The Knicks take on the Rockets tonight at home, hoping to get some mojo back and shake off three straight losses.
The Knicks (42-33) have been faltering as of late, losing three in a row to the Magic, Heat, and Timberwolves, all teams with worse records than the ‘Bockers. Tonight, the soft part of the schedule continues for New York as they welcome in the 18-57 Houston Rockets, who make the Warriors look like a good road team, winning only six of 37 games away from the Toyota Center.
This is not your Hakeem Olajuwon-led Rockets that knocked the Knicks off in the ’94 finals. Stephen Silas’ team has had an atrocious season in every sense of the word, despite having some interesting young talent in Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., and Kevin Porter Junior. Silas has had contentious press conferences in which he called out players for lack of effort, and is obviously frustrated with their futility this season. Houston ranks 28th in the NBA in field goal percentage, 29th in points per game, and 28th in points allowed per game, per NBA Stats. Clearly, Houston is more concerned with the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes than winning games; it is unusual to see a consistently good organization like the Rockets bottom out like this and probably finish last in the West, but the hope is that it can result in the ability to draft a generational talent.
The Knicks wiped the floor with Houston in their first matchup, winning 108-88 on the road on New Year’s Eve, and look to sweep the season series with the Rockets. A victory tonight would make it seven straight Knicks dubs over Houston, per Land of Basketball.
Julius and Jalen
The absence of Jalen Brunson has really affected the Knicks, who look discombobulated at times without their point guard. Brunson is questionable tonight with a hand injury and while I do think the Knicks are much better than the Rockets even without him, it causes some concern that the Knicks could struggle against a dynamic Rockets team with some exciting scoring options in Green and KPJ. New York did defeat Houston last time without Brunson, but given the dialed-up intensity of the end of the regular season, with the Knicks jockeying for position in the standings, this game means so much more.
Aside from stuffing the stat sheet, Brunson works intangible wonders for this team, steadying the pace and truly making other players better by just being on the court. Julius Randle has been calm, cool, and collected most of the season, but with Brunson absent, he went crazy on the refs and Brunson’s backup, Immanuel Quickley in an expletive-laden tirade against the Magic. Randle losing control of his emotions brings back eerie memories of last season, where he was constantly combative and not in the right headspace to perform. It seems that with Brunson around, he has been much more steady, which has allowed him to have a career year. Randle scored 35 against Houston in the last matchup and it would be great to see him calm down and get back to having the incredible season he was having up until the last few games.
OK JULIUS! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/pSlYpi1m8O— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) March 24, 2023
Tip-off this evening from MSG is at 7:30 EST.