Hornets-Knicks Preview

NOEY KUPCHAN (STATS Writer)
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While an ugly performance in their season opener didn't leave much room for optimism, the New York Knicks showed they can't be taken lightly with a convincing win last time out. They'll try to build on that effort Sunday night when they host the Charlotte Hornets. New York was embarrassed in Wednesday's 104-80 home loss to Chicago before bouncing back to beat Cleveland 95-90 the following night. Carmelo Anthony had 25 points and six assists as the Knicks spoiled LeBron James' homecoming. "Our mental strength. That's what it came down to," Anthony said. "We could have easily let that loss (Wednesday) night sit on us but we put that behind us. Total team effort on both ends of the court." The Knicks shot 53.6 percent and had 30 assists after shooting 36.5 percent and tallying 19 assists against the Bulls. Iman Shumpert and Jason Smith scored 12 points apiece and J.R. Smith added 11 and seven assists. "They showed a high level of trust and confidence in each other," Derek Fisher said after earning his first win as coach. "If they just execute the basic things that we've been teaching and working on, things will work out. They showed a lot of patience and composure, and those are the things that we need as we move through this season. "You're not going to always play perfect and win games going away, so to be able to win a close game on the road this early in the season is a good feeling. But we'll get back to work and start looking ahead to Charlotte." The Knicks split four meetings against the Hornets last season after winning 125-96 on Jan. 24 behind a career-high 62 points from Anthony. The seven-time All-Star is averaging 28.2 points against Charlotte for his highest mark against any opposing team, including 34.8 over a five-game stretch in the series. Anthony is three points away from becoming the 40th player in NBA history to reach 20,000 for his career. The Hornets stormed back from 24 down in the second half to beat Milwaukee 108-106 in overtime in Wednesday's opener, but they came up short in Saturday's 71-69 loss to Memphis. Starting guards Kemba Walker and Lance Stephenson were limited to a combined seven points while going 2 of 17. Charlotte is shooting 38.7 percent in two games while going 10 of 35 from 3-point range. "You have to be organized for 48 minutes. Get to your spot, know what you're supposed to do, do your job, make the right play. ... We have to play the right way to be a good team," said coach Steve Clifford, whose team committed 20 turnovers against the Grizzlies. "If we get our minds in the right place we can play better (Sunday)." Stephenson, signed to a three-year, $27 million deal this summer, didn't play in the fourth quarter. He's totaled nine points on 4-of-18 shooting in two games. "I'm frustrated," he said. "But that's part of being a pro, just learning from your mistakes, getting better every time and have no regrets." Big man Al Jefferson is also off to a sluggish start. He's averaging 16.5 points and shooting 41.2 percent, down from last season's marks of 21.8 and 50.9. Walker, who scored 26 points in the opener, is averaging 24.5 over a four-game stretch against the Knicks. The Hornets are 6-21 at Madison Square Garden since 1997-98.