CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Charlotte Hornets are back home and back in the win column.
Terry Rozier scored 30 points and the Hornets rallied from a 13-point deficit to beat the New York Knicks 97-92 on Tuesday night and snap a season-high, eight-game losing streak.
Charlotte (16-31) trailed by 13 points three times in the second quarter before closing within 50-47 at halftime and taking the lead for good late in the third quarter.
The Hornets hadn’t won since Jan. 4 and their losing streak was the longest for the franchise since the 2014-15 season.
“Its been a rough couple weeks for many reasons but give our guys credit,” said Charlotte coach James Borrego, whose team’s last game was Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks in Paris.
“They hung with it. This was not an easy game to come to, to come back from Paris, this is a difficult game. Obviously with Kobe’s death and the number of things that have happened over the last week, I’m proud of our guys. They hung in there. We did not get off to a great start but we hung in there and showed some resiliency and togetherness and competed. We fought tonight and got a good win for us.”
The game started like many others around the NBA since Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash on Sunday. The Hornets won the opening tap and dribbled out a 24-second shot clock violation and the Knicks responded by dribbling out an 8-second backcourt violation. Bryant wore the Nos. 24 and 8 for the Los Angeles Lakers during his career.
Additionally, all Hornets players wore Jumpman Jordan Brand white sleeves with the numbers 8 and 24 on them.
“Actually it was our equipment guy, (Jason Rivera), who thought of it,” Rozier said. “Obviously you’ve seen a lot of people doing things around the league. Detroit did the jerseys so we wanted to do something unique and different. He thought of the sleeves and it was perfect.”
Miles Bridges added 15 points, Malik Monk 13 and Cody Zeller 10 for Charlotte on a night in which reserve Willy Hernangomez had his first double-double (12 points and 10 rebounds) of the season. Hernangomez hasn’t played in 29 of the Hornets’ first 47 games but has now played in six of the last seven, scoring in double figures in three of them.
New York built its 13-points leads as Julius Randle scored 12 in the first quarter and 18 in the first half.
But Rozier scored nine points in the second quarter to spark a 26-16 over the final eight minutes of the half as Charlotte pulled within three.
In the second half, Charlotte used balanced scoring to take charge at 84-74 with 3:15 to play.
The Hornets still had to survive a late Knicks surge that closed the margin to four points three times in the final 1:10 and eventually got as close as 95-92 with 10.6 seconds left. Rozier hit eight free throws in the final 40 seconds to keep Charlotte comfortably ahead.
Randle had 24 points and Marcus Morris scored 23 for New York.
Knicks: Interim coach Mike Miller had no further updates on injured rookie R.J. Barrett, who missed his sixth straight game with a sprained right ankle. “Three days ago he was evaluated and we said it was going to be a little bit longer,” Miller said. “We want to make sure he’s progressing well.” Barrett, the third overall pick in the 2019 draft out of Duke, is averaging 14.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 41 games (all starts) this season. The Canadian told reporters before the game that he wanted to retire his nickname of “Maple Mamba” out of respect for Bryant.
Hornets: The Hornets have nine losing streaks in their history of 10 or more games. Charlotte’s longest losing streak is 23 games at the end of the 2011-12 season. The last 10-game losing streak came from Nov. 15 to Dec. 3, 2014.
An overturned foul call cost the Knicks a potential four-point play with 1:56 to play and left the Knicks puzzled and Borrego happy he had saved his challenge until the end.
Morris had hit a 3-pointer that would’ve pulled the Knicks within 88-82 with a free throw pending. Instead, Borrego challenged the foul call, the play was reviewed and Morris was called for a foul for trying to draw a foul on his 3-point shot.
“I think we’re all learning as coaches in this league how to use it or when to use it,” Borrego said. “I don’t think it’s a perfect science right now. I’ve held on to my challenges until late in the game and tonight it obviously helped us.”
Knicks interim coach Mike Miller wasn’t sure about the call after the game.
When asked if he got an explanation on the decision to overturn the call, Miller said: “Not one that I completely understood, so if I said it I may not say it right. So, I’m not sure.”
Borrego called Bryant’s death on Sunday “probably one of the saddest days in NBA history if not the saddest.”
But Borrego says he still has a cherished memory of Bryant from the 2016 NBA All-Star Game in Toronto when he was a West assistant coach on San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich’s staff. “I was eavesdropping on a conversation between he and another great player who is still playing in the league – I won’t say his name – and the whole conversation was built around work. He (Bryant) said, ‘Look, you have the opportunity to be one of the greatest of all time if you’ll continue to work the way you have.’
Bryant started and scored 10 points in that game that was won 196-173 by the West over the East.
Knicks: Host Memphis on Wednesday.
Hornets: Visit Washington on Thursday.