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Game Preview: New York Knicks at Houston Rockets, February 12, 2024

Knicks start a three-game road trip with a stop in Texas.

NBA: Houston Rockets at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, the New York Knicks (33-20) travel to the Lone Star State to face the Houston Rockets (23-29). It marks the first of a three-game road trip to end the ‘first half’ (two-thirds) of the regular season for the Knicks.

The Rockettes have won only four of their last 15 games. Defense is the calling card of Ime Udoka’s club, and their offense has issues. To wit, they shot terribly in their last game against the New York Knicks (33-20); in it, Houston converted only eight of 30 three-point attempts. New York dominated the second half to win, 109-94.

Tonight’s rematch will be played at the Toyota Center. New York could use the win to bolster their spirits. The team has dropped three of their last four, and the last two losses were their first consecutive defeats of the calendar year. Relax, worrywarts. Odds are good they’ll get back on track tonight.

Alperen Şengün (Back), Fred VanVleet (Adductor) and Cam Whitmore (Ankle) are all listed as day-to-day on the most recent injury report. That will help level the competition with Julius Randle, OG Anunoby, and Mitchell Robinson out for New York, and Isaiah Hartenstein listed as questionable. Jericho Sims has been updated to ‘probable.’

Jeff Green (6’8”, 235 lb) started at center for the Rockets in their loss to Atlanta on Saturday. He promises to be a more favorable matchup for Precious Achiuwa—and obviously Hartenstein, if he plays. Rounding out Houston’s starting five should be Jalen Green (G), rookie Amen Thompson (G), Jabari Smith, Jr. (F), and Dillon Brooks (F).

Jalen Green (6’4”, 178 lb) scored 15 points, missed all five three-pointers, and coughed up five turnovers in his last game against New York. He’s a foundational Rocket, but Udoka is not above benching the 22-year old when he plays below his potential. For example, Jalen rode the pine in a recent game against the Raptors while his teammates mounthed an unsuccessful late-game rally. (He bounced back with 26 points in the Atlanta game, though.)

Newbie Amen Thompson (6’7”, 209 lb) takes 65% of his shots within ten feet of the rim, for good reason: no beuno from range. He hits only 16% from deep. Overall, in his first NBA campaign, he has averaged 7.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.4 assists. Feel free to let him air it out as much as he likes tonight.

Dillon Brooks (6’6”, 225 lb) is making 39% of his threes and attempting almost five per contest. Although his shooting percentages are up, his defensive rating of 115 is the worst of his seven-year career. Alas, he remains an irritant and should prove to be disruptive tonight. The cantankerous Canadian has fouled out four times this season. Make it five?

Jabari Smith, Jr. (6’11”, 220 lb) peaked in November and has been up and down since. The sophomore has logged ten double-doubles, however, which is nothing to sneeze at. Most recently, his shooting touch has gone cold again. In January, he shot 38% from deep; in five games since then, he’s made 33%. Here’s hoping he stays chilly tonight.

Prediction gives the Knicks a 55% chance of winning. Seems low. Look for the Knicks to reclaim their fire and desire tonight, especially if Isaiah Hartenstein is back in the first five and that Achilles is healthy. The Rockets’ poor shooting should make up for any sins of perimeter defense, and expect New York to sail through the second half to a +10 victory.

Game Details

Who: New York Knicks at Houston Rockets

When: 8 pm EST, Monday, February 12, 2024

Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX

Watch: MSG

Follow: @ptknicksblog