by Kris Pursiainen
The New York Knicks faced off against the Houston Rockets last night in Houston and were defeated 123-112. New York drops to 17-40, while Houston finds themselves at 37-20 and a one-game lead on the Jazz for the 4th seed in the Western Conference.
The Knicks, led by “Point-RJ” Barrett and his 14 first quarter points, were down only 36-33 at the end of the opening period. However, they were outscored by 12 in the second quarter and were down by 15 at the half, a number close to the 11 point margin by which they lost the game.
New York entered this game with injury troubles, unable to utilize three of the four point guards they’ve given minutes to this season in Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina, and Kadeem Allen. This led to Dennis Smith Jr. getting the start and finishing the game with 15 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 7 steals (!?) in 29 minutes of action. He showed a renewed sense of defensive effort despite being embarrassed early on in the game by one of Harden’s signature step-back three-pointers that ended with Smith Jr. on the ground.
The Knicks were led in scoring by RJ Barrett (21 pts, 8-17 shooting) and Julius Randle (17 pts, 5-14 shooting), but these numbers did not come without their own concerns. Barrett took only one shot in the second quarter after leading the team in points at the end of the first quarter, while Randle consistently struggled with shot selection and court vision issues, a performance that caused the writer of our lovely daily newsletter to finally lose his marbles. Mitchell Robinson contributed 10 points, eight rebounds, and five blocks, a performance that came in only 26 minutes of playing time.
On the other end of things, James Harden finished with a game-high 37 points, six rebounds, and nine assists, and got double-digit scoring efforts from Ben McLemore (17 points), Eric Gordon (16), Austin Rivers (14), Robert Covington (11), and Danuel House Jr. (10).
The Knicks next play the Hornets in Charlotte in a game in which they are likely to have Elfrid Payton back in the lineup with Frank Ntilikina remaining on the sideline with a groin injury. The Hornets’ young core of Devonte’ Graham, Miles Bridges, and Malik Monk has looked promising in recent outings and will look to continue that success at home against New York.