CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jeremy Lin loosened up the New York Knicks and Kemba Walker provided the knockout punch.
The diminutive but effective backcourt duo scored 26 points each, helping the Charlotte Hornets coast to a 97-84 victory over the Knicks on Saturday night for their third win in four games.
Lin led all scorers with 12 points in the first half, while Walker scored 19 of his points after the break, including 11 in the fourth quarter to seal the win. Together, they combined to go 19 of 19 from the free-throw line, helping the Hornets overcome a 34 percent shooting night from the field.
The Hornets beat the Knicks for the fifth straight time at home despite being without five players, including three starters.
“We need to rack up some wins and keep playing together, regardless of who’s not playing,” Walker said. “We’ve got guys who are very capable of stepping up and making plays. Hopefully, we’re able to keep doing it.”
The Hornets also got a season-high 20 points and 10 rebounds from an inspired P.J. Hairston,
“Coach Clifford, he got on me, and it kind of fired me up,” said Hairston, who was demonstrative on the court after a pair of driving three-point plays. “I just tried to take it all out on the court. You’ve got to find energy. This was a big game for us just like last night was. We had to come out and find the same energy we had” Friday night.
Derrick Williams led the Knicks with 19 points and 14 rebounds, and Kristaps Porzingis had 13 points.
Robin Lopez only played three minutes in the second half for the Knicks and finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. Carmelo Anthony played 29 minutes, but none in the fourth quarter, and finished with just nine points on 4-of-11 shooting.
Coach Derek Fisher said Anthony developed soreness in his left knee, but wasn’t sure if Anthony would have returned to play down the stretch even if healthy.
“We just weren’t playing with enough energy,” Fisher said. “We looked just completely worn down and worn out. We could not continue to bring enough energy to the game to have a chance. We just got some guys out there in the fourth quarter just to try to play hard and not really worry about the score.”
Charlotte outscored New York 32-13 in the third quarter to open a 21-point lead behind 11 points from Lin, eight from Walker and seven from Hairston, who was more aggressive in taking the ball to the basket.
The Knicks would make one run to get within 10 with 5:22 left, but Hairston scored on a breakaway layup and drew a foul, then knocked down a long 3-pointer to push the lead back to 13. Walker took over from there, hitting the step-back jumper from 19 foot with less than two minutes left that sent visiting Knicks fans heading to the exit.
Walker came in leading all NBA players in scoring since Christmas but struggled from the field early. He finished 7 of 25 from the field, but made all nine free throws.
Knicks: Anthony (21,818) passed Gary Payton (21,813) for 30th all-time on the NBA career scoring list. … New York played without Lance Thomas (knee) again.
Hornets: Charlotte tied a season high with 32 made free throws. … Marvin Williams had 12 rebounds and Spencer Hawes had 10.
ZELLER OUT A WEEK
The Hornets played without center Cody Zeller (shoulder), guard Nic Batum (toe), guard Jeremy Lamb (toe), center Al Jefferson (knee) and forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (shoulder) due to injuries. The team announced during the game Zeller will miss at least one week before being reevaluated.
STRUGGLING TO .500
Fisher said the Knicks are “definitely feeling the impact” of their recent success, and the challenge ahead is to prove they can beat better teams.
“How do you go beyond a .500 team? How do you get to a point where you can break through?” Fisher said. “It requires more sacrifice, more discipline, more commitment and more energy. We have to keep plugging until we find a way.”
Fans in the Charlotte, North Carolina area are pumped up about the NFC championship game, which will be held here Sunday between the hometown Panthers and the visiting Arizona Cardinals. When two fans wearing Cardinals jerseys were shown on the scoreboard, the crowd erupted in boos.
Knicks: Host Oklahoma City on Tuesday night.
Hornets: Host Sacramento on Monday night.