There was a lid on the basket tonight as the Houston Rockets struggled to eclipse 90 points in their 109-94 loss to the New York Knicks. This one brought back the feel of late 90’s and early 2000’s basketball as both teams brought their hard-nosed identities to the Madison Square Garden stage.
The Knicks eventually found their footing, getting strong performances from both of their stars, Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle. The duo combined for 61, production that the Rockets couldn’t fathom getting in this contest.
Unfortunately, the Rockets fell back to under .500 as the road woes continued. Despite getting Dillon Brooks back, this 1-5 road trip will continue to raise questions as to why this team can’t rise to the level of play shown within the confines of the Toyota Center.
One of the issues, once again highlighted in this game, was a lack of shot-making. Nobody wearing black tonight could buy a basket. It should come as no surprise that the Knicks were able to build a second half lead when nobody on the Rockets could go bucket for bucket with the opposition.
Fred VanVleet was the best Rockets player tonight as he went for 24 points and 12 assists. Even then, he struggled with making shots to start the game. Also consider that the majority of his assists came in the first half when the game was virtually tied, but his playmaking was forcibly dwindled in the second half as he was seemingly the only guy that could make a shot.
The normal number one option for Houston, Alperen Sengun, struggled throughout this one, even when there was an initiative to feed him the ball. It certainly wasn’t Alpy’s finest game, so much so that it evoked the ire of Ime Udoka.
Ime Udoka very unhappy with Amen and Sengun here pic.twitter.com/2DNqrjhiFD— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) January 18, 2024
With that being said, I have no issue giving kudos to Coach Thibs and the Knicks defenders that repeatedly hounded Sengun around the rim.
Truth being told, there wasn’t much appeal to what any of the Rockets did in this game. Jeff Green turned back the clock a few times and Jabari Smith Jr. had a thunderous dunk, but other than that, it was the same ol’ Rockets on the road. Bad.
Tonight was another tough game for those who still find themselves defending Jalen Green — myself included — but it’s not like anybody stepped up in his place tonight. I think the most frustrating part of this game was that there wasn't an actual back and forth between these teams in the second half.
It’s The Garden for crying out loud. This is where we’re supposed to see visiting stars emerge. Green and Sengun should have been going band for band with Brunson and Randle, not VanVleet. Plus it’s not like VanVleet was on fire, he was just trying to show some sort of resistance.
Anyways, good riddance to these away games. The Rockets are in need for some home cooking.