CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The road continues to be an issue for the Knicks, and they didn’t help themselves Saturday night by coming out sluggish and flat against a team missing two starters.
The Knicks had been riding high with three straight wins, but they fell behind the injury-riddled Hornets by 21 points in the first quarter and lost, 107-102, at Spectrum Center.
This was the Knicks’ first road game since their loss in Washington on Nov. 17 that led to Brandon Jennings’ ranting in the locker room about “locking in” and a team meeting two days later. But the Knicks (8-8) again didn’t lock in and lost their fourth straight on the road, where they are 1-6. “Can’t put a finger on it right now, but we have to figure out things pretty soon before it becomes a problem,” Derrick Rose said.
The Knicks wasted an opportunity to go two games above .500. They looked worn down after needing overtime and 35 points from Carmelo Anthony to beat the Hornets on Friday night at the Garden. The Hornets (9-7) appeared to have the fresher legs, played with more desperation and snapped a four-game losing streak.
Anthony, who hit the game-winner Friday night, had 18 points but was 7-for-25, including 3-for-14 after halftime. “It was a long night physically,” he said.
Despite the awful start — Charlotte scored 24 points in the first 6:48 and led 36-15 — the Knicks took an 84-82 lead on Anthony’s jumper with 7:37 left. But Ramon Sessions made a three-pointer and the Knicks never led again. “It was the energy early that got us,” Hornacek said. “When you dig a hole, it’s tough to come back.”
Said Rose, “If we came out in the first quarter with the energy, it would have been a different game.”
Kristaps Porzingis led the Knicks with 25 points. Rose added 18 points, eight assists and eight rebounds but shot 6-for-20. Courtney Lee had 14 points and Jennings, who provided energy in the second quarter, finished with 12 points and five steals.
Kemba Walker paced the Hornets with 28 points and emergency starters Jeremy Lamb and Frank Kaminsky came up big. Lamb had 18 points and 17 rebounds and Kaminsky added 14 points, 10 in the fourth. They started for Nicolas Batum (eye injury) and Marvin Williams (hyperextended left knee). Both injuries were suffered Friday night.
“There’s no excuses,” Rose said. “They came out and beat us. They came out with the energy. The guys that stepped in, they did their jobs. We just came out a little flat.”
After Porzingis’ three-point play tied it at 87-87, the Hornets scored on their next eight possessions. Four of them were extended when the Knicks failed to grab a defensive rebound. One of the offensive boards led to a three-pointer by Kaminsky that made it 93-87. He made another three-pointer over Porzingis that gave Charlotte a 100-93 lead with two minutes left.
After Rose’s two free throws cut it to five, the Knicks appeared to have a stop when Walker slipped and his shot missed. But Cody Zeller fought for the offensive rebound, was fouled and made one free throw.
The Knicks drew within 101-97 on Willy Hernangomez’s layup with 47.3 seconds left, but Walker’s driving scoop shot with 31.2 seconds remaining made it a six-point game again.
Justin Holiday’s three-pointer cut the Knicks’ deficit to 105-102 with 11.2 seconds left. Lamb made only one of two foul shots, but Anthony missed inside.
“We got to get off to better starts,” Hornacek said. “They battled back, but it takes a lot of energy. We just couldn’t pull it out.”