National Basketball Association
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Kemba Walker should be worn out, but he insists that he's happy to do whatever it takes for the Charlotte Hornets.
Walker finished off the most incredible week of his five-year career by scoring 26 points in 42 minutes of action Saturday night as the Hornets beat the New York Knicks 97-84.
The 6-1 guard started the week with a career-high 52 points in 47 minutes in a double-overtime win over Utah on Monday, then scored 40 points in 46 minutes on Friday night in an overtime win at Orlando.
He said he felt surprisingly fresh on Saturday, despite playing 88 minutes combined in the back-to-back.
"I'm good," Walker said. "I'm built for this. I worked really hard over the summer to condition myself and build up my strength, and I just want to win. Whatever it takes, I don't care how many minutes it is, I'm going to go out there and I'm going to fight until the game's over.
"I'm a little tired, sure, but that's how it goes. This is the big leagues. I've got to be on the floor. I'm always ready for the challenge."
Hornets coach Steve Clifford praised Walker for another gutty effort, on a night when he was 7-of-25 from the field but was a perfect 9-of-9 from the free-throw line.
"He was tired, man," Clifford said. "He's not just playing minutes. The ball's in his hands and the defense is locked into him. So tomorrow will be a good day off for him. But he's been great. He's controlling the whole game for our team right now."
Guard Jeremy Lin also scored 26 and forward P.J. Hairston scored a career-high 20 points, as the Hornets further distanced themselves from a recent stretch where they lost nine of 10.
The Hornets (21-23) led just 45-43 at halftime, then outscored the Knicks 32-13 in the third quarter to take control of the game. The Knicks never got the margin back under double figures in the fourth quarter.
It was particularly impressive because the Hornets were without four regulars who are out with injuries - guards Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lamb, and centers Al Jefferson and Cody Zeller.
"This was a really important weekend to get back on the right track," Walker said. "I thought we played two really good games. We need to rack up some wins right now and keep playing together like this. Regardless of who's not playing we have guys who are capable of stepping up and making plays, and that's made it fun these last few games."
Clifford said there is no time to waste.
"I think their mindset right now is that we are playing for our season," Clifford said. "We are down guys, good players, a number of them key guys. We now have nine more games before the All-Star break and we need to win our share. I think that's the way they are approaching it, that these are really important games. We've played like it."
The Knicks (22-24) were just 5-of-21 from the field in the third quarter, and that was their downfall.
Forward Derrick Williams had a monster game off the bench with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Forward Kristaps Porzingis scored 13, and center Robin Lopez and guard Arron Afflalo scored 10 each. But forward Carmelo Anthony, who came into the game averaging 21.6 points, finished with nine points and did not score in the second half.
Knicks coach Derek Fisher said that Anthony was bothered by a sore left knee.
"I don't know if he would have come back in the game without the sore knee," Fisher said. "We just weren't playing with enough energy. 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."
NOTES: The Knicks were without F Cleanthony Early (knee) and F Lance Thomas (knee). ... The Knicks stayed in Charlotte and did not fly home Saturday night after the game, as usual, because of weather conditions in New York. ... The teams had split two previous games this season. The Hornets won 95-93 in Charlotte on Nov. 11 and the Knicks won 102-94 in New York on Nov. 17. The teams will also meet in New York on April 6. ... The Hornets recalled G Aaron Harrison from the D-League on Saturday. Harrison played one game with the Oklahoma City Blue after being sent down earlier in the week. ... The Hornets are now 4-4 on the second night of back-to-backs, while the Knicks are 3-7. New York lost to the Los Angeles Clippers at home on Friday. ... The Hornets will hit the road for a four-game Western trip, starting Monday at Sacramento. They will also face Utah, Portland and the Los Angeles Lakers on the trip. ... The Knicks will return home to face Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
h, Portland and the Los Angeles Lakers on the trip. ... The Knicks will return home to face Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
Top Game Performances
Derrick Williams 19
Jeremy Lin 26
Jose Calderon 7
Jeremy Lin 5
Derrick Williams 14
Marvin Williams 12
Derrick Williams 8
||Free Throws Made
Jeremy Lin 10
Arron Afflalo 1
P.J. Hairston 2
Kristaps Porzingis 3
Spencer Hawes 1
Team Stats Summary
Charlotte will play their next game on the road against Sacramento. The Hornets have a W/L % of .500 after a win and .458 after a loss.
New York will play their next game at home against Oklahoma City. The Knicks have a W/L % of .545 after a win and .417 after a loss.