All the good the Knicks had done recently got soiled on a dreary MLK Day matinee performance resembling the rainy weather outside.
The Knicks couldn’t stop Charlotte’s Miles Bridges, who blitzed them for 38 points. They couldn’t get a call from the officials. They couldn’t make any 3-point shots or free throws (11 of 21) in a sickly offensive outing.
It was a stinker of the first order in a 97-87 loss to the improved Hornets (24-20) as they trailed by 18 points at halftime and never made a run.
As they walked off the court at halftime, the Knicks got booed by an angry holiday crowd as they fell back to the .500 mark at 22-22 with their three-game winning streak snapped. It was also a demonstration they aren’t on par with a clear playoff team in the East as Charlotte has become.
It was also a cruel reminder the club passed on Bridges in the 2018 draft to take Kevin Knox, who was traded Thursday for injured Cam Reddish. Maybe the Knicks actually can use Reddish sooner than later.
Julius Randle put forth a modest outing with 18 points (6 of 16) and his relationship with the fans still is suspect. When it was announced Randle had picked up a silly foul with 6:00 left in the third, the fans booed his name.
“Are you going to play defense today or what?” one heckler piped up in the third quarter.
RJ Barrett, scorching of late, came back to Earth with an 18-point outing as he shot 7 of 18 but had 12 boards. He looked bewildered when two straight calls went against him – an offensive foul and travel in the third quarter.
The Knicks starting lineup had been rolling but the backcourt of Alec Burks and Evan Fournier took a step back – each scoring 6 points.
Bridges, the southpaw from Michigan State, was fantastic in the first half, scoring inside and outside, draining 3’s fluttering in floaters, getting through for dunks. Bridges was 10 of 13 from the field and made 3 of 5 3-pointers.
Bridges was most lethal in the first quarter when he notched 22 points, making 7 of 8 baskets. “I love playing here,’’ Bridges said. “Fans are great, the city’s great.’’
Charlotte point guard Tony Rozier, who inherited the point guard job in Charlotte when Kemba Walker left, added 17 points of his 22 points by halftime with his sneaky drives. Walker missed his ninth straight game with knee soreness.
By halftime, the Knicks shot just 36.6 percent. They were 8 of 16 from the free-throw line and 6 of 18 from 3.