Courtney Lee scored nine fourth-quarter points, and fed teammate Brandon Jennings with a late 3-pointer to give the New York Knicks a 110-107 home victory over the Charlotte Hornets.
Lee played for the Hornets the second half of last season, after being acquired in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies. He signed a lucrative contract with the Knicks in July. The Hornets prioritized re-signing Nic Batum and Marvin Williams with their salary cap resources.
The loss dropped the Hornets below .500 at 23-24, while the Knicks improved to 21-27.
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The Hornets got a big game from newly named All-Star Kemba Walker, who finished with 31 points.
Knicks star Carmelo Anthony hit a jump shot with 13 seconds left and teammate Kyle O’Quinn made a free throw off a foul by Marvin Williams to extend New York’s lead late to five points. That followed Nic Batum’s 3-pointer at the other end.
Three who mattered
Walker: He doesn’t just excel playing in New York, but he sure has some resume in his hometown.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: He played intense defense on Anthony and scored in double figures.
Lee: He had some big baskets against his former team.
▪ Hornets center Cody Zeller missed his second consecutive game with a quad contusion. Roy Hibbert started in place of Zeller. Entering the Knicks game, the Hornets were 1-7 this season when Zeller didn’t play.
▪ The Hornets activated guard-forward Jeremy Lamb, who has been laid up with an inflamed metatarsal.
▪ In his pre-game media availability, Hornets coach Steve Cifford said probably the thing he likes most about his team is its work culture. Clifford mentioned Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams as setting the high standard for work year-round. Clifford said he can’t imagine any other NBA team working harder than the Hornets do.
▪ Clifford was asked about Hibbert’s production this season. Clfford said he considers Hibbert a big part of his plans. The difficulty has been how few games Hibbert has played with two healthy legs this season.
▪ Asked about Walker being named an All-Star reserve, Clifford said he told Walker in their first meeting he’s talented enough to be one of the top two players on a team advancing deep into the playoffs.
▪ The Knicks honored Hornets associate head coach Patrick Ewing, still the franchise leader in numerous career statistics, during a first-quarter timeout.
▪ This was the last of three games between the Hornets and Knicks this season.
▪ It would sure help if Zeller can play Saturday; Hornets will need all its big men with DeMarcus Cousins playing for the Sacramento Kings.
B OFFENSE: They got a little jump shot-happy in the fourth quarter.
B DEFENSE: A solid job of containing Knicks star Anthony.
B COACHING: Working through the poor play on the road of late.
Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell