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Game Preview: Knicks vs. Houston- 11/20/21

Got them must-win easy-win blues.

NBA: New York Knicks at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, the New York Knicks (8-7) will finish a three-game homestand with a tilt against the Houston Rockets (1-14). The Rockets must be coming off a loss because they’ve lost every game but one (which was against OKC, another cellar-dweller). Alarms are ringing in the media that Houston is ruining its young colts. Will all this losing fortify character or instill irrevocable psychological issues? Time will tell.

As for the Knicks, they continue to confound. They won a morale-booster on Monday against the Pacers, but then dropped yet another game to the lowly Orlando Magic (that’s two losses against the Disneys this season). New York must be the worst third-quarter team in basketball. I could verify with statistics but don’t have the stomach. You’ve seen it: they have stunk coming out of halftime.

It’s worrisome when an “easy-win” also feels like a “must-win.” Take note, tip-off is at 5 PM for this one, friends.

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN HOUSTON?

Houston’s biggest off-season move was to draft the heralded SG Jalen Green with their second pick. For reference, Evan Mobley and Jalen Suggs were both on the board when the Rockets selected.

Houston chose not to re-sign C Kelly Olynyk or SG Avery Bradley. Shrug.

Then there’s PG John Wall and the $92 million due to him over the next two years. John and the brass came to an agreement that he would not play while waiting for a trade. Hence, Wall is now B-Baller Emeritus and the resident mentor to Houston’s youngsters. Or some such cockamamie nonsense.

If I were unlucky enough to be a Rockets fan—and thank God for small favors—I would hunger strike until Wall was forced to play. If he did, the team would surely win a few more games; if he didn’t, well…I could spare a few pounds.

PROJECTED STARTERS

The athletic Green averages 14.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game, but shoots a dreadful 36% FG and 27% 3P. He plays 32 minutes per game on this lousy team. This will be the young Rocket’s first exposure to RJ Barrett. Word is that the shot doctor has visited RJ this week, so look for improved numbers from him.

Veteran Eric Gordon will start at the one while Kevin Porter, Jr. nurses a thigh injury. Gordon was 2016’s Sixth Man of the Year and has a career slash line of 16.6/2.5/2.8. With the Knicks traveling to Chicago tomorrow, expect Thibs to rest Kemba Walker and start Derrick Rose against Splash Gordon.

Sophomore SF Jae’Sean Tate doesn’t take many threes because he doesn’t make them. However, if I were to pick the candidate for random-dude-who-has-a-career-best-against-NY, it would be Jae’Sean. His stats this season are 11.5/6.9/1.7. He’s a soft defender, too, and has a +/- of -111. This is the perfect scenario for Evan Fournier to do impressive things. If not…. You may have seen this Statmuse tweet circulating, Brace yourself for a line-up change.

PF Danuel House, Jr. has been starting but sees limited floor time. He’s averaged 3.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 14 minutes per game. He’ll clash with Julius Randle, who has averaged 11.3 points in the last three games. Over 15 games this season, Randle has had a positive +/- in only five. He should make this his first 40-point game of the season. At least a triple-double. Jules needs the momentum, especially with a road game in Chicago up next.

C Christian Wood is averaging 16.1 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists. He and Green lead the team in minutes. Mitchell Robinson should have the advantage on Wood, provided Mitch is healthy. It looks like Nerlens Noel will play, but the Knicks will probably be missing the strength and leadership of one Taj Jami Gibson.

PREDICTION

The Rockets have not been a complete failure this season. They’ve arrived at every game on time, and that’s not nothing.

I predict a happy birthday for my beloved Jennifer. For the Knicks…a 40-point win, baby! It’s a lock! Otherwise, Madison Square Garden will be bulldozed, and the Knickerbocker brand discontinued forever. Really, it’s either/or.

Manhattan, NY. Remember: 5 PM. Viva los Knicks!