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Game 20 Recap: Rockets' Bench Continues Surge, Dominates Knicks 97-84

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Normally, a 3-point (on .22 true shooting), 3 rebound, 4 assist performance from Lowry would result in a loss. A month ago, such a loss would have been utterly certain, I think, particularly with no Martin on the second night of a back-to-back (funny how routine that is now).

But tonight the bench came through big time, just like last night, and the Rockets walked to victory in the second half. Jordan Hill (14 points on a wonderful .88 true shooting, 11 rebounds, only two turnovers) gave an excellent performance, perhaps spurred on by playing against his old team, though perhaps it was Amare's defense, as well. Most importantly, his jump shots and hook shots, which normally are all but guaranteed misses, were absolutely on target tonight, and he fought for rebounds well against a much larger (though not tougher) Knicks front-court when Samuel Dalembert got into early foul trouble.

Chase Budinger continued his great shooting (19 points on 12 shots), though he didn't rebound as well as Friday night (he did have a nice dunk in traffic early in the game, though I guess you don't get any extra points for that). Dragic didn't miss a shot until late in the fourth, when he went up against Amare and Co. on the fast break and failed. The Dragon's outstanding shooting (16 points on 8 shots) and well-run halfcourt offense allowed Kevin McHale to rest Lowry for almost all of the second half.

The starters did not fair as well. They held their own for the most part, but this wasn't their best game. Scola started off very well, but he cooled down the stretch, and the overall result was something of a poor shooting performance and something of a wash on the boards (not helped by 4 turnovers). Luis used his post moves well against Amare and Chandler, but neither seemed to really be fooled, and while in the first half Scola nonetheless converted while playing amongst the Knicks' towers, in the second half he didn't have it going quite as much. Dalembert got into early foul trouble, didn't shoot well, but more than balanced it out with a great game on the boards. Parsons played good enough defense, but did little else, and obviously lacked confidence in his offense after the first half. Like I said, this wasn't a bad game for these guys, but nor was it their best.

The Knicks chose to shoot 26 threes in the game, which would have been a better strategy if they had made more than five of them. The Rockets, instead, attacked the basket and made only one less three, and despite some bad calls in the first quarter were rewarded with a 22-to-12 free throw advantage. By the end of the third quarter, Tyson Chandler was upset enough with the difference to shout at a ref after not getting a foul call in the closing seconds of the quarter (receiving a technical for his efforts). I think the Rockets got a lot more calls down the stretch, though that was as much the result of a difference in strategy as it was home cooking.

Overall, a great game for the Rockets that resulted in a win to push them a little further into the playoff picture and the Knicks' pick a little higher, as well as an opportunity to rest Lowry and the rest of the starters.