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Game Preview: New York Knicks vs Houston Rockets, January 17, 2024

Knicks seek redemption at MSG after disappointing MLK day loss to Magic

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NBA: Houston Rockets at New York Knicks Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks (23-17) are coming off a disappointing MLK Day matinee against the Orlando Magic. Lead Knickerbocker Jalen Brunson missed the game due to a sore calf, and despite Miles “Deuce” McBride filling in admirably, other notable players did not rise to the occasion when the team needed extra strength to defeat the Disneys (cough, Julius Randle, cough).

Tonight, in game two of a four-game homestand, the Knicks welcome the Houston Rockets (19-20) to Madison Square Garden. The Rockets also lost on Monday to the Philadelphia 76ers, 124-115. Tonight will be their sixth road game in a row and conclude a long trip away from home. When last they met, on March 27, New York dominated Houston, 137-115.

Ime Udoka, the 46-year-old head coach of the Rockets, has focused on improving the club’s defensive tenacity (sixth best in the league) and culture. Recently, The Athletic ($) praised him for his emphasis on excellence, attention to detail, and a winning mentality that will lay the foundation for future success.

At present, however, their offense is rickety (21st). A below-average three-point shooting team (36%), and a bottom-third from the field (rated 23rd), they struggle to put up 112.7 points per game.

Despite their shortcomings, Houston’s roster is not without talent. Point guard Fred VanVleet has contributed about as expected with his new team, averaging 17.1 points, 8.5 assists, and 3.8 rebounds this season. For New York, Brunson remains a game time decision after missing two tilts. Covering for him, McBride scored career-highs in both of those games: 19 against the Grizzlies, 20 against the Magic. FVV is a crafty pro, and it will be fun to watch Deuce work on him if Jalen’s leg is still too sore for primetime.

Shooting guard Jalen Green has averaged 17.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.2 assists for Houston this season. The second pick in the 2021 draft is second on the team in points per game but one of their lesser shooters, hitting only 34% from beyond the arc on 6.5 attempts. Green’s considered a sieve, so look for Donte DiVincenzo to chase 20 points tonight.

Perpetual gnat, Dillon Brooks has averaged 13.7 points and 3.5 rebounds for Houston. The naggy wing is having his best shooting season, with 57% eFG and 41% from downtown on 4.5 attempts per game. It should be a blast to watch him lock horns with OG Anunoby tonight.

Power forward, Jabari Smith Jr., has averaged 13.4 points and 8.7 rebounds on the current campaign. At 6’11”, 220 lbs, he’ll be at a disadvantage against the larger Julius Randle. Plus, the latter should be motivated to win back favor from the Knicks’ fandom after a sub-par showing in Monday’s game.

The surprising standout on the Rockets is center, Alperen Şengün (6’11”, 235 lbs). The 21-year-old Turkish delight was recently named the Western Conference’s Player of the Week. Şengün has averaged 21.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists in 39 games this season. He’ll require a lot of attention in the paint, making this perhaps another game where we sorely miss a strong second center in support of Isaiah Hartenstein. Especially if Isaiah falls into foul trouble early. . . .


The Knicks are favored by 68% to win tonight, per For the Rockets, his with be the final contest of a six-game road trip that has kept them away from home for almost ten days. Thus far, the Rockets have won one of those five road games. If the Knicks play a modicum of defense, have at least an average night of shooting, and can keep Isaiah Hartenstein out of foul trouble, they should walk away the victors. New York by +10.

Game Details

Who: New York Knicks vs Houston Rockets
When: 7:30 pm EST, Wednesday, January 17, 2024
Where: Madison Square Garden, NYC
Watch: MSG
Follow: @ptknicksblog