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Rockets down Knicks 117-95 for third straight preseason win

James Harden led the Rockets to a big blowout win with CP3 on the shelf.

NBA: Preseason-Shanghai Sharks at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

No Chris Paul, no problem.

The Houston Rockets continue to look good in the preseason, as they handled the New York Knicks with relative ease, despite Chris Paul’s absence with a sore shoulder. In a game that ended up essentially as a regular season dress rehearsal, the Rockets simply had too much firepower for a Knicks squad playing without Kristaps Porzingis.

James Harden finished the game with 36 points in 38 minutes played, to go along with 11 assists and 9 rebounds to lead the Rockets to a 117-95 win and their third straight preseason victory.

The rest of the the Houston starters also played regular season minutes, as the Rockets also got 19 points and 9 rebounds from Clint Capela, 18 points from Eric Gordon, who started for Paul, and 14 from Trevor Ariza.

Houston wasn’t nearly as efficient offensively tonight as in their prior two contests, as they committed 24 turnovers and allowed the Knicks to get back into the game in the first half after building a 19-point lead.

But the defense remained on point, and the Rockets shut the Knicks down while staying hot from beyond the arc themselves.

Houston held New York to just 44.8 percent from the field, kept them under 100 points and forced 17 turnovers. They hit 22-46 on their own downtown shots, and that was just a bit too much for the shorthanded Knicks.

Despite some mild offensive hitches without CP3 — namely some second-quarter sloppiness — the Rockets impressively maintained the same defensive focus and intensity we’ve seen from them thus far. A defensive-oriented lineup featuring Harden, Ariza, P.J. Tucker, Nene and Luc Mbah a Moute sparked several big Houston runs, including a 12-0 one in the first half that took control of the game.

That’s going to be a tough defensive lineup for anyone to match up against, and it’s really quite impressive the way the Rockets can mix and match their groups for optimum effect. It’s important to note that Tucker and Mbah Moute also combined to shoot 3-4 from deep, while leading the defensive charge. The Rockets didn’t have this type of depth last season.

It was also refreshing to see Capela so involved. He was energetic, ran the floor well, and scored off of some patented pick-and-rolls from The Beard.

The Knicks were led by Tim Hardway Jr. with 21 points, and they also got 17 from former Rocket Michael Beasley, 17 from Damyean Dotson, and 14 from new acquisition Enes Kanter.

The Rockets now have tomorrow night off before returning to the court on Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies. Don’t expect to see too much of the starters that night, even if Chris Paul does return. I get the feeling head coach Mike D’Antoni has seen all he needs to see at this point of his main lineup, and though it’s just the preseason, the Rockets have looked impressive.

We’ll likely get to catch some more of the Houston younger players from here on out, as we only saw limited time from Zhou Qi, who knocked down a trey and blocked 2 shots in just 3 minutes of action, and Chris Johnson, who went scoreless in 17 minutes.

The Rockets, despite a minor kink or two, look ready for opening night. Can’t wait to see them match up with the Warriors. It should be fun!