The New York Knicks couldn’t complete a second straight comeback from a second-half, double-digit deficit Sunday night. But the echoes of the Knicks’ comeback win Friday night will still be reverberating Tuesday.
New York attempts to clinch a wild card to the knockout round of the NBA’s in-season tournament when it hosts the Charlotte Hornets in the East Group B finale for both teams.
Each squad was off Monday after losing Sunday. Devin Booker drained the tie-breaking 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds left to lift the visiting Phoenix Suns to a 116-113 win over the Knicks while the Hornets fell to the host Orlando Magic 130-117.
But the Knicks’ 100-98 win over the Miami Heat on Friday night ensures both New York and the Hornets will take the court Tuesday still officially in contention for an Eastern Conference berth, albeit only marginally so in Charlotte’s case.
The Knicks’ comeback from a 21-point third-quarter deficit improved them to 2-1 in Group B play and kept the Heat (2-1) from eliminating both New York and Charlotte (1-2).
Among the 10 teams in the Eastern Conference that have neither clinched a berth in the knockout round nor been eliminated from contention, only the Group B-leading Milwaukee Bucks and Group C-leading Magic have a better point differential than the Knicks’ plus-18.
The Hornets are at minus-30, the worst point differential of any NBA team still in the running.
The frantic comeback Friday may have hindered the Knicks on Sunday, when they gave up the first seven points, trailed by as many as 15 in the second and trailed by 13 in the third before mounting a 20-5 run to take the first of their three brief leads in the third quarter.
New York tied the score twice in the fourth but never took the lead.
“I thought the way we came out really hurt us,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We got in a hole, used a lot of energy to come back, couldn’t finish it at the end.”
The loss to the Magic left the Hornets with more pressing concerns than their long-shot wild card hopes. Star point guard LaMelo Ball was helped off the court when he landed awkwardly on his right ankle with 2:26 left in the second quarter. Bell, who missed the final 19 games of last season with a broken right ankle, was slated to undergo an MRI exam on Monday.
The Hornets also allowed at least 120 points for the ninth time this season. Charlotte is allowing an average of 122.2 points per game, the fourth-highest figure in the NBA entering Monday.
“It was about the defense tonight,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “It’s fact. You have to defend. Or you might be able to have a good year and you get to the games that matter and you are going to have no shot. You are going to get your (butt) kicked.”
–Field Level Media