CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kemba Walker didn’t know whether to celebrate or breathe a sigh of relief.
So he did a little of both.
Walker’s driving left-handed layup as time expired lifted Charlotte to a 103-102 win Friday night over the New York Knicks, snapping the Hornets’ 10-game losing streak.
Walker finished with 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting, but his second game-winner of the season saved the Hornets the embarrassment of squandering a 20-point lead for the third time.
“We needed the win,” coach Steve Clifford said. “It’s been three weeks since we won — and we won the most close games in the league last year.”
The Hornets haven’t had that same success this season.
“Hopefully we can build off this,” Walker said.
Walker received a half-court inbounds pass with 4 seconds left around the top of the key, faked to the right and blew past Pablo Prigioni, finding an open crease down the left side of the lane. The right-handed Walker put the ball up with his left hand over Amare Stoudemire and off the glass for the winner, sending the Knicks to their seventh straight loss.
“I didn’t have much time and I knew I had to get to the basket in a hurry,” Walker said.
Walker said he thought Prigioni was overplaying the screen, leading to “an open lane” to the basket. With a foul to give, Prigioni reached for Walker’s jersey, but couldn’t grab him.
“We probably could have kept the ball in front of us a little better,” Knicks coach Derek Fisher said.
It was the second heartbreaking defeat for the Knicks in two nights. They lost 90-87 at home to LeBron James and the Cavaliers on Thursday.
“A loss is a loss and you never feel good about a loss,” Anthony said. “To come back down 20 and to take the lead by one and have 4 seconds to go, I don’t think you can ask for more than that. Kemba made a great play at the end and I take my hat off to him.”
The Knicks were outrebounded 41-34 and fell behind 80-60 late in the third quarter.
“Once (the deficit) was so bad we didn’t have any choice but to compete,” Fisher said. “It is good they showed that, but it was too late.”
Gerald Henderson scored a season-high 22 points and Al Jefferson had 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Hornets.
The Knicks stormed back from 20 down late in the third quarter behind 32 points from Carmelo Anthony to take the lead with less than a minute left. But Anthony missed a mid-range jumper and the Hornets grabbed the rebound to set up the winning shot.
The Hornets (5-15) led 80-60 near the end of the third after holding Anthony to two points on 1-of-4 shooting in the quarter.
That changed in a hurry.
Anthony scored 15 points in the fourth period, including back-to-back 3-pointers — one that gave the Knicks a one-point lead with 47 seconds left.
Charlotte extended its lead to 20 in the third quarter after Henderson started heating up and Jefferson took control in the low post with a series of old-school, up-and-under moves that Stoudemire struggled to defend.
J.R. Smith had 14 points for the struggling Knicks (4-17).
Knicks: Samuel Dalembert started for the Knicks even though Quincy Acy was the announced starter before the game.
Hornets: Walker may only be 6-foot-1, but he had a big block when he swiped Jose Calderon’s shot into the seats. … Henderson scored in double figures for the fourth time in the last five games.
LANCE GOES BACK-TO-BACK
Lance Stephenson has put together consecutive quality games for the Hornets after struggling most of the season. He followed up a 20-point effort against Chicago with 16 points, six rebounds and six assists against New York. Playing with restored confidence, Stephenson knocked down a 3-pointer over Anthony and then hit an 18-foot, step-back jumper early in the fourth quarter against the Knicks star.
Knicks: Host the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night.
Hornets: Host the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.
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