Playing without Julius Randle, who sat out with right quadriceps tendon soreness, the Knicks showed no signs of fatigue on the second night of a back-to-back, shooting 20 of 45 from beyond the arc against a Hornets team that was slow on closeouts.
“The important thing for us is to play winning basketball, play the right way, play hard and play unselfishly,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You can deal with a missed shot if it's the right shot. But we made a number of plays tonight where a guy passed up a good shot and we ended up getting a better shot — and that's winning basketball.”
Charlotte had a chance to pull even with Brooklyn for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference after the Nets lost at Memphis. But the Hornets never looked in sync and never held a lead.
New York opened a 40-24 lead in the first quarter, shooting 68.2% from the field while making eight 3-pointers — most on wide-open looks.
“We have a number of guys who can get into the paint and a number of guys who can shoot it as well,” Barrett said. “So when we can get in there and trust each other to make the right plays, that is tough to guard.”
Said Hornets coach James Borrego: “We didn't come out with the aggressive mindset we needed. ... Giving up 40 points in the first quarter, that has to get cleaned up.”
New York entered the fourth quarter up 12 before Isaiah Thomas' 3-pointer cut the lead to eight with 7:07 left, giving Charlotte some momentum. But the Knicks kept their composure and Toppin provided back-to-back dunks in the final two minutes — one off a lob from Taj Gibson — to seal the victory.
Toppin was all over the floor, knocking down shots, making key passes and grabbing important rebounds. Thibodeau said Toppin had “a great floor game.”
“Running the floor, moving side to side, he shot it when he was open and made the extra pass,” Thibodeau said.
Toppin called it one of New York's best games of the season. The Knicks trail Atlanta by five games for the 10th spot in the East with nine games remaining, but Toppin still has hope his team can reach the postseason play-in games.
“It's fun playing that way, being out there with a lot of joy and just sharing the basketball,” Toppin said.
Evan Fournier set a Knicks single-season record for 3-pointers, breaking the mark of 218 held by John Starks. Fournier said it's “bittersweet because I'm happy about it but at the same time I want the team to have more success.”
Ball played the entire third quarter, scoring 13 points to give him 32 on the night. Borrego didn't go back to his All-Star guard until 5:56 remained in the game with the team trailing by 10. Ball didn't score again.
Borrego said the beginning of the fourth quarter was Ball's “rest period.”
Knicks: Seven players finished in double digits. ... New York's bench outscored Charlotte's 34-24.
Hornets: Their streak of consecutive games with at least 30 assists was snapped at five. ... Charlotte finished with 26 assists and was 9 of 17 from the foul line.
Knicks: At Miami on Friday night.
Hornets: Host Utah on Friday night.
- Marc Davis
- Scott Wall
- John Conley