Knicks bring nine-game losing skid to Charlotte
The Charlotte Hornets and New York Knicks are in two different kinds of races.
The Hornets are battling for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, having spent most of the season treading water near the .500 mark.
The Knicks are drowning, suffering their ninth consecutive loss on Sunday night when they fell 106-97 to the visiting Miami Heat. In a close race with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns for the best draft lottery odds, New York has lost 17 of 18 games and 22 of 24.
The teams meet Monday night in Charlotte, when the Hornets are hoping to have All-Star starter Kemba Walker available after he suffered a mild neck sprain late in Friday's loss at Milwaukee.
Walker did not practice Sunday but was listed as probable by the team.
"He's sore right now," Charlotte coach James Borrego said Sunday. "I think he's going to be OK. We'll know more tomorrow."
Walker, averaging 24.7 points and 5.6 assists, will be appearing in his third All-Star Game and his first as a starter. That the game will be in Charlotte on Feb. 17 makes it all the more special.
"I was very happy for him," said Hornets guard Tony Parker, a six-time All-Star with the San Antonio Spurs. "Well-deserved. He's been playing great for us this year. And especially with the All-Star being in Charlotte, it's nice to have him start the game."
The Knicks (10-38) rallied from a 13-point deficit early in the fourth quarter on Sunday night to tie the game at 90 with 4:01 left. But the Heat finished on a 16-7 run.
New York did beat Charlotte 126-124 in overtime on Dec. 14, one of its three victories since the beginning of December. Just the Knicks' luck: Point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who scored 34 points in that win, is dealing with a left shoulder strain that could keep him out about two more weeks.
Frank Ntilikina has started the past two games in place of Mudiay, but he was limited because of foul trouble in Friday's loss to Brooklyn and played only 14 minutes against Miami because of a strained groin that forced him out in the first half.
He did not return after posting six points and four assists.
"That was a big blow to us," Knicks coach David Fizdale said in his postgame press conference.
"He really had a huge impact on the first half, guarding the ball, getting people involved, being aggressive himself. I thought he really had another good game going, same as the other night. ... Hopefully, it's not too bad and we can get him back and get him going right away again."
Trey Burke, a subject of trade rumors, is back in the point guard rotation. He took advantage of Mudiay's absence against the Nets with 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting, adding five assists off the bench. He played 33 minutes after not playing in the previous four games.
Burke scored 16 points in 23 minutes Sunday night vs. the Heat.
Knicks center Enes Kanter (14.4 points, 10.8 rebounds per game) has not played in the past three contests, as New York emphasizes its younger players.
Charlotte beat the Knicks 119-107 on Dec. 9. This is the final meeting of the season between the teams.
--Field Level Media
Updated January 27, 2019