The Charlotte Hornets and New York Knicks have more in common with each other than either team might prefer.
Both teams have potential and have shown the look of a winner in moments, but neither looks ready to become a difference maker in the Eastern Conference just yet.
The Knicks have delivered some promising efforts of late, and that new-found form will be put to the test against the Hornets on Friday night at Charlotte.
The Knicks just defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks at the end of a four-game homestand. It is the second time New York has won back-to-back games since October.
The Knicks did not allow 90 points in either of the two victories this week.
"The better we guard the ball, the better that makes us," Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said of perimeter defense.
Charlotte looked to finally be in a good groove when it won three of four games, beginning the week of Thanksgiving, but is now on a three-game losing streak.
The Hornets went to New York and fell 122-116 on Wednesday night to the Brooklyn Nets. Now Charlotte will be back home in an effort to knock off New York's other team.
To do so, the Hornets will look to slow down Knicks forward Julius Randle, who tallied 34 points in Wednesday's 113-89 victory over the Hawks. Randle is averaging a team-best 21.1 points per game.
Hornets guard Terry Rozier has shown he can produce when healthy and enters off a season-high 29 points in the loss to the Nets. Kelly Oubre Jr. seems to have solidified a spot in the Charlotte starting unit.
Rozier and Oubre each have reached the 20-point mark in six consecutive games they have played. It is the first time since 2007 that a Hornets duo has delivered concurrent 20-point streaks for that many games in a row.
This is the second time Oubre has reached 20 points in six straight games, while Rozier had never pulled off the feat previously. One of the two guards has led Charlotte in scoring in eight of the last nine games.
The Knicks are showing they are bound to be attentive on defense.
"The big metric for me defensively is defensive field goal percentage," Thibodeau said. "We've gotten in trouble some when we turn the ball over. Teams in the open floor are going to make you pay for that."
It's defense that continues to be a failure at certain times for the Hornets. That might be related to the composition of the lineup and the impact from injuries.
"Containing the ball individually and then our pick-and-roll defense was something we really struggled with," Clifford said. "(The Nets) didn't just score in the paint - they got open 3s."
There also will be uncertainty about the status of Hornets forward PJ Washington. He left in the fourth quarter of Wednesday night's game after taking a blow to the right eye. Washington tied a career high with seven assists in the game.
The Knicks will be without forward Obi Toppin, who sustained a non-displaced fracture in his right tibia head during the Knicks' win over the Hawks. He'll be re-evaluated in 2-3 weeks.
Mason Plumlee has been Charlotte's top rebounder (9.2 per game), with a double-digit total in each of the last four games.
The Knicks beat the Hornets 134-131 in overtime Oct. 26 at home.
--Field Level Media