CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Kemba Walker stuck out his tongue as he grabbed his jersey and pulled it up to his chin, unable to contain his excitement after the last of his impressive plays in a flawless overtime performance.
He could do no wrong.
Walker had 11 points of his 31 points and three assists in OT, and the Charlotte Hornets outlasted the New York Knicks 137-128 on Monday night for their fourth straight victory.
Walker was 4 for 4 from the field in the extra period, including three clutch 3-pointers.
“It’s just Kemba being Kemba, and at this point I don’t think anybody who watches him can be surprised,” teammate Marvin Williams said. “The bigger the game, the bigger the stage the bigger he gets. He’s the smallest guy on the floor, but I have said it from Jump Street, he has the biggest heart out there every single night and that is what makes him so great.”
Dwight Howard had 23 points and 13 rebounds for the Hornets, and Williams finished with 13 points.
Walker found himself in a game within a game against Trey Burke, who put up a career-high 42 points and collected 12 assists while playing extended minutes.
Both made huge shot after huge shot, but Walker made the biggest plays when it counted the most.
After Tim Hardaway Jr. knocked down a tiebreaking 3-pointer with 40 seconds left in regulation, Walker hit a 3-pointer from the right wing.
Walker then made a big play on defense.
Looking for the game-winner, Burke waved off a timeout, figuring it would be better to prevent the Hornets from setting up their defense. But Walker tipped the ball away from him at the top of the key to send the game into overtime.
Walker dominated from there, with two assists and two field goals on the team’s first four possessions in the extra session.
“Down the stretch, I had to do something,” Walker said. “Trey (Burke) was wearing me out. You know he was shooting the basketball awesome tonight, and that was just it. It was a great win.”
The Hornets led by as many as 17 in the second half, but Burke helped the Knicks rally to a tie with 9:07 left. Burke was 16 for 22 from the field after halftime for 35 points.
Burke said it was a bittersweet night because his team didn’t get the win.
“I was tough because a guy like (Walker) hits a few and sees the ball going in it’s hard to stop them, especially when you have a guy like Dwight coming out and setting screens,” Burke said. “I tried to give him different looks, going over and going under. It’s tough with a guard as crafty as Kemba and when you have a big 7-footer coming up and setting screens.”
Walker needs 20 points Wednesday night against Cleveland to pass Dell Curry as the franchise’s career leading scorer.
Michael Beasley added 27 points for the Knicks, who fell to 9-30 on the road. Enes Kanter had 15 points and 13 rebounds.
Knicks: Frank Ntilikina fouled out with more than 10 minutes remaining in the game. … New York’s reserves were outscored 52-24 by the Hornets’ backups.
Hornets: Walker has made 43 consecutive free throws, tying the franchise record held by D.J. Augustin and Curry.
NOT A G-LEAGUE PLAYER
Hardaway said Burke, his former college teammate at Michigan, proved to everyone that he belongs in the NBA.
“He’s meant to be here,” Hardaway said. “He’s supposed to be here. He’s not a G-League player, he’s not an overseas player, he’s an NBA ballplayer and he showed that tonight.”
Howard logged his 46th double-double of the season. He is tied with Larry Johnson (1991-92) for third-most double-doubles in a single season in franchise history.
Knicks: Visit 76ers on Wednesday.
Hornets: Host Cavaliers on Wednesday.