Unlikely heroes lead Knicks to shocking overtime victory

CHARLOTTE — This time the comeback stuck.

Point guard Emmanuel Mudiay and unlikely center Luke Kornet rallied the Knicks from an awful first half during which they trailed by 21 points to stun Charlotte 126-124 in overtime at Spectrum Center to break a five-game losing streak.

In a wild one, Mudiay electrified in the second half, scoring 29 of his 34 points. Kornet, playing major minutes after Mitchell Robinson went down with an ankle sprain, struck for a stunning 13 points in 24 minutes — all coming in the second half and OT. Kornet, who hadn’t made a 3-pointer this season, finally found his shot and kept Enes Kanter on the bench.

Overtime began with back-to-back 3-point baskets by Tim Hardaway Jr. and Kornet, and the Knicks never lost the lead.

Knicks coach David Fizdale said after Wednesday’s debacle in Cleveland that giving up 30-plus points in first quarters must stop. Nobody seemed to listen.

Charlotte mashed the Knicks early, taking a 33-16 lead after one and a 72-53 bulge at halftime with their pass-happy offense before the Knicks made their late comeback. They came from 22 down in Cleveland but lost. This time, they got it.

Friday’s clincher came on an inbounds when Kevin Knox found Mudiay cutting for an easy layup and a five-point lead with 17 seconds left.

With Mudiay and Kornet spearheading a fourth-quarter surge, the Knicks erased a 15-point deficit after three quarters and forced overtime.

At the 30-game mark, the Knicks moved to 9-21. Another stout offensive showing came from Knox, making his second straight start. Knox did his damage early, when he had no help, and finished with 20 points.

However, Knox missed two free throws with five seconds left and the Knicks up two. Kemba Walker (16 points) got the rebound and raced all the way upcourt, missing a running layup at the buzzer as he went for the tie.

In regulation, Hardaway drilled an 18-footer to give the Knicks their first lead since the opening minutes, 104-103 with 4:08 left. Kornet then drilled a straight away 3 with 1:30 left to give the Knicks a 109-108 lead. But Nicolas Batum answered with a 3-pointer, Mudiay committed an offensive foul and Jeremy Lamb scored on a drive for 113-109 Charlotte lead with 1:11 left.

The Knicks came back once again to tie on Mudiay’s lane jumper 113-113 with 26 seconds left. Walker missed a contested 3 and the Knicks corralled the rebound and called timeout with 4.4 seconds left.

Kornet inbounded to Mudiay, who dribbled to the left wing and unleashed a contested 3-pointer that went in and out and brought on overtime.

Robinson landed awkwardly on his left ankle after snatching a rebound and crumpled to the court in the first half. Kanter and trainers helped him off to the locker room where X-rays were negative. He was diagnosed with an ankle sprain and didn’t return — his status unclear for the next several games. Robinson was bugged by a left ankle sprain during training camp and the season opener.

But Kornet, spared when the Knicks cut Ron Baker to open a roster spot for Allonzo Trier, was superb in the final period. After missing his first three shots in the third, Kornet came on to hit his next three, including his first two 3-pointers of the season. Kornet also had two blocks and a steal and scored 10 fourth-quarter points as Kanter sat.

In the first half, the Hornets played pretty basketball, with hot potato passes that led to numerous wide open buckets 23-8 after just seven minutes.

It started Walker, the Bronx star who is a free agent this summer and on the Knicks’ wish list. Walker got the Hornets going early by scoring 11 points in the first five minutes on 4-of-5 shooting — 3-of-3 from 3-point land. But ultimately, he got outplayed by Mudiay.

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