The New York Knicks have a 12-game edge in the standings over the New Orleans Hornets, but they certainly are not taking anything for granted in Sunday afternoon's matchup at Madison Square Garden. In fact, with the Knicks mired in a three-game losing streak, superstar forward Carmelo Anthony referred to the game against the Hornets as a "must win." New York has lost five of seven overall and dropped its last two home games, including Friday's 108-101 defeat to Chicago in which the Knicks were blown off the court.
The Hornets, meanwhile, are playing their best ball of the season and have won four straight games, matching their longest winning streak since April. Defense has been the key to the turnaround for New Orleans, which has permitted an average of 88.8 points during the four-game run. The Hornets turned in one of their better offensive showings in Friday's 104-92 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, erasing an early 18-point deficit. The Knicks have won seven of the last eight meetings.
TV: Noon ET, MSG (New York).
ABOUT THE HORNETS (11-25): Point guard Greivis Vasquez has been playing like an All-Star since the start of the new year. Vasquez scored 18 points and handed out 13 assists in Friday's win for his fifth double-double in six games this month. He is averaging 17.7 points and 11.3 assists during that span, which has coincided with the return of shooting guard Eric Gordon. New Orleans also has gotten solid production from reserves Jason Smith (31 points) and Roger Mason (27) over the last two games.
ABOUT THE KNICKS (23-13): New York received some good news Saturday, when guard Iman Shumpert was medically cleared to return to the team following knee surgery in April. Shumpert will practice Monday and, barring a setback, could play against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday in London. With point guard Raymond Felton sidelined with a broken finger, veteran Jason Kidd appears to be feeling the effects of the extra minutes. Kidd was scoreless and did not have an assist in Friday's loss.
1. Anthony scored 29 points in a 22-point win at New Orleans on Nov. 20. He has averaged 24.6 points in 23 games against the Hornets.
2. The Hornets have reached 100 points only twice in their last 20 games - both against Minnesota.
3. James White started at shooting guard for the Knicks on Friday and scored a season-high 11 points.
Knicks 99, Hornets 89.