Written by William Lee
Friday night New York continued their Texas Triangle road trip, taking on the Houston Rockets, after a very impressive victory over the San Antonio Spurs the previous night. Jeremy Lin made sure to let his former team know what they were missing, scoring seven points in the opening four minutes. Lin penetrated into the paint for a couple of layups, and knocked down a three, which quickly gave the Rockets an 11-4 early lead. James Harden would also get into the act, easily getting into the paint for a layup as well. Mike Woodson decided to substitute out Beno Udrih in favor of the home town native Toure’ Murry for his defense. Murry and Iman Shumpert made a good defensive backcourt, and it sparked an 18-9 run to end the first quarter, to give the Knicks a 24-20 lead.
The Rockets started the second quarter on a 9-3, where they were able to keep the Knicks scoreless for three minutes early in the second quarter. The run gave the Rockets the lead briefly, as the game was tightly contested throughout, with 18 lead changes in the game. The Rockets would extend their run, leading by as much as seven points in the second quarter, behind the dribble penetration from Lin, who scored another seven points in the quarter. The Knicks would connect on three straight three pointers in route to an 11-2 run to take back the lead 43-41 with 2:25 remaining in the second quarter.
James Harden who was content with being a facilitator with five assist in the first half, and only attempting eight shots, erupted in the third quarter. Harden scored 16 points in the quarter, including three from beyond the arc. Fortunately for New York Harden was the only one scoring, with the rest of his teammates converting on only 4/13 from the field in the third quarter. Iman Shumpert and Carmelo Anthony only was able to keep pace with Houston, combining for 24 points in the quarter. Shumpert continued his great shooting since the New Year, going a perfect 3/3 from downtown to match Harden’s threes. Shumpert had another great game, finishing the game with 26 points, going a perfect 6/6 from three, along with four rebounds and five assists.
The Knicks entered the fourth quarter with an 81-73 lead, but lost the lead within three minutes into the fourth quarter. The Rockets went on a 9-1 run to take an 83-82 lead. Both teams would exchange baskets, until James Harden went on a personal 7-2 run to break the deadlock, and gave Houston a 100-95 lead with 2:25 left in the fourth quarter. Iman Shumpert knocked down a clutch three with 1:27 remaining to cut the Houston’s lead to a one possession game. Shumpert then played great defense and forced a jump ball with James Harden. Tyson Chandler was able to gain possession of the ball, and Francisco Garcia swiped at the ball, fouling Chandler, sending him to the line. Chandler would calmly knock down both free throws tying up the game at 100-100. On the ensuing possession Aaron Brooks drove into the paint, and missed a layup, with the outstretched arms of Chandler contesting, altering his shot.
New York came out of a timeout with 43.3 seconds left in the game, with the opportunity to regain the lead. Beno Udrih missed a three and Tyson Chandler grabbed an offensive rebound with 23.6 seconds and counting. The Knicks ideally would have the last possession of the game to either win, or at worst go to overtime. But New York is having a comical season, and only two weeks has passed since Andrea Bargnani made a mental error and took a shot that gave the Milwaukee Bucks life in the game that was over. Two weeks ago J.R. Smith was vividly upset with the mental error, but Smith would commit the same mental lapse. Instead of holding on to the ball after the offensive rebound, he launched a three with 20 seconds remaining in the game with the game tied at 100 – 100 instead of waiting to take the last shot. The Knicks would compound this mental error by fouling Aaron Brooks after he grabbed the rebound, who converted on both of his free throw. The Knicks still had a chance to tie or win the game, but the Rockets played great defense, running New York off the three point line, and Beno Udrih was forced to take a running jump shot that rimed in and out.
This was a heart breaking loss. New York played a great game against a quality opponent, on the second day of a back to back, after an improbable victory over the Spurs. But the Knicks cannot have any more moral victories, New York needs to actually win, and had a great chance to, but mental errors continue to plague the Knicks this season.