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Crispy’s Pre-Game Notebook: Knicks-Hornets

New York Knicks (8-7)

  • The Knicks play the same opponent (the Hornets) on consecutive nights for the only time this year. It happens three other times with a day off in between including next week vs. Minnesota and later in the season against Miami and Milwaukee.
  • Jeff Hornacek is not a fan of these back-to-backs, but is very cool about the challenges of NBA schedules, saying “It’s just another game on our schedule, if you win both, great, if not, not so great.”
  • Hornacek gets some of his stoicism from his former coach in Utah, Jerry Sloan. A no-nonsense guy who, with Hornacek as a linchpin along with John Stockton, Karl Malone, Howard Eisley (now a Knicks assistant) and more went to four Western Conference Finals, two NBA Finals, averaged 58 wins and won 60 three times!
  • By the way, those Jazz teams finished inside the top 10 in defense in six of seven years! Hornacek knows something about defending and it’s starting to show. The Knicks have held their last seven opponents to under 30% on 3-point shots.
  • Carmelo Anthony is on a tear. His game-winner in overtime Friday gave him the most go-ahead or game-winning field goals in the final five seconds or overtime of any player since Carmelo came into the NBA 14 years ago. In his last seven games, Melo is shooting 47% from the field and 42% from deep and averaging 25.5 ppg.
  • I’ve been calling his games since he came here seven years ago and in his words, if he “finds his spots on the floor,” he can be deadly. Those spots? The elbow on both sides of the lane and either baseline. If he gets any room to work there, he’s one of the best in the business.
  • Home cooking. New York is now 7-2 at home and Kristaps Porzingis was blown away by the response of the New York crowd last night saying “Its the loudest I’ve ever heard here, it gave me goose bumps overtime down the court.”
  • Assists = Winning. The Knicks are 7-1 when they have 20 or more in a game and just 1-6 when they have less than 20.
  • Plus/Minus matters. Last night Courtney Lee was +13 while scoring 12 points.
  • Steve Clifford, his coach in Charlotte, told me the Hornets wanted to keep Lee but had to sign Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams to big contracts, and called him the “ultimate dependable pro.”
  • One final thing on plus/minus. Mindaugas Kuzminskas didn’t score a point last night (shot 0-6) but was still +13 with four rebounds, two assists and numerous hustle plays on defense that don’t show up in the stat sheet.

CHARLOTTE HORNETS (8-7)

  • Steve Clifford is one of most well-liked head coaches in the NBA. He was a Knicks advance scout, then assistant from 2000-2003 and credited his time with the Knicks for his current success. “I was fortunate to work with Jeff Van Gundy, Tom Thibodeau and Don Chaney as well as veteran players like Larry Johnson, Latrell Sprewell and Allan Houston who showed me the ropes of pro basketball after spending my entire coaching career in college.”
  • The Hornets rank first in fewest turnovers and second in assists. When I asked Steve which is more important, he thought about it for awhile and came up with this, “For us it’s assists. We don’t have as many players who can get their own shots so we need ball movement, but turnovers are a players personal responsibility, turnovers give the other team momentum. I learned that from Charlie Ward, the former Florida St. QB, who played for the Knicks, and brought that mentality from football to the NBA.”
  • Kemba Walker has scored 60 points combined in the previous two meetings against the Knicks and came into Friday’s game at The Garden averaging 24.8 points, 5.4 assists and only 1.7 turnovers while shooting 47.6%. The Knicks did a good job on him last night, holding Walker to just 17 points on 43% shooting, three assists and three turnovers.