The Knicks got off to a hot start in this one, but it wasn't long before the Rockets scratched and clawed their way to a home win. New York started playing unspeakably good defense and executing almost perfectly on offense. While the D stood strong, the Knicks attacked with equal parts David Lee and three-point sniping. Lee scored from absolutely everywhere, Chris Duhon and friends drained treys, and the Knicks finished the first quarter with a surprising 9-point lead. After that, the Rockets pretty much took over.
Some quick game notes after the jump...
- That first quarter (parts of the second, too) was really something special. We pretty much all new it was fool's gold when the Rockets were making silly mistakes and Chris Duhon was nailing threes, but it was fun while it lasted.
- In that first half, David Lee was positively magical. He seized the opportunity to compete against people his size, and connected on jumpers and drives with either hand. In the second half, Lee disappeared. I'm sure the Rockets stepped up their defense, but it seemed a little like the Knicks were looking elsewhere and Dave wasn't necessarily looking to score after catches. Meanwhile, Luis Scola copied Lee's first half with a scoring barrage of his own in the third and fourth quarters. Lee ended up with 26, 12, and 6, but Scola got his 23 and 7 when it counted most. I wish I'd taped this one, because I don't really know where Lee went.
- Jared Jeffries was assigned to guard Aaron Brooks early on, and I thought he did a pretty good job. Brooks got looks from smaller defenders later in the game, and went absolutely nuts hitting jumpers.
- The Rockets really like to push. The second half felt like one play after another in which a Rocket forward beat the Knicks down court, posted up right under the basket, and got an easy bucket near the rim. It's not a fast break offense, but they organize the halfcourt set very, very quickly.
- If any team is built to exploit Mike D'Antoni's short rotation, it's the Rockets. D'Antoni played only 7 men (plus a 3-minute charity stint for Marcus Landry), while Rick Adelman got serious, meaningful contributions from 9 players. The Rocket bench was outstanding. You know what to expect from Carl Landry, but Kyle Lowry was getting buckets and rebounds like he absolutely never should, Chase Budinger made some slick offensive plays, and David Andersen overcame a perilously douchey goatee to drop 10 points.
- No, but seriously, Andersen needs to either shave or accept the nickname I just came up with: David "Date Rape" Andersen.
- Speaking of the Landry bros., the mother of Carl and Marcus was in attendance and expressed her pride in a first half interview. The highlight was her shirt, which featured pictures of both sons in action, crowned with the words "Momma Landry". I desperately want that. Not a replica, though. I want the game-worn threads for my birthday.
- Nate Robinson's scoring contributions (7-13, 20 points) are not to be denied, but it was pretty frustrating to watch him run the offense. It's becoming clear that Nate's passing comes mostly from his ability to gain a step off the dribble. Nate wasn't really slashing tonight, and his point guard play suffered. He was pretty much spinning in circles while the other 4 Knicks watched, and it lost New York some ground, particularly in the third quarter.
- I love Jonathan Bender, but Legs ought not to dribble...ever.
- Jared Jeffries' inability to hit a layup makes me wish Wilson Chandler could take all of his touches away.
- I'm not sweating this one too much. Once the Rockets closed off David Lee and the Knicks' hot shooting returned to average, it was really no contest. Houston is too deep and too scrappy for these Knicks, especially if D'Antoni's gonna keep 4 active players in warm-ups. I'm not complaining. Just saying.
The Rockets are a very tough team, and they got some calls and bounces that made the game. The Knicks might've stolen this one if they kept up the sound defense, but they didn't. These things happen. On to the next one. The Knicks head to Oklahoma City for a Monday night contest, and that's not going to be an easy one either. I'll see you tomorrow, friends.