Game 20 Preview: New York Knicks vs. Houston Rockets

It's just like old times.

The Rockets put away a bad team! It only took two quarters to get their act together. The Knicks are struggling, but are still a decidedly better team than the Wizards. So too is my intramural basketball team. Just kidding, we're better than the Knicks, too.

Time to get serious. The Rockets have two more games on this homestead. Tonight it's the Knicks, and then it's the Timberwolves on Monday. Then the Rockets play 9 games in 15 days, with all but two coming on the road. It's vitally important that the team establish some momentum heading into this stretch, and wins over the Knicks and T-Wolves at home will certainly bolster the confidence of a team that hasn't generally played well on the road yet this season. Then again, no one has. It's almost like playing on your home court is an...advantage? Nah, couldn't be.

The Knicks are 7-12 and without Carmelo Anthony. Normally this would be great news, but if the Knicks run their offense through Amare it could spell trouble for the Rockets. Can Dalembert guard him? Can anyone? We'll see.

I've posted Rockets-Knicks Finals NBA on NBC intros before, so this is one from when the Knicks were in the Finals in 1999. And they had a guy named Houston, so it's relevant.

NBA Finals 1999 Intro Game 4 (via spurs2k6)

Matchups after the jump.

Matchups:

PG: Kyle Lowry vs. Toney Douglas:

Wherefore art thou, Lowry? And yes, I know "wherefore" mean "why," not "where," but we're going with it.

Our courageous court leader is in a funk. Not a full-blown slump, but certainly something's happened to his shot. Nevertheless, he's still hustling and making the plays he normally makes otherwise, so that's encouraging. Let's look at the Wizards game from yesterday, where Lowry went 9/5/4/3 on 1-7 shooting.

The five assists don't worry me. Assists are a tough stat to decipher anyway. I could pass you the ball on a fast break for a wide open layup, but if you miss it I don't get an assist. Or I could find a wide open shooter behind the three point line after breaking down the defense. A three is a difficult shot, even when you're wide open. But if you miss it, I get nada. What if you get fouled after I make a nice pass? I know the Rockets keep "half-assists" or "true assists" that count those, and I've always thought the NBA should look into it, too. But that's neither here nor there.

Rebounds are interesting with this Rockets team. McHale seems to have a "rebound-by-committee" approach, and it shows when Dalembert has 14 rebounds in the first half one game and then four total in the very next game. It's also evident when your backup point guard out-rebounds your starting small forward, center, and backup power forward. Remember at the beginning of the year when we asked, "Why are Scola's rebounds down?" I think it's a bit of fatigue certainly but also a bit of competition. Before, he was generally asked to be the board man for the team when he and Chuck Hayes were the big men. Now, it's everyone. And anybody can see that Lowry loves to get his own rebound so he can start the break immediately. But sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way. As long as we don't give up too many offensive rebounds, I don't care who leads the team in rebounds. It could be Jonny Flynn for all I care, though that's a different problem.

Finally, the shooting. Here's the root of the issue, but as long as Lowry keeps putting his body on the line and attacking the basket, he's going to get free throws. The Rockets took 30 free throws last night and the inability to get to the line has disappeared. Maybe it was the 800 writers talking about conspiracy theories that forced Stu Jackson to finally let the refs send the good guys to the line. Whatever it was, I'm happy it's back.

Advantage: Rockets

SG: Courtney Lee vs. Iman Shumpert:

Quick, what school did Courtney Lee attend?

Even quicker, which school did Shumpert attend?

Answers: Western Kentucky and Georgia Tech. And that's your random trivia for the day.

Advantage: Rockets

SF: Chandler Parsons vs. Landry Fields:

I really liked Fields out of college, and he started last year playing really well, too. Then the Carmelo trade kind of took him out of the offense. No Melo tonight means Fields should get his looks. However, this season his numbers have plummeted, and he's shooting 21% from three as opposed to the 39% he put up last season.

He also made this hilarious video:

Landry Fields as Modell's Employee Selling His Own Jersey (via GottaGo2Mos)

Advantage: Knicks

PF: Luis Scola vs. Amare Stoudemire:

I know Stoudemire hasn't play well this year by his standards. I also know that he usually torches the Rockets. I also remember that last year he still had decent games despite the fact that Chuck Hayes "shut him down" in the two matchups. I'm scared of Amare. Very scared.

Also, hello Luis Scola. I'm glad someone told you about the second half, and how it, you know, matters.

Advantage: Knicks

C: Samuel Dalembert vs. Tyson Chandler:

Defensive stalwart vs. defensive stalwart. Dunker vs. dunker. Jump shooter vs...guy who dunks.

Chandler reminds me a lot of the young Camby you saw in the video above. Always has.

Advantage: Even

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Bench/Role Players:

Knicks: Bill Walker, Jared Jeffries, Mike Bibby, Steve Novak

Rockets: Goran Dragic, Chase Budinger, Patrick Patterson, Jordan Hill

Advantage: Rockets

Injuries/Inactives:

Knicks: Carmelo Anthony

Rockets: Kevin Martin (yes, he's out-link)

Prediction: Rockets 99-94

Make sure you get in on TCWHRO (we have to figure out another way to say that)'s fantasy basketball game. Details here. Just make your predictions in the comments, and maybe explain how you came to that conclusion so we have something to talk about.

Knicks vs Rockets coverage

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