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Rockets drop heartbreaker to Knicks 125-123

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Houston blew one tonight.

NBA: Houston Rockets at New York Knicks Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Just when you think the Houston Rockets had turned a corner, they go and do something like this. They’ve had a bad habit all season of playing down to their competition, and the New York Knicks were the better team tonight, building a 21-point lead and holding off a furious Rockets comeback down the stretch to defeat Houston 125-123 and end their six-game win streak. It was the Rockets’ first loss at Madison Square Garden since 2009.

James Harden led Houston with 35 points, 2 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 steals, but he continued to struggle with his shot, going 8-22 from the field and 3-13 from deep along with missing a layup to take the lead in the game’s closing moments.

The Rockets would get one more shot at it as time run down, with Russell Westbrook missing a tough mid-range jumper as time expired to give you your final tally. Russ did finish with 24 points for his 31st straight game with 20+ to go along with 9 rebounds and 3 assists, and he did hit a layup and thunderous dunk down the stretch to keep Houston in it till the end, but it wasn’t enough, and the Rockets leave the Big Apple losers.

It was primarily Houston’s defense that did them in, as the Knicks shot 48 percent from the field and 12-30 from deep, and they also annihilated the Rockets on the boards 65-34, including 20-8 on the offensive end. They also almost doubled-up Houston on points in the paint, winning that battle 64-36.

The Rockets just didn’t have it tonight, and despite their late run that almost snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, the 19-win Knicks deserved tonight’s victory.

In addition to Harden and Russ, Houston also got 20 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block from Robert Covington, and they also got 20 points from Danuel House.

The Rockets were outscored from their bench, however, 59-24, with Eric Gordon leading Houston’s reserves with 11, and that’s just not a recipe for success.

The Knicks were led by RJ Barrett, who finished with 27 points on 10-18 from the field, and they also got 16 points and 16 boards from Julius Randle, 15 points apiece from Bobby Portis and Wayne Ellington, 12 from Mitchell Robinson, and 11 each from Moe Harkless and Frank Ntilikina.

Houston falls to 39-21 on the season and missed a golden opportunity to pad their record against an Eastern Conference bottom feeder and also an opportunity to alleviate our fears about the mental lapses that have been too commonplace this season against inferiors teams.

They’ll look to rebound Thursday night with a huge nationally televised contest (TNT) against the Los Angeles Clippers.