points per game on the year while Charlotte has the 14th best scoring defense in the league. In recent outings though, the numbers skew more in favor of the Knicks. New York’s offense has been serviceable as they have averaged 110.25 points per game during their four game skid. Meanwhile, the Hornets are holding their opponents to just 108 points per game in their last eight match-ups. However, when you factor out their 87-76 win over the Pistons, that number jumps up to 112.6 points per game. Regardless, I still think the Hornets will come out on top in this game when all is said and done.

The Hornets have more scoring threats than the Knicks right now. Charlotte has six players that are averaging double-digit scoring outputs this season. Furthermore, Malik Monk has stepped up recently for the Hornets. The former first round pick out of Kentucky has finally entered the starting lineup and is averaging 15.7 points in his last ten games. It will be interesting to see how effective Devonte’ Graham can be in this game after he sat out against the Pacers on Tuesdays due to “load management reasons.” If Graham can play a reasonable amount of minutes and be somewhat effective, then I think that will provide Charlotte with enough firepower to top the Knicks. New York just doesn’t have many offensive weapons that scare you. Beyond Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, the Knicks lack a true scoring threat (not other player on the team is averaging at least 10 PPG). Meanwhile, the Hornets can get it done with guys like Terry Rozier, Cody Zeller, PJ Washington, Miles Bridges, etc. I think the Hornets will win this game outright, and take a 3-0 season series lead over the Knicks.

Prediction: Hornets 96 – Knicks 90

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