Knicks vs. Hornets 8:00 PM
Where to Watch: MSG
Where to Listen: ESPN 1050 AM
The Knicks kept the good times rolling on Wednesday night with their seventh consecutive victory. At 15-15, New York is nipping at Boston’s heels, just a half game behind the Celtics for the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Aside from the Spurs nine-game streak, the Knicks are the league’s hottest team and behind Jeremy Lin’s remarkable emergence, they are back in contention. Amar’e Stoudemire jumped back into the lineup on Tuesday night in Toronto following a four-game absence and Carmelo Anthony is nearing his return from a strained groin. New York is enjoying a nice homestand that started on Wednesday night against Sacramento and will extend all the way to Wednesday in a matchup against the Hawks at Madison square Garden. In related news, the Knicks will be highly visible in this year’s All-Star Weekend with Iman Shumpert in the Dunk Contest, Landry Fields in the Rising Stars Challenge, and Anthony slated as a starter for the big game on Sunday night.
In a rocky couple of weeks before the start of the 2011-12 season, the Hornets lost their superstar point guard due to his desire to relocate and free agency status. New Orleans acquired Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first-round pick for Chris Paul in the blockbuster deal. After a myriad of injuries to key players, the Hornets have only registered six wins and suffered 23 losses while sitting in last place in the Western Conference standings. Gordon is sidelined until late March with a knee injury, Carl Landry is also dealing with a sprained left knee, Jarrett Jack has missed the last seven games, and Emeka Okafor will be out until after All-Star Weekend. With all the obstacles, the Hornets have managed to record consecutive wins over Utah and Milwaukee after suffering eight straight defeats.
Last Time Out
Fields scored 15 points and grabbed 10 boards as the Knicks cruised to a 100-85 win past the Kings on Wednesday.
On Wednesday night, Marco Belinelli drilled 6 three-pointers to lift New Orleans over the Bucks 92-89.
The Numbers Game
New York’s defense is greatly improved this season under the direction of assistant coach Mike Woodson. The evidence? The Knicks have not allowed the opposition to reach the century mark in eight straight contests and the squad ranks 13th in the NBA in points per game allowed.
Match-up to Watch
Tyson Chandler vs. Chris Kaman
The Hornets seven-footer is a difficult matchup with his ability to score from deep inside the paint and underrated touch from the perimeter. Kaman scored 27 points and snatched 13 boards in the win over Utah and posted another double-double on Wednesday night. In both games, the big man attempted more than 20 shots, clearly showing New Orleans’ desire to use Kaman as the focal point of the offense. Tyson Chandler has played consistent basketball for the entire season and there is no reason to expect a sub-par performance on Thursday. However, he will have to stay away from foul trouble due to the lack of depth at the position for the Knicks.
What to Look For
New York has remarkably transformed over the last two weeks and the squad delivered a truly dominating performance against the Kings on Wednesday night. The first quarter seemed like a highlight reel of alley-oops for the hometown team while its defense held Sacramento below 20 points each quarter except for the final stanza when the game was out of reach. The same type of attention to detail will be needed to maintain the impressive winning streak. Despite all their injury woes, the Hornets are a well coached team that only allows 92.7 points per game. Stoudemire is due for an explosive outing and will not face much resistance with Okafor out of the lineup for the Hornets. Expect a hard fought battle on both sides but the Knicks certainly hold the advantage from a personnel standpoint.