The New York Knicks played with fire in the second half and got burned.
Their nine-game winning streak came to a screeching halt as the Charlotte Hornets stung them with a buzzing 112-105 win Tuesday night at the Garden.
The Knicks squandered a 16-point halftime lead. They came out of the second half with low energy, and the Hornets took advantage, slowly chipping away at their lead.
The Knicks let the Hornets hang around until their veterans — Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, and Kelly Oubre, Jr. — swung the momentum with big plays after big plays down the stretch.
A Hayward three-point play capped a 6-0 blitz by the Hornets to take their first lead in the fourth quarter, 103-100, with 2:59 left. Julius Randle tied the game for the last time at 103-103.
Rozier set up Hayward for the go-ahead basket, then Oubre hit a clutch three-pointer for Charlotte’s five-point cushion. Randle cut it to three with two free throws, but his loose ball foul off a putback that could have trimmed the deficit to one with 29.6 seconds remaining proved costly.
Oubre sealed the game with two free throws for the Hornets, who snapped a three-game losing streak.
Six players scored in double figures for the Knicks, who missed Jalen Brunson for the second straight game with a sore left foot. But the trio of RJ Barrett (27 points), Randle (16 points), and Immanuel Quickley (14 points) struggled from the field as they combined to hit only 20 of 57 shots.
The Hornets also played without their best player, LaMelo Ball (fractured right ankle). But their remaining top three players — Rozier, Hayward, and Oubre — delivered 75 points on a combined 29 of 56 shooting.
In the second half, Charlotte outscored New York 62-39. A 0 for 9 mark from the three-point zone in the fourth quarter hastened the Knicks’ downfall.
No Knicks player grabbed more than eight rebounds as the Hornets beat them on the glass 42-39.
“That was a big thing,” New York coach Tom Thibodeau lamented after the game. “They beat us to long rebounds that went over our heads. So it’s important when the ball shot, particularly shot from the perimeter, we got to get two bodies because if you run in, it’s gonna go long.”
“I thought played really well in the first half, and then obviously, we didn’t play as well as we would have liked in the second half.”
The immaculate vibes left the building after their 45-point outburst in the second quarter.
The loss also snapped a season-high six-game home winning streak for the 39-28 Knicks. Worse, their lead for the fifth seed shrunk to just one game after the Brooklyn Nets (37-28) beat the Houston Rockets, 118-96, for their third straight win.
“We got to learn from it. We got to get better,” Thibodeau said. “It doesn’t stop, you know, so we know. We’re heading out to Sacramento. They’re an unbelievable offensive team. So we’re gonna have to be at our best.”
To be at their best, they need Brunson, who has two more days to recover from his injury before his marquee matchup against De’Aaron Fox and the Kings on Thursday.
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