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Rockets 91, Knicks 86: "Can someone come back and help?"

The semi-depleted New York Knicks stayed close against a shallow Houston Rockets team that was already missing three starters and never seemed to fully exert themselves.

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We switchin'? Oh, hey, he's gonna be open. : \
We switchin'? Oh, hey, he's gonna be open. : \
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

New York losing the game has become a running theme so far this season, and the Knicks fell to 4-11 Monday night. So the real story is probably our chief rocker, Carmelo Anthony, leaving at the end of the first half, overwhelmed by back pain. Carmelo had a nice game going (14 points, 7 bounds), and tried to soldier on, but could barely walk off the floor. Not that I can claim to actually know anything, but I decree that he has been struggling with sciatica.

Al "In the Zone" Iannazzone tweeted out some straight talk on the matter:

So, I think it's safe to assume that Phil Jackson has the smoothest lean connect in Houston and they just need to get back to the hotel and the guy will be by in about an hour. A dusty old codger, in a cream cardigan, with a finely twisted mustache. The kind of nurturing, soulful friend of your dad that you wish you knew more about. He knows what you want to ask, and just savors the tension as he waits for you to actually utter the words. Anyway, Tina Cervasio rounded out the situation:

This is actually an alarming bit of news in what is looking more and more like a forgettable season. The Knicks are effectively losing at a 3:1 ratio. They have another game Wednesday in Dallas, and while rcnt123 hoped that maybe somebody would "come back and help" no one granted that wish tonight. Some stuff certainly went right and with any luck the team can identify them (and others) and build off of that.

- Jose Calderon looks pretty wobbly out there. There's an extra bit of heft on his jump shot, and that throws off his balance. In contrast he is absolutely in tune to the game within the game, sagely keeping the offense afloat. And although he won't ever show the lateral foot speed to check anyone, he's a vaguely passable team defender. He manufactured two surprisingly simple Samuel Dalembert buckets in close with on-target passes that allowed the big fella to go straight up. He also has a knack for massaging out a lot of our Triangle's rigidity either with the dribble or decisive passing, and even identifying the open man for a tentative teammate. The ball just snaps into place when he's lighting the path.

At one point Calderon was shown shouting instructions and encouragement while riding a stationary bike in the hallway to the locker room. Derek Fisher can use all the help he can get, and Calderon is a lovely extension of the coach on the floor. Let's hope he can sponge up those sea legs.

- When tapping out that bit about coaching, it reminded me of a wonderful out-of-bounds play that worked to perfection late in the game. I will dub it "The Nesting Dolls Play". It came directly after a strange shot-clock tiff late in the game where the Knicks were shorted about 10 seconds, but correctly given the ball back. Iman Shumpert inbounded to a diagonally placed stack led by Amar'e Stoudemire then Travis Wear, Pablo Prigioni and Shane Larkin (Nesting Dolls). Everyone looped around and spaced the floor and Shump was able to slide right behind all the bogus flanks, get a dump off pass from Larkin and float it home. Really slick play.

- Larkin got back into the game after his first DNP of the year against Philadelphia, and had some magnificent effort plays to go along with his really confident shooting (8 points on 4-5). Add that to his all-around effectiveness: three of each boards/assists/steals. Hot stuff, baby!

- Jason Smith just had his first child and everything, so maybe he's just over-tired. His play has been so out of sync with the rest of the team lately that I feel like he should just oversleep a few times, miss a few buses and planes, and come back when his synapses are actually firing. What a mess, this guy.

- Thankfully that mope was pulled late in the game, and Amar'e Stoudemire was in down the stretch. Nice game for STAT. Especially gratifying to see the three blocks. Somehow, though, you just wonder what he's doing out there. Lately he's been crying for a foul so often, it's downright Feltonian. He needs to stop that, because it's not helping him get the benefit of the doubt, and if Carmelo is going to miss time, we need that guy!

- Travis Wear displayed some haute couture this evening. Hemmed up a few little jumpers. My favorite piece was the few times Francisco Garcia called clear-outs for himself (Iso-Cisco) to back up 40 feet from the hoop and wildly attack Travis. It didn't work. Way to teach those glazed donut face ass rookies and earn extra minutes as well as major free agent dollaz, you lunatic! I guess you would be required to say... Wear hung him out to dry.

- Joey Dorsey is to Houston what Quincy Acy is to New York.

- Iman Shumpert mostly had a rough game, handling the ball a bit less and not getting his one-dribble kill shots. He struggled to find himself again. On the other end, it wasn't much better. James Harden executed his game plan very cleanly, baiting the Knicks to guard him, then casually slipping the ball between defenders or around the perimeter. Harden never really made an effort to get to the rim until it was time to wrap the game up. Breezy 36 points for Harden.

- Pablo Prigioni was pushed into action with Melo out and had a good game. We may have witnessed the most devious sneak of his Knick career. I forgot to note when it happened, but Pablo made such a mockery out of this sneak that the Rockets get this loss for utter ineptitude and lack of grace, style or guile. I believe the culprits were Donatas Motiejunas and Isaiah Canaan. Basically Pablo made Motiejunas hesitate on the pass, then Canaan reacted to dip away from Pablo by heading up the floor, but he was already pressed so close to the sideline that he had to go out of bounds to make his mad dash. The players neglected to read each other and WHAM! The ball was passed to a man standing out of bounds. Pablo be sneakin', boy!

The rest of this game was typical Knicks stuff. Fall behind, rush back, can't figure out how to maintain the lead, can't close out the win. Obviously Anthony would have helped, but likewise Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverly and Terrence Jones would have made an impact for Houston, so I'm not interested in playing that card. These guys have to be able to step up and get it done. The next stop in this Texas two-step is against Tyson Chandler and the offensive juggernaut Dallas Mavericks. Raymond Felton will be suspended for that game, which is a shame, because I was hoping we could get a scoring boost from our back court. Oy to the next one.