The New York Knicks have been decimated by injuries and a trade this week. Carmelo Anthony is out with a knee injury. Ditto for Amar'e Stoudemire. Andrea Bargnani is also out with a calf injury. J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert are in Cleveland now. So the Knicks are a shell of the team they started the season with. Unsurprisingly given the injuries, the Knicks are on a 13-game losing streak.
Houston goes into Madison Square Garden hoping not to get a team playing for their pride on national television. Cleveland (okay, Kyrie Irving) gave the Houston more than they bargained for last night but Houston finished strong. Now they'll get a group of players who have dumped on for about a month. This is a game Houston should win, but don't be surprised if they get New York's best shot.
Schedule breakdown: Both teams played last night on the road. Houston won in Cleveland and New York lost in Washington.
Tip off is at 7pm CST on TNT.
Point Guard: Patrick Beverley vs. Pablo Prigioni
With the injuries and the trade, the Knicks are forced into basically playing whoever their best players are. This makes picking positions tough, so excuse me in this regard. Prigioni and Calderon will both handle the ball, as will Larkin.
Prigioni is shooting 37% from distance and that's really the only way he can hurt Houston on that end of the court. Whomever he guards should try to take advantage of him. However, I think that teams will start trying to use the zone on defense more often since it has worked well in spurts against the Rockets. Cleveland used it a couple of times in the second quarter to good effect.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Jose Calderon
Calderon is shooting a sizzling 43% from three and is just a great shooter in general. Houston fans were sad to miss out on him a couple of years ago but the Rockets are a different team now than what they would have been with Calderon, and it might be for the better. Not that Calderon wouldn't fit here still, but at his price Houston will probably be able to extend Patrick Beverley, a younger player who can defend the bevy of incredible point guards in the league.
With no Melo or JR Smith expect Calderon to have the green light tonight and to have a high usage rate.
Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Tim Hardaway Jr.
Hardaway Jr. is averaging 11 points per game and has been shooting poorly as of late. He's a streaky shooter but I'll admit I've seen little of him besides him and Dion Waiters dueling in the Rising Stars Challenge last year.
Power Forward: Donatas Motiejunas vs. Quincy Acy
Acy is a beast who can grab rebounds at an incredible rate. It's tempting to compare the two because of their beards, but he and Reggie Evans play very similarly in terms of rebounding ability, with Acy being a more athletic player.
D-Mo needs more touches, plain and simple. The Rockets are at their best when they play inside-out with Howard and D-Mo. He's been playing well since his return to the starting lineup, and it will be nice to see him keep that going when Howard sits and Josh comes in.
I did agree with Bill Worrell who said that D-Mo's lack of rebounding against Cleveland may have been due to guarding Kevin Love on the perimeter. He may have finished with two boards but he made some big plays in the second half.
Center: Dwight Howard vs. Cole Aldrich
Aldrich has been averaging 10/7 in his last five games and incredibly it's been his improved play that let New York waive Dalembert without a second thought.
Dwight should dominate him tonight, as should the rest of Houston's frontcourt against New York's big.
Anyone else notice that Dorsey didn't play at all against Cleveland. It may have been due to the Cavs' lack of a center, but it was a different lineup out there as McHale went to the 3 big-man rotation.
Rockets: Propeller Plane, Josh Smith, Corey Brewer, Joey Dorsey, Kostas Papanikolaou
Knicks: Cleanthony Early, Travis Wear, Jason Smith, Langston Galloway, Shane Larkin
Rockets vs Knicks coverage