The Houston Rockets and New York Knicks met just last Monday, with the Rockets grabbing a 123-112 win in Russell Westbrook’s absence. That was also the day that Russell, James Harden, and P.J. Tucker flew to Los Angeles and back to attend Kobe Bryan’t memorial service.
The Rockets should be fully healthy and ready to play in Madison Square Garden tonight. Houston is currently riding a 6-game winning streak and playing with purpose since the switch to small ball.
Last year in this building, Harden did this:
Interestingly enough, that’s not even Harden’s best game against the Knicks. That distinction belongs to what I think is the best game of Harden’s career, a 53-point 17-assist 16-rebound game on New Year’s Eve in 2016.
In the first matchup between these two teams, RJ Barrett had a really nice game with 21 points on 8-17 shooting. The number 3 overall pick hasn’t had the flashy season of Ja Morant or the instant presence of his Duke compatriot Zion Williamson, but he’s coming along nicely and has even more room to grow.
It’s much harder to be a wing in the NBA these days than it is to be a point guard or a big. Guards get to handle the ball and run tons of pick-and-rolls while bigs can focus on certain things on both ends of the court. Wings are expected to do everything: shoot, defend, create, rebound, and all the little things. It makes sense that Barrett needs some more time. After all, when was the last time a wing was drafted super early and made a huge impact as a rookie? Jayson Tatum, Brandon Ingram, and Jaylen Brown are all recent examples of good young wings, but none of them blew you away in their rookie seasons (though of course you saw flashes of potential in each). In fact, the last true wing to win Rookie of the Year was Andrew Wiggins in 2015. Before that? You have to go back to 2008 when Kevin Durant won it. The point is that Barrett is fine.
The Rockets should win this game handily before returning home to Houston in anticipation of one of their biggest games left on the schedule when they welcome the Los Angeles Clippers to Toyota Center on Thursday night.
Tip-off is at 6pm CT