It’s New Year’s Eve, and whether or not you decide to watch the New York Knicks (18-18) play against the Houston Rockets (10-25) at the Toyota Center, I hope you celebrate sensibly, or have someone lined up to carry your soggy carcass home.
The Knicks are currently ninth in offense and eleventh in defense, despite the five-game losing streak in their underpants. The Rockets have a record of 6-10 at home and are currently last in the Western Conference. A loss tonight, to a team with the league’s 27th net rating, would be a despicable capper on what has been a mostly lousy 2022 for the Knicks.
The Rockets have won three of their last seven and recently suffered a familiar humiliation at the raven claws of Luka Doncic; the Knicks let him score 60 on Tuesday, and Houston allowed him 35 on Thursday.
The Knicks are desperate for a win, and the Rockets seem content to give it to them. Don’t screw this up, Knicks! Tip-off’s at 7:00 pm EST.
With Jalen Brunson questionable (bum hip), Miles “Deuce” McBride got his first start of the season in San Antonio. Deuce has averaged 11.5 points, 1.5 assists, and 38.6 minutes over the last two contests. Still love him, but…the shooting needs work. Tonight, his defensive chops will be tested against Kevin Porter Jr., who has averaged 19.3 points, 5.8 assists, and 5.4 rebounds this season.
RJ Barrett remains out with a lacerated finger. Splitting wing duties in the starting line-up will be Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes. During the current losing streak, Quickley’s play has been a bright spot; he has averaged 19 points, 5.4 assists, 3.2 boards, and 34.2 minutes over that stretch while shooting 45% from the floor and 37% from deep. How’s that sitting with you? Still want to swap him for a first-round pick?
Over the last five losses, Grimes has averaged 15.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, and three assists. After the Dallas debacle, I swore to a friend that even though Luka scored 60, Grimes had defended him about as well as any human being possibly could. I worry that the loss took a piece of Quentin’s soul, though, because he regressed against the sadsack Spurs.
Grimes will probably defend shooting guard Jalen Green, Houston’s top scorer with 21.6 per game while shooting 42% from the field and 32% from deep. The sophomore is also chipping in 3.6 assists per game for H-Town. Green was last year’s number two draft pick; it sure would be fun to see Grimes, the 25th pick, give him the business tonight.
In his 15th NBA campaign, Eric Gordon (6’3”, 215 lb) has averaged 11.2 points, 2.4 assists, and two rebounds. Earlier this month, there was some scuttlebutt about the Knicks’ front office inquiring about the 34-year-old’s availability. Glad that blew over quickly.
Julius Randle is coming off a 41-point, 11-rebound game performance, wasted though it was in a shameful loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday. Tonight he will get his first taste of this year’s third pick in the draft, Jabari Smith Jr. (6’10’, 220 lb). The rookie out of Auburn has averaged 12.2 points, 7.1 boards, and one block in 34 games this season while shooting 39% from the floor and 33% from deep.
The Knicks lost the battle for points in the paint on Thursday, 62-42, and were out-rebounded 48-38. These stats stung especially because a) the Knicks had been good in those areas, and b) the Spurs are a rat team playing without one of their best players, Devin Vassell. Mitchell Robinson was uncharacteristically nonexistent in that loss. He’ll be better tonight against Alperen Şengün.
Yeah, I’m still sore about the 1994 Finals, and boy, I miss watching Patrick and Hakeem go at it. I’m in a mood to spend this New Year’s Eve watching Ewing on YouTube, but Mrs. Russell has other plans for us.
This will be the first meeting of the season between the Knicks and Rockets, with a second scheduled in March. New York is a 10-8 road team. They will be 11-8 by the time the ball drops tonight. Knicks by five.
Houston, TX. 7:00 pm ET, MSG. Go beat up baby new year, Knicks!