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Knicks 121, Rockets 99: “The IQ/Rose backcourt is damn good”

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No Mitch, no problem.

Houston Rockets v New York Knicks
The Big Three
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Knicks blasted the Rockets into basketball’s version of a black hole on Saturday behind 38 combined points from bench backcourt buddies Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley, in an all-around team effort that ultimately resulted in Houston crashing like Elon Musk’s latest SpaceX rocket prototype.

Six Knicks reached double figures in the blowout at Madison Square Garden, led by Quickley and Julius Randle (22 apiece), and including Rose (16), Elfrid Payton (15), Obi Toppin (11) and the newest addition to the starting lineup, Nerlens Noel (10). New York grabbed the lead from the get-go and controlled the game throughout — minus a few minutes in the third when the starters seemed determined to let Rockets claw their way back.

With the victory, the Knicks have now won at least two straight games five times this season. Last year, they had winning streaks of at least two games only thrice. New York is now 13-15 and currently in 7th place in the Eastern Conference. When are we, the late 1990s?

Although Noel lost the tip, he won the hearts of Knicks fans everywhere with his impressive performance in the first quarter and beyond, serving admirably in the role of replacement starting center for Mitchell Robinson, who is expected to miss four to six weeks with a broken right hand. For much of the season, Noel has looked like he’s auditioning to replace Bart Simpson as the spokesperson for Butterfinger, but not tonight. He only had one bucket in the first, but it was a successful alley-oop from Randle.

By midway through the first, every Knicks starter had scored and the team was enjoying a comfortable lead, thanks in large part to Reggie Bullock’s firepower. Bullock nailed a trio of three-pointers in the first, although he wouldn’t score for the rest of the night.

Randle racked up 9 points and 2 assists in the opening quarter, and eight total Knicks got on the board. The Rockets, meanwhile, appeared completely unprepared to play basketball, besides Eric Gordon, who scored 11 points in the period. Gordon is like one of ghosts from Bly Manor, mindlessly shuffling through each game as if these Rockets can one day be the Rockets of yesteryear. The Rockets were 1-10 from deep in the first, which was a sign of things to come.

When the buzzer sounded on Q1, the Knicks led 30-25.

The Knicks continued to make nice with one another during the second quarter. Much like in the first, eight Knicks got on the board, led by Noel and Payton (6 apiece), plus Quickley and Rose 5 points each). Rose reminded everyone about his astounding athleticism, while IQ used the quarter to foreshadow further fantastic play in future periods.

With the lead ballooning, everyone was feeling loosey-goosey. Taj Gibson did something that caused Walt Clyde Frazier to say he was “gyrating nicely with the left hand.” Clyde’s words, not mine.

A few minutes later, after Payton scored to put New York up 55-38, Frazier could no longer contain his disgust for Houston. “This is pathetic,” he said.

All in all, 10 Knickerbockers were on the scoreboard when the first half came to a close. Noel had successfully ooped at least three alleys. The Knicks held a 63-47 lead.

The Rockets refueled at the break and launched into the second half with a renewed energy. The Knicks contributed to Houston’s hot start after halftime with four quick turnovers, halfway through the quarter the Rockets had cut the lead back to single digits. They whittled the deficit all the way down to five at one point, before Alec Burks dished to Noel for a slam that put the Knicks up 81-74.

Then IQ re-entered the game with about two minutes to go in the third and promptly sank two three balls, including one from beyond the Milky Way galaxy, to increase the lead to double digits again. Heading into the fourth, it was 87-75.

The final period was a New York blitz. Quickley continued to dominate, displaying a step-back deep ball that is sure to cure what ails ya. At this point, Quickley hadn’t missed a shot all night. He was at least 6-6, and possibly 7-7, before his first miss.

Soon it was 98-80. Then it was 101-82. Eventually, the game was so out of hand that Tom Thibodeau relented and subbed in Knox to play garbage minutes for the second straight night. Knox left an imprint.

Even Theo Pinson got 1:30 of action. When all was said and done, the Knicks had hammered the Rockets into submission, winning by 22.

Notes:

> Remember how the Rockets were 1-10 from three in the first? For the game, they shot 8-43 (18.6%) from deep. Oof. On the other hand, the Knicks were 12-28 (42.9%) from beyond the arc. Yum!

> Speaking of threes, Bullock has been heating up in recent weeks. Through the first 15 games of the year he was hitting threes at a 35% clip, which isn’t horrible but doesn’t knock your socks off. In the last eight games, he’s shooting 45% from beyond the arc. Take a look at your feet. Any socks now? Didn’t think so.

> At one point, MSG put up a graphic showing that, of all the former Kentucky Wildcats who played in Saturday’s game, it’s Quickley who scored the most points in college. Granted he was at Kentucky for two years while the others were only played one year. But still. Quickley is the best of the bunch.

> Randle had 22 points, 9 rebounds and 2 assists like it was nothing. Let’s vote him onto the All-Star team.

> RJ Barrett’s struggles continued (7 points on 2-8 shooting, 4 rebounds and 5 assists in 22 minutes). This year, the Knicks have a roster that can withstand off nights from Barrett. Here’s hoping he kicks his shooting slump soon.

> New York’s bench outscored Houston’s 58-30. Quickley and Rose led that bench charge, combining for 38 points. They are a lovely duo.

David_SelfHatingKnicksFan, who might not be a self hating Knicks fan for long, said what we’re all thinking: The IQ/Rose backcourt is damn good.

Damn straight. The Knicks host the Hawks on Monday 7:30 pm. Don’t even think about trying to get tickets. No fans allowed! Until next week, that is. Enjoy this one, y’all, and happy Valentine’s Day!