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Knicks come apart in fourth quarter against Hornets for 10th straight loss

Charlotte Hornets' Malik Monk (1) gestures after making

Charlotte Hornets' Malik Monk (1) gestures after making a three-point basket against New York Knicks' Mario Hezonja (8) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Jan. 28, 2019.  Credit: AP/Chuck Burton

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Anthony Davis can be a franchise-altering talent for whichever team is able to land him, but until he hears that he can pencil Davis in his lineup, Knicks coach David Fizdale has his own problems. He’s too busy to think about the NBA rumor mill.

Asked about the Davis news that dominated the NBA landscape Monday, Fizdale had to ask reporters to explain what the question was about.

“I haven’t seen any of that,” he said. “No, I’m serious. I have not seen that. Anthony Davis asked for a trade? I locked myself in my hotel and just watched film today. I turned my phone off. I got yelled at by my wife today. I have no idea. What happened?”

Fizdale has plenty of work to do with his current roster. No matter the plan, reality usually settles in at some point, and on Monday night against the Hornets, it came early in the fourth quarter.

Up by two with 10:44 to play, the Knicks began throwing the ball away, leaving shooters wide open and basically folding up for the draft lottery until the Hornets had scored 14 straight points.

The result was a 101-92 defeat at the Spectrum Center — their 10th straight loss, 18th in the last 19 games and 23rd in the last 25.

They fell to 10-39, the second-worst record in the NBA, but at least their 2019 draft pick moved a step closer to providing a lot of value, either for the Knicks or in a trade.

Mario Hezonja had put the Knicks in front, but Malik Monk’s three-point field goal gave the Hornets the lead and began the avalanche. Two free throws by Kemba Walker and another three-pointer by Monk followed. Walker and Monk then hit from beyond the arc, opening a 12-point lead for the Hornets, before Noah Vonleh finally hit a free throw. Monk’s three-pointer made it 90-76.

Fizdale was without starting point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who is nursing a left shoulder strain, and the point guard who had started the last two games in his absence, Frank Ntilikina, who will be sidelined for what Fizdale estimated to be a week or two with a groin strain.

That left Trey Burke to start and Kadeem Allen, who was recalled from the G League for his first NBA experience this season, as the backup.

Burke usually can be counted on for prolific scoring, but he struggled through a 4-for-11 shooting performance. Allen, who played 18 games with the Celtics last season, scored a career-high eight points.

“Kadeem Allen was fantastic today,” Fizdale said. “He was absolutely fantastic, flying in here, landing today and jumping right into an NBA ballgame coming from the G League.”

Kevin Knox broke out of his recent slump, scoring 19 points and shooting 7-for-16. More than just finding his stroke after a five- game stretch in which he shot 13- for-51, he provided the sort of hustle that Fizdale has been urging.

“Just a poised game where he picked his spots well,” Fizdale said. “Those are the same shots he’s been getting. He took his time and knocked them down. I thought it was a matter of time and I was going to keep pushing him through the fatigue and the struggles and all of that. That’s something that’s going to help him become a better basketball player.”

Fizdale said before the game, “The shots just aren’t falling right now. It’s OK. I’m going to keep pushing him through this. Part of this is him battling through a wall, but we’re not going to give him that excuse. We’re going to keep pushing him out there and making him fight for it and fight through it, try to keep putting him in position to be successful.

“The offensive end of the floor is not what I’m worried about with him ever. I’m always just going to keep challenging him to be a better rebounder, a better team defender, a better individual defender. The kid can score in his sleep. Right now the ball’s just not going in, but the other stuff are the things that I’m really, really hard on him about.”

Enes Kanter sat out for a fourth straight game.

New York Sports