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Houston Rockets 109, New York Knicks 106: Coaching changes make the difference

The Rockets eked out a victory against the Knicks, despite the fact that Carmelo Anthony went off for 45 points and Andrea Bargnani schooled Howard on both ends of the court.  Terrence Jones, playing 34 minutes, did his best to contain Anthony, but he shot 17 of 30 from the field and almost won the game single handedly.

The Rockets led by 3 points with 5.7 seconds remaining and the Knicks had the ball on the side.  The inbound pass went to Anthony and Harden barely fouled him before he got the shot up, and in from behind the arc.  The crowd went wild, Spike Lee kept referring to the replay, but the call stood.  Carmelo hit both free throws to close it to one before the Rockets inbounded the ball to Harden. He was fouled and hit both of his shots to seal it.

This is the first time this season that McHale has used a foul in this situation and it turned out to be the right call. McHale and the Rockets have been burned by big threes at the end of the game early this year.  Kudos for the change in tactics Kevin!

Howard had only one field goal in the entire game, and finished with 7 points.  Harden came back after missing the last game, took a couple of tough shots to the head, and scored 36.  He attacked the rim with abandon.  Parsons had a whale of a game with 22 points and scored 11 straight points in the second quarter.  Lin returned to the Garden to drop 21 on his former team.

McHale also changed tactics when Hack-a-Howard started, this time he took Howard out of the game and prevented another loss.  Kudos for the change in tactics Kevin!  The more pressure on Howard at the line the worse he shoots. Hack-a-Howard actually gave the Rockets a crucial extra free throw when Anthony fouled Howard away from the ball, with less than two minutes remaining.  He didn’t recognize the time.  With a foul like this, the coach gets to pick who will shoot the free throw and the offensive team keeps the ball. Harden hit the free throw.

This was another game where the Rockets held a double digit lead and it went down to the last shot.  When the Knicks tied it at 75, it looked like the Rockets were going to give another one away.  There is no way this game should have been so close with Tyson Chandler out.

Greg Smith came into the game and in his one minute of playing time went down with a badly twisted knee.  X-rays were negative, but the Rockets tweeted that it appears to be a sprained LCL and will need an MRI.

After news of Asik’s trade request hit the wires, he sat the entire game.  That’s a total of four minutes for Asik in the last two games combined. Asik is definitely lacking passion and is struggling to find the rhythm he had last year. A trade seems probable in the near future.

Winning close games on the road are critical for the Rockets development and in that, they were successful tonight. Good coaching at the end of the game led to a different result than similar games this year.  And, it’s good to have Harden back!

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About the author: Eric Nielsen is the owner of Lotushouse Records, an English major from SDSU, a basketball player and life-long passionate Rockets fan. He’s been following the team since the days of Moses Malone, Rudy T. and Calvin Murphy.

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