NEW YORK (AP) — RJ Barrett scored 18 of his 24 points in the third quarter and the New York Knicks beat the Charlotte Hornets 109-97 on Tuesday night for their seventh straight victory.
Barrett’s offense and the Knicks’ defense changed the game after the Hornets scored 66 points in the first half. New York held Charlotte to just 31 after halftime.
Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley each scored 17 points off the bench for the Knicks, who moved into fifth place in the Eastern Conference. They bring their longest winning streak since winning eight straight in March 2014 into today’s game against fourth-place Atlanta.
Coach Tom Thibodeau warned that his team can’t afford to lose its focus.
“The important thing for us is not to get lost. You start looking into the playoffs (and) win streaks, you lose focus on getting ready for Atlanta,” Thibodeau said. “That’s where our focus has to be. We just go day-by-day, step-by-step, and if we’re taking care of all the things we need to take care of, then all of the other stuff will take care of itself. And it’s easy to get knocked off course. You can’t do that.”
Julius Randle and Reggie Bullock each had 16 points.
P.J. Washington scored 26 points and Terry Rozier had 21 for the Hornets, who have lost five of six.
Charlotte shook off a slow first quarter and took a 66-60 advantage at halftime, led by 24 points from Washington.
After shooting 26 for 46 from the field and 13 for 19 behind the 3-point line in the first half, the Hornets struggled in the second half, making 13 of 40 shots from the field and connecting on just 3 of their 20 3-point attempts.
Charlotte took only eight free throws attempts the entire game, making three.
“The goal is to get to the rim, to create offense for us downhill and our guys drove it tonight,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “Why we didn’t get the free throw calls? I don’t know.”
New York, which had lost five straight games to the Hornets, opened the third quarter with a six straight points to tie it on a dunk by Nerlens Noel.
After Jalen McDaniels tied it at 69, New York went on an 19-8 run, capped by five straight points from Barrett to make it 88-77 with 2:36 left in the quarter.
A 7-0 run highlighted by Bullock’s 3-pointer increased New York’s lead to 102-90 with 6:40 left in the fourth quarter. Charlotte answered with five straight points to cut the lead to 102-95.
The Knicks then put the game out of reach with 3-pointer from Bullock and a jumper from Rose with 2:28 left in regulation.
New York pulled within a half-game of the Hawks.
“We just got to take it day-by-day, not to think ahead,” Rose said. “Of course you want the first spot, but we got to take it every day, every practice, every shootaround.’
Nets 134, Pelicans 129
NEW ORLEANS — Kyrie Irving capped a 32-point performance with a tough turnaround jumper, a driving layup through converging defenders and four free throws in the final minute, and Brooklyn held on to beat reeling New Orleans.
Joe Harris also hit a pair of late free throws to cap his 24-point night for the Nets, who won despite being without both Kevin Durant and James Harden.
Zion Williamson scored 33 points. Brandon Ingram added 27 points for the Pelicans, who fell four games behind Golden State and San Antonio for the final play-in spot in the Western Conference with 14 games left in the regular season.
Landry Shamet had 18 points and eight assists for the Nets. Blake Griffin had 16 points and eight rebounds in a reserve role and Bruce Brown added 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Hawks 112, Magic 96
ATLANTA — Trae Young scored 25 points, Lou Williams added 22 in his best game since returning to Atlanta and the surging Hawks pulled away in the final period against Orlando.
The Hawks began the day clinging to the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference, which would mean home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Atlanta won for the fifth time in six games to move a step closer to locking up its first postseason berth since 2017.
Wendell Carter Jr. and Cole Anthony had 17 points apiece for Orlando, which has lost nine of 10.
Clippers 113, Trail Blazers 112
PORTLAND, Ore. — Paul George had 33 points, including two free throws with 4.8 seconds left that gave Los Angeles a victory over Portland.
George also had 11 rebounds for Los Angeles, playing without Kawhi Leonard. It was the Clippers’ sixth straight win over the Blazers.
CJ McCollum had 28 points but missed a pullup jumper at the final buzzer for Portland, which didn’t have Damian Lillard for the game. Norman Powell added 23 points.
Timberwolves 134, Kings 120
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Karl-Anthony Towns had 25 points and a season-high 18 rebounds, and Minnesota pulled away over the final five minutes and thumped Sacramento.
Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell added 28 points apiece to help the Timberwolves beat the Kings for the second time this season and the first time in front of fans at Golden 1 Center.
About 1,600 front-line workers sat alongside cardboard cutouts after California eased its COVID-19 restrictions eased earlier this month.
Minnesota trailed 115-114 when Edwards made his fifth 3-pointer to start a 17-3 run. Town had seven points during the stretch.
Harrison Barnes and Mo Harkless scored 20 points apiece for Sacramento.
The Kings have lost 10 of their last 11 games.