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Rockets 116, Knicks 112: "Bad defense and no bench production. That will do it."

This afternoon at the world's most famous arena, the Knicks kept things close, but the better team executed down the stretch. Three quarters of shootout were followed by a sloppy, low-scoring fourth quarter in which the Knicks completely crumbled. Trading hoops worked for a while, but as "The Rooster" said in the comments, New York simply couldn't match Houston's defense and depth down the stretch.

I promised myself I'd relax and not take notes at the game, but I ended up with a phone full of shorthand nonsense. I'll get into some of it after the jump.

- Danilo Gallinari, for the second game in a row, played big boy basketball. Even while his outside shots (3-5) were falling, Gallo put leather to hardwood and got to the line pretty consistently (7-9). He was also assigned to the small 'n' speedy Aaron Brooks for much of his floor time and did a marvelous job of staying in front of the little madman. It was Brooks who hit three huge baskets to seal the game for Houston, but I'll go to my grave believing that Gallinari defended each of those three shots as well as he possibly could. Brooks was just too on to be stopped at that point. The Knicks could use a guy like that. Anyway, Danilo finished with 26. Very nice game.

- Toney Douglas was sensational as a scorer, taking and making an obscene number (6-10) of threes and slithering his way to the basket on several occasions. Down the stretch, though, Toney's attacking mentality got him in trouble. He committed two charges and coughed up a turnover on crucial possessions in crunch time, pretty much squandering the Knicks' chances to get back in the game. It was a learning experience. Douglas finished with 26 points, 4 assists, and 5 turnovers in 37 minutes. Defensively, Toney had quite a bit of trouble staying with Kevin Martin off screens, and occasionally lost him because he overplayed the passing lane. The activity did yield some rewards, though, as Douglas was able to snaggle two steals and deflect a number of passes. 

- An official's timeout was called in the first half, and in some sort of promotion for the New York Liberty, a bunch of older ladies called the "Timeless Torches" came out and danced to "Single Ladies" alongside some sort of patriotic dog mascot. Said my friend: "Best. Officlal's timeout. Ever."

- Gallo, Toney, and Tracy McGrady were hot in the first quarter, and the explosion of offense gave the Knicks a pretty but predictably tenuous 15-point lead. In the second quarter, the Rockets gave Mike D'Antoni a dose of his own medicine, dropping 45-- forty-five-- points by pushing after made baskets and repeatedly getting wide open layups. Particularly when the Knicks took corner threes, Houston exploited their lack of transition defense and pushed the tempo with ease. Having attended the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, I am 100% certain that Daryl Morey was somewhere watching the game and gloating. Knowing that made the second quarter defensive meltdown even worse.

- It didn't help that the Knicks got into the penalty less than 3 minutes into the quarter. Again: 45 POINTS.

- On a dark evening last week, Barney the dinosaur was hunted down, shot with a .22 rifle, dressed, boned, and quartered. The meat was shipped to a malevolent plutocrat who prizes rare meals. The skin was sent to a tailor, who fashioned it into a suit. The suit was given to Walt Frazier, who wore it at today's game.

- J.R. Giddens spends an inordinate amount of his court time shimmying.

- D'Brickashaw Ferguson was in the house (and Mark Sanchez too). This raised the question of what his teammates and friends call him. It's probably "Brick" or "D'Brick", but if it was me, I'd call him "Ricka" or "Kasha" or something, just to be different. I would not call him "Fergie". Don't even suggest such a thing.

- Jared Jeffries, like I mentioned had an impact down the stretch. Jordan Hill also saw extended minutes, and looked solid. Nothing different from anything we saw in New York: active play around the basket, nice offensive touch, and decent help defense. It was great to see Jordan excel like we know he can.

- Danilo Gallinari blocked Hill's shot at one point in the second half, but was called for a foul. Hill stepped up to the line, and before he received the ball, Gallo walked right up to him and said something directly to him. I would love to know what was said.

- Also, I refuse to waste my breath on whatever D'Antoni said about Hill and Hill said about D'Antoni. It just doesn't matter to me. Coach is a certain way, and I've learned to accept it. If I'm going to fret about anything, it'll be D'Antoni's choice to play a lineup that included Al Harrington, J.R. Giddens, and Chris Duhon for the first 4 or 5 minutes of the fourth quarter.

- Everything Kyle Lowry does reminds me of a puffer fish. Especially when he gets called for a foul and inflates into a giant, spiky balloon.

- David Lee returned from a brief absence and looked pretty splendid. He looked more for his midrange jumper than he has been recently, and was able to connect. Lee's help defense left quuuuuuite a bit to be desired, but that goes for the whole team. Can't argue with 27, 20, and 6. That's just a silly line.

- Also discussed during/after the game: What if there was an animal that naturally produced memory foam, like as a weird sort of blubber or something? That animal would get hunted to extinction pretty goddamn fast, would it not? I'm not sure why mind is so set on hunting at the moment. Might have something to do with the full pound of little barbecue chicken things I ate in the T-Mobile suite.

- Last but not least, it was great to meet and talk to those of you who won tickets. I hope everybody who attended had a great time. Even with the loss, I know I did.

The Knicks' next game is Tuesday against the Nuggets. We'll talk tomorrow. Love is love.