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Game Preview: Knicks vs Rockets, 2/13/2021

I got the broken hand blues.

Patrick Ewing Action Portrait Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Last night’s victory came with a jarring damper as Mitchell Robinson slowly realized he had a broken hand. His free throw shooting has been terrible this year but he missed one that was two feet short and two feet to the right. Mitch has dealt with all variety of ailments this season, going bottom to top, ankle, hip, he most recently sported shoulder tape on one side, then both. Finally the pressure shot down his arms and blammo, broken hand.

Recovery could be about two months. The bright side is we’ll probably get more social media Mitch and at least he’ll be able to get the rest of his body healthy and stay in shape.

New York’s defense is in for a rude awakening without their backbone. Nerlens Noel is probably set to replace him in the starting unit, and Taj Gibson will do what he can with the bench crew. So get ready for a lot of fumbled passes and a distinct lack of rebounding and rim+range protection that has propelled the Knicks to become second in the league in defensive rating. Which isn’t to say Noel is a bad defender but he is absolutely a freelancer. The rest of the fellers that’ll slide up to replace Robinson’s minutes are even less desirable on the defensive end.

No matter how many of those guys you throw at opposing bigs, they might hemorrhage buckets.

1994 NBA Finals Game 7: New York Knicks vs. Houston Rockets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Projected Starters

As above, so below. No Mitch for the Knicks and no Victor Oladipo for Houston.

There has been plenty of trade speculation about Vic and the Knicks, and the pressure may have just gotten tighter. For a full blow by blow of how that could play out, I definitely recommend this in depth piece here.

Elfrid Payton v John Wall

Reggie Bullock v Eric Gordon

RJ Barrett v Jae’Sean Tate

Julius Randle v PJ Tucker

Nerlens Noel v DeMarcus Cousins

Really, really, really not a fan of that Noel/Cousins pairing. Boogie will shimmy and bump his way around the floor and Noel will just have to deal with it. The Knicks will have to dig in and do some deluxe scraping out there tonight.

1994 NBA Finals Game 7: New York Knicks vs. Houston Rockets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Keys & Predictions

Houston is similarly a top defense, only two-tenths behind the Knicks in Defensive rating (tied for third with Utah). They’re also missing Christian Wood at the Center spot. It’s a veritable Spider Man meme. Two scrappy squads that have been somewhat overachieving this season. Currently on a four game losing streak, this is one Eastern conference opponent they must think they’ll be able to challenge if they have a decent shooting night.

One good thing is that John Wall won’t be back cutting Elfrid Payton all night, cus he doesn’t like to move around so much. For the Knicks, Obi Toppin has been coming around of late. Nothing stellar but the kid is starting to put some decent stretches together. The inclusion of Derrick Rose has allowed Toppin to get the ball on the move a little more than he had when Austin Rivers was wandering around with the ball.

Knicks by -8

1994 NBA Finals Game 4: Houston Rockets vs. New York Knicks Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Parting Shot

I’ll never be able to forgive the Rockets. Never! But this team actually has been a lot of fun the few times I’ve caught them this year. Hopefully tonight is no exception.

Hakeem Olajuwon and John Starks Action Portrait Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images