The Rockets started off incredibly slow and were down by as many as 22 points in the first quarter. However, an MVP-caliber performance from James Harden lead the turnaround as the Rockets defeated the short-handed Knicks 117-102 in Toyota Center Saturday night.
The Knicks came into this game coming off of a loss Friday night to the struggling Atlanta Hawks and the Rockets had not played since their dominant win Wednesday night against the Denver Nuggets. New York also entered the game without their starting frontcourt as Kristaps Porzingis and Enes Kanter did not play due to back injuries.
This game had Rockets dominance written all over it on paper. Which of course is exactly the opposite of what happened to start the game.
A Clint Capela alley-oop from Harden started the scoring, and then what followed was a 21-1 run by New York. The run was lead mostly by former Rockets Michael Beasley and Courtney Lee. Beasley, who averaged 12.3 minutes per game prior to tonight’s contest, was unleashed and went off for a team-high 30 points.
The lead was at one point up to 22 when the Knicks were up 29-7 with 4:36 left in the first quarter. The Rockets responded with a 22-10 run to end the quarter and Houston was down by just 10 going into the second quarter.
Houston continued to dent into New York’s lead in the second thanks in large part to Ryan Anderson, who came off the bench for the first time this season in favor of P.J. Tucker. Anderson missed Wednesday’s game with an illness and had not practiced all week, which lead to Mike D’Antoni opting for Tucker to start instead of Anderson. Ryno had 14 points off the bench in the first half and ended the game with 17.
The Rockets still trailed the Knicks at halftime by three, but the lead was wiped away almost immediately in the third quarter. Houston outscored New York in the third quarter 37-13 and completely flipped the game from what it was in the first quarter. After trailing by 22 in the first quarter, the Rockets were up by as many as 21 at the end of the third quarter.
A large part of the Rockets’ swing in the second half was Trevor Ariza, who went scoreless in the first half, but dropped 16 in the second half as he knocked down four threes. He was one of five Rockets in double figures as he joined Harden with 37, Anderson with 17, Capela with 12, and Nene with 10. Capela added a double-double with 15 boards and Harden’s double-double came with 10 assists. Chris Paul lead the team with 13 assists but only managed six points as he was cold for most of the night, shooting 2-12 from the floor.
Houston’s run after their biggest deficit to their largest lead was 83-42 as it spanned just under 28 minutes.
This echoed a lot of New York’s loss from Friday night. New York scored 39 points in the first quarter against Atlanta, but only scored 37 points in the second half. Against Houston, the Knicks scored 39 first quarter points, but only 41 second half points. The stamina was not there for New York tonight and Houston was able to take advantage.
Houston improves to 15-4 as this win marks their fourth straight. They will look to make it five in a row as the Brooklyn Nets come to town Monday night. Tipoff is at 7 PM CT.