The Knicks ran away from the Rockets in the second half thanks to Immanuel Quickley, Derrick Rose, and the new-look bench unit.

The New York Knicks (13-15) defeated the Houston Rockets (11-15) by a final score of 121-99. For the Knicks, Julius Randle finished with 22 points and nine rebounds while rookie Immanuel Quickley finished with 22 points and four made threes. For Houston, Eric Gordon finished with 24 points while John Wall had 26 points and four assists. With the win, the Knicks win two straight games on their Friday-Saturday back-to-back. 

You never know how another team will play, but the Rockets felt like a team on the ropes. With no Christian Wood and Victor Oladipo, the Rockets were missing two of their top players and were shuffling among G League talent to holster a roster. With respect to Wall, Gordon, DeMarcus Cousins, and Danuel House, but this felt like an easy win—on paper for the Knicks. 

And then, the start of the game suggested that as well. R.J. Barrett was getting downhill early, attacking Houston’s defense and bending it just enough to get easy looks for others. Randle wasn’t on fire to start but maintained balance with some nifty passes, highlighted by a drive-and-kick to Reggie Bullock for an easy corner three. New York’s offense was solid to start. 

New York’s second unit stepped in the second quarter and made life difficult for Houston. The change to Derrick Rose was a changeup to the Rocket defense—gliding and attacking the teeth of the Rockets defense with ease. That second unit—Rose, Immanuel Quickley, Alec Burks, Obi Toppin, and Taj Gibson—did an excellent job of extending the league into double digits. 

Then, the second half came. Wall and Gordon began to get downhill against New York’s defense and the Rockets began to pack the paint on the other end. Despite a fairly even quarter between the two teams scoring-wise, the Knicks, as a result of Houston’s defense tightening up, had to work harder to get baskets Cousins began getting aggressive in the paint and the New York’s lead began to evaporate to end the third quarter. 

Ultimately, Tom Thibodeau leaned on his second unit backcourt for the fourth quarter, and that proved to be the correct decision. Quickley imposed his well with a couple of good threes, while Rose created some good looks for Randle and Noel at the rim. New York extended the lead back up to double digits and the game was done as soon as Austin Rivers, Kevin Knox and Theo Pinson hit the floor. 

Game Notes

  • The Rockets have a ton of players who need creation to get going. Outside of Wall, Gordon, and Cousins, Houston couldn’t get anything going once Wall left the floor, which could be the difference. That said, I liked the combination of David Nwaba and Sterling Brown off the bench providing energy. The two combined for 22 points and 10 rebounds, playing some decent defense. 
  • Stepping in for the injured Mitchell Robinson was Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson. The duo did a great job in their first game—Noel wasn’t that detractor at the rim like Robinson but played effectively on drivers, blocked a couple of shots, and got a few easy finishes at the rim. Gibson played with energy, snagging a few easy buckets and rebounds by pure guile. 

  • An early mea culpa on the Rose trade? That second unit plays incredibly well together. Tonight, they extended the lead in the second quarter and made sure the Rockets couldn’t get back into the game in the fourth quarter. All credit to Rose, who continues to look for teammates, even to the point of over-passing at times. Swapping a shooter in Austin Rivers for a creator in Rose has continued to be a positive 
  • Quickley was excellent. 22 points on nine shots and a +17. While the first-year guard doesn’t run the offense with Rose on the floor with him, he does find the chance to run pick-and-roll from time- o time and get his floater off. In the fourth quarter, playing with the first unit frontcourt allowed him to get a ton of easy shots off and that resulted in some good looks from outside. Good to see him have a solid game. 
  • Fair to say Randle had an average game? He made some nice passes early and then settled into his own on offense—bullying Houston’s bigs to some easy looks at the rim. Another solid game by the All-Star hopeful. 

The Knicks host the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, February 15th. Tipoff is set at 7:30 pm. 


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