I'm filling in for AK today because I'm the token New Yorker here on TDS and clearly AK hates every single one of you to subject you to my drivel.
The Rockets head to Madison Square Garden tonight to take on the New York Knicks. You may remember the Knicks from such performances as the 28 point drubbing on November 23rd. The Knicks are 18-5 and currently rest comfortably atop the Eastern Conference. They've been quite the revelation given the off-season hype Brooklyn got and the geriatric jokes that were tossed at them. I think last time they came into Houston they weren't expecting the best shot this upstart team could muster and this time, things could be drastically different. It'll be a great game. Hopefully. The Rockets need to bounce back immediately after the Toronto loss yesterday. On to the match ups:
Jeremy Lin v. Raymond Felton
I look forward to catching heat on this one but I said last year in Portland Raymond Felton was set up to fail and mailed it in. Things were a bit chaotic for him and he's settled in pretty well in New York. He averages 16 points and about 7 assists per game. That's what we'd like to see from our point guard.
Jeremy has struggled mightily all season. Whether it's confidence, coaching, whatever deity you choose to align yourself with, morality, or someone in New York using a voodoo doll, one thing is for certain, for Jeremy to consistently get the edge in these match ups he needs to play like we know he is capable of. His realistic production has to be somewhere between Linsanity and the middLINg performances we have witnessed.
James Harden v. Jason Kidd/JR Smith
I'm confused as to why the Knicks start Jason Kidd. He was never known as a scorer and his defense at his age isn't worth warranting a starting spot. JR Smith logs plenty of minutes at this position so he gets consideration as well. Combined these two contribute about 29 points, 7 assists per game, and 7 rebounds a game. James Harden can have a night like that by himself. Granted, his back up is Daequan Cook or Carlos Delfino and if we tack on their production to James we're just being unfair.
All hail to the Bearded One. For posterity, James averages 25 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds a game. Harden is coming off a 28-point game where he only turned the ball over twice in Toronto.
Chandler Parsons v. Carmelo Anthony
Melo is questionable for the game tonight. I'm going to pencil him in for the time being. He has a sprained ankle. If he can't go the Knicks will start Ronnie Brewer. If Anthony gets the nod, the Rockets need to watch out. Anthony has exploded this season and he's averaging (about) 28 points, 2 assists, and 6 rebounds a game. In his last three games he's played he averages 36 points a game. He took Cleveland off so I'm expecting him tonight if I'm Houston. Anthony has injected his name into MVP discussion given how hot the Knicks have been this year and how integral he's been to that process.
Chandler Parsons is making me eat my words. I'm grateful for that. I had my doubts that our resident bro who looks like a douche would be able to replicate his rookie season but he's done me one better and improved on it. Chandler is averaging about 16 points, 4 assists, and 7 rebounds a game. That's more than we could have hoped coming off a stellar rookie campaign. At 6'10" and one of our more lockdown defenders, I couldn't be happier to consider Chandler Parsons a SF of our future. Having said that.
Marcus Morris v. Chris Copeland
The battle of the "Who the Hell are these guys?" The Knicks have Kurt Thomas on the roster but started Chris Copeland against the Cavaliers so that's where I'm going. He pulled down 1 rebound with 11 points. So remember, it can get worse than Patrick Patterson on the boards. As best I can tell the Knicks play PF by committee given their starter logged less than 20 minutes at the position and Kurt Thomas is their other PF only logged 14 minutes there against Cleveland.
Marcus Morris has been a tease for us this season. He started the year strong with rebounding and shooting. Then the mystery injury hit him when he collapsed on the court and he's been inconsistent ever since. Marcus had a pretty solid outing against Toronto with 19 points and 6 rebounds and if he can continue to replicate these kinds of outings he will be on pace to actually match Patrick Patterson's production. Morris is playing his natural position (Remember in college, Morris played the 4, not the 3) and he looks a bit more comfortable on the floor. His defense remains suspect because of his strength against NBA Power forwards but I'm willing to weather that storm.
Tyson Chandler v. Omer Asik
This, to me, is the match up to watch. Tyson averages 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 1 block per game. He has the prototypical defensive center along with Dwight Howard for years now. Tyson's paycheck is based off his ability to anchor your defense and finish alley-oop passes. He is basically what we're hoping Omer turns into. Chandler's impact in New York is unquestionable as he brings an element of toughness that the team needs. When Amare Stoudemire is able to stay on the court Chandler offers a focal point one-on-one defender who allows Stoudemire to play the help-side defense that convinced some folks that he was a decent defender in Phoenix. This isn't to diminish what we've got here in Houston, however because I'm gonna drop some numbers on you.
Omer Asik averages 10 points, 12 rebounds, and 1 block per game. That stat line isn't far off from Tyson Chandler. The big difference is the turnover rates and that explains the deficiency in PER amongst the two. Both centers average 31 minutes a game but Asik turns the ball over two more times each game than Tyson does. With these stats so similar and their offensive firepower so meager, these two will do a good job of playing either X-Factor or neutral parties against each other tonight.
Advantage: None (Even)
New York - JR Smith, Steve Novak, Kurt Thomas, Pablo Prigioni (The Pringles dude?)
Houston - Carlos Delfino, Greg Smith, Tony Douglas, Terrence Jones
Houston's bench is spotty and I can't, in good faith, mention Terrence Jones as a rotational rookie though McHale did get him on the court early against Toronto. New York's bench clearly has been producing and two of their bench players were mentioned in the discussion on the starters. I can't look at the records of these two teams and the frequently disappointing showings by the Rockets bench (Though consistency has improved lately!) and conclude anything other than what I do here.
Prediction: I'm going to blow everyone's mind here and get accused of being a homer. The Rockets, for some reason, seem to have the Knicks number the last few times we've played them. You have to go back to 2009 to find a win by the Knicks against the Rockets. You have to go back to 2003 to find a season where the Knicks took both games against the Rockets. If you include 2003 the Rockets record against the Knicks is a shocking 16-4. Granted, since 1968 the Knicks have the edge 67-73 over the Rockets but since I was in a sophomore in high school the Knicks have only beaten the Rockets 4 times.
Rockets win 107 to 100.
Tip off 7:30 EST 6:30 CST on NBA TV