NEW ORLEANS — Rookie power forward Anthony Davis wasn’t the only thing missing Tuesday night against the New York Knicks at New Orleans Arena.
Defense, confidence and spirit were in short supply as the Hornets suffered their fourth consecutive defeat, the Knicks wearing them down in a 102-80 victory.
“I don’t think we believed we could win,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said of his team’s unraveling in a telling third quarter that all but eliminated any chance at victory. “I thought we had the mindset tonight, but I didn’t think everybody played with a winning focus.
“I thought we made a lot of youthful plays. I thought we took some very tough shots against a very good team, and you can’t do that.”
The game was the first of six in nine days for the Hornets, including four in a row on the road starting with tonight’s game at the Indiana Pacers. Davis has a stress reaction in his let ankle and his status is day-to-day, the team said.
It was the fourth game in a row the Hornets gave up at least 100 points, a stat that has frustrated Williams. And New Orleans failed to reach 90 points for the fourth time, the second time in a loss.
Just as the Oklahoma City Thunder did in a recent trout of the Hornets, the Knicks’ best player, forward Carmelo Anthony, got them started quickly and forced the young Hornets to fight uphill the whole time.
It took its toll. The Knicks shot 14-of-36 on 3-point shots, the attempts matching an NBA season high that was set by them. The Hornets had struggled with 3-point defense in their recent spate of losses.
“You double-team ’Melo, we got guys who can knock down shots,” said Knicks point guard Raymond Felton, who had 15 points on 5-of-6 3-point shooting. “We just take what the defensive gives us. I didn’t even know about their 3-point defense coming in.”
New Orleans battled early on, but by the third quarter, the outcome seemed clear. Old woes were there. This time, they kept the turnovers down. However, the Knicks feasted on offensive rebounds like they were New York deli pizza, finishing with 10 of their 13 by the end of the quarter.
Anthony finished the game with 29 points. Sixth man J.R Smith matched Felton with 15.
For the Hornets, Ryan Anderson, starting once again in place of Davis, scored 15 and rookie Austin Rivers had a career-high 14. Backup point guard Brain Roberts had 13 and center Robin Lopez 11.
The bad quarter resurfaced, this time in the third. Lopez scored a rebound basket for the first points of the quarter, bringing the Hornets to 53-50. The Knicks responded with a 14-4 run, jumping out to a 67-54 lead at 7:14 on a 3-pointer by Felton.
A key play in the run came on a fast break by the Hornets. Al-Farouq Aminu, who failed to score, was headed for the rim when Jason Kidd stole the ball and threw a behind-the-back pass to Ronnie Brewer. Brewer, off a pass from Felton, made a 3-pointer from the left side for a 63-52 margin.
The Hornets got as close as 69-58, but New York outscored them 14-6 the rest of the quarter for an 83-64 lead. The Hornets were outscored 30-16 in the third. They were 6-of-17 shooting, 0-for-3 on 3-pointers and committed five turnovers. At that point, the Knicks had shot 13-of-30 on 3-point attempts (43.3 percent) and were winning the rebound battle 36-25.
“We got to get a win somehow,” point guard Greivis Vasquez said. “When you get a win, you start to figure things out. We’re rotating too much on defense and not guarding the ball well enough.”
The Hornets weathered a late first-quarter barrage by Anthony and the Knicks and fought back to take the lead 36-34, their first of the game, on a 3-pointer from the right side by Anderson. Roberts keyed the comeback with nine points in the quarter.
But Felton heated up for the Knicks. He knocked down three 3-pointers between the 5:13 mark and 2:01 and was a big reason New York shot back out to a 51-44 advantage. They held on for a 53-48 halftime lead.
Anthony scored 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting and had five rebounds and four assists.
The Knicks scored the last 10 points of the first quarter to take a 29-17 lead at the end of one, with Anthony getting seven points and assisting on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Hornets waived Matt Carroll, a 6-foot-6 guard who was obtained in a trade with the Charlotte Bobcats on Nov. 13 in exchange for forward Hakim Warrick. Carroll never reported to the Hornets, and General Manager Dell Demps had been in talks with the guard’s agent.