Randle, Barrett lead Knicks past Hornets 121-102

Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford reacts to an official’s call as his team plays against the New York Knicks during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

CHARLOTTE — A back-and-forth game with 10 first-half lead changes turned into a runaway 122-101 victory for the New York Knicks on Friday night as they handed the Charlotte Hornets their fourth straight loss. 

Julius Randle and RJ Barrett led the Knicks (13-13) with 33 points and 26 points, respectively, as the team expanded upon a 55-49 halftime lead with a strong third quarter. 

Sitting in 13th in the Eastern Conference standings, the Hornets (7-19) have now fallen to 4-9 at home this season.

After heating up in the fourth quarter, Terry Rozier led Charlotte with a team-high 24 points and six rebounds. Kelly Oubre reached his career-best seventh straight game with at least 20 points as he notched 22 points and four rebounds.

“The one thing you learn early is that you can never lie to an NBA locker room. Even tonight, particularly with our older guys, our effort was really good again,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “We have very little room for error. And when we don’t play really at a high level for our group every night, it’s hard to be competitive. Now we can win on Sunday and we can win the two games next week. We’re just going to have some games like this until we get guys back.”

Mason Plumlee added 13 points and nine rebounds for the Hornets, while P.J. Washington and rookie Bryce McGowens each had 10 points.

Charlotte is still waiting for many key injured players to return to the lineup. LaMelo Ball (ankle), Dennis Smith Jr. (ankle) and rookie Mark Williams (ankle) are all expected to come back in a quicker timeframe, while the injuries to Gordon Hayward (shoulder) and Cody Martin (knee) are viewed as longer recoveries.

Even with the Hornets’ bad shooting luck, injury woes and lack of experience on the court, Clifford said he was proud of how his team looked on Friday.

“I don’t believe in false praise as you know, but tonight we tried hard,” Clifford said. “When you’re this undermanned, it’s going to be hard to play this year. We just played on Friday, Saturday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This is the first game we haven’t played very well, so we need to regroup.”

The Hornets will have Saturday off before traveling to Philadelphia for a Sunday afternoon game against the Sixers (13-12).