The New York Knicks (42-33) have lost three straight and must be relieved to face the Houston Rockets (18-57) at home tonight. The Rockets have the second-worst record in the league, have lost seven of their last ten, and are currently enjoying a five-game losing skid. Seeing their name listed on the schedule would make most NBA teams slobber.
New York won their only prior meeting of the season, 108-88, back on December 31. New York has a 4-6 record over the last ten games, during which time they averaged 115.9 points and surrendered 117.2. Just a tad concerning. Nevertheless, these Rockets are terrible. They field the league’s 27th-ranked offense and 29th-ranked defense.
Should be a breeze, right? Tip-off’s at 7:30 p.m. EST, Dream Shakers.
Houston’s a team of juniors! First up is lead guard, Kevin Porter Jr. (6’4”, 203 lb), who has averaged 18.4 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.5 rebounds in 53 games this season. His three-point shooting had improved last year but has since regressed, falling back to 35% on 6.2 attempts. He’ll meet up with Jalen Brunson, who fully practiced on Sunday. JB’s sprained hand seems well enough to play tonight. Should he? A conservative approach would be to rest the paw against the league’s second-worst team, give Immanuel Quickley the start, and let Deuce McBride chew up a few minutes tonight. But . . . you’ll see what happens.
Sophomore Jalen Green (6’4”, 178 lb) has averaged 24.1 points over the last 10 games and is a 34% shooter from deep. He scored 16 points in both previous games against New York. Give him the over on that tonight. He will take on Quentin Grimes, whose three-ball has been falling of late. In the last four games, QDot has shot 58% from deep on 6.5 attempts, which is very encouraging as the Knicks prepare for the Playoffs.
At 22, Kenyon Martin Jr. (6’6”, 215 lb) counts as one of the vets on this club. In his third year with Houston, he has averaged 12.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists. He shoots 57% from the floor, 31% from deep (on 2.7 attempts), and takes 42% of his shots from within 0-3 feet from the rim. He managed only five points in 20 minutes when he last played against the Knicks. With the paint clogged by Mitchell Robinson or Isaiah Hartenstein, expect similar results from KMJ tonight.
Rookie Jabari Smith Jr. (6’10”, 220 lb) has averaged 12.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.2 assists while shooting 41% from the floor, and 31% from deep on 5.1 attempts. In his first game against the Knicks, JSJ put up 10 points and grabbed ten rebounds. His Knick counterpart in that one, Julius Randle, gobbled Jabari up while logging 35 points, 12 boards, six assists, and a block. Julius shot 9-for-20 in that game, including 5-for-13 from deep. He also played 39 minutes in a game that tilted heavily toward the Knicks after the first quarter. Thibs gonna Thibs.
Alperen Şengün (6’9”, 235 lb) has averaged 14.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in his second season. He rates tenth in the league for total offensive rebounds (213), but also third for most personal fouls (234). Uncle Russell’s amatuer scouting report says: promising big, but undisciplined. He has only played two games against the Knicks, both back in 2021, so I’m looking forward to a closer look at him tonight when he faces Mitchell Robinson. Big Mitch is coming off a weird game in Orlando, where he logged two points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks in 31 minutes. A strong showing from His Blockness would be appreciated tonight.
The Rockets have won only six road games this season, and New York would get a nice confidence boost from thrashing this particular rag doll around the yard tonight. The question is not whether the Knicks will win; it’s whether will they cover the -12.5 spread. Magic 8-Ball says . . . you betcha, and then some. Knicks by 14.
Madison Square Garden. Monday. 7:30 p.m. EST. Go Knicks.