Hornets look to recreate success vs. visiting Knicks

NBA Basketball
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The Charlotte Hornets have traveled far and wide looking for another victory. Now they’re back home for Tuesday night’s game against the New York Knicks, trying to shed an eight-game losing streak.

Charlotte hasn’t played since Friday’s loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA’s first-ever regular-season game in Paris.

The Hornets have returned with many of the same problems that they had before the trip.

“We put ourselves in position to win against probably the best team in the NBA,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “We have to keep fighting and keep putting ourselves in position to win these games.”

Meanwhile, the Knicks snapped a two-game slide by winning Sunday night against the Brooklyn Nets. That gave New York a ray of hope during what also has been a season sprinkled with potholes.

“We talk about the same things every single day: How do we get a little bit better?” said Knicks interim coach Mike Miller. “It will keep us (going) in the right direction.”

That has been difficult for the Hornets. They’ve had ongoing difficulty closing out games, sometimes playing well against some of the league’s better teams and then crumbling against teams with sub-.500 records.

“This has kind of been our blueprint all year,” Borrego said. “We’ve been in most games. There’s a fine line between winning and losing in these games.”

The Hornets have had plenty of time to ponder their struggles. They’ve played only once in a span of more than a week. Charlotte’s franchise-worst losing streak is 23 games to end the 2011-12 season when it was known as Bobcats.

“We’re not worried about winning or losing streaks right now,” Borrego said. “We’re worried about development and competing every single night. … Obviously we don’t want to be in that area of losing streaks. Our goal right now is to win a game and ultimately be competitive in player development.”

This is one of those situations where the Knicks have questions about point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who has largely been deemed unhappy with his role with the club.

With the game in Charlotte, it’s a return to Smith’s home state. He also played in college for North Carolina State. He recently has been back in action after missing 13 games with an oblique injury.

“Dennis has been professional,” Miller said. “He continues to work on the things he needs to do. … Now it’s just he needs some of the game minutes to get his legs back under him. He needs those minutes to build his stamina back up.”

Smith hasn’t necessarily eased back into the rotation. Frank Ntilikina and Elfrid Payton have logged time at point guard as well.

“We have confidence in all the guys,” Miller said. “They all have different talents and play the same position. So we try to utilize their talents to what they need in the game.”

Ntilikina has been going through a shooting slump.

“I think he has had some pretty good looks,” Miller said. “I think for the most part he is getting to his spots. He’s getting in areas where he needs to be.”

The Hornets won the only meeting so far this season by 103-102 on Nov. 16 in New York, then lost their next five games.

–Field Level Media

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