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Houston Rockets vs. New York Knicks game preview

The Rockets head to Madison Square Garden to take on the Knicks.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn't always like this.

Besides being the opening line in about every trailer ever made, it's also a true statement about the Rockets and their dependence on James Harden.

Oh, the Rockets have always depended on Harden, and he's delivered consistently. He's avoided major injury (knocks on all wood in existence) while continuing to score and win games. But he usually has some help.

I've beaten it to death here but I'll do it again: the Rockets we're seeing this year are the exact same group as last year, despite what Jason Terry would have us believe. In fact, J.B. Bickerstaff is basically not playing Ty Lawson at all, so the only real difference is that there's no Josh Smith. This same Rockets squad won 9 playoff games last year. They did that without Patrick Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas. Missing D-Mo sucks, but Houston has proven it can win without him. Oh, and they've added a more experienced Clint Capela.

Last season, Harden had multiple games where he dragged the Rockets' carcass across the finish line. He scored 50 twice, 40 a billion other times, and at least 30 in 90 out of 80 games. Point being: Harden was the Rockets last season too. Except, it wasn't always like this.

Harden got contributions. Dwight Howard had a big game here and there when he was healthy. Ariza had games where he could drop in 5-7 from distance. Brewer scored 20 off the bench and made all of the crazy full-speed spin move layups that he can't get near the rim now. T-Jones had big games. Beverley hit his fair share of clutch triples.

Most of the Rockets' wins last season were close games where Harden stepped up late. It's becoming more and more unfair to expect that from him. He's great, but he can't do this over and over again. He might have one of his patented great games at Madison Square Garden since he seems to love the bright lights of New York and Brooklyn. But the Rockets need more. They have to get more from somewhere.

Someone has to step up.

As for the Knicks, there are two keys to the game for Houston. And only two. They are:

1. Stop Kristaps Porzingis.

2. See 1.

Yes, the same Porzingis who was roundly booed on draft night is the new king of the town in NYC. Remember, the Knicks fanbase was in a fragile spot at this point last year. I'll let Riley Matthews elaborate.

Yeah, of course they still have Carmelo Anthony. And Arron Afflalo will hit every midrange jumper to the point where Morey will pull his remaining hair out. And Robin Lopez gives Dwight fits.

But if someone (ANYONE) can step up for a night and give Harden some help, and if someone can make an effing shot in the fourth quarter, the Rockets can win this game and get some revenge from last weekend when the Knicks came to Houston and beat the Rockets.


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