It has been nearly two years since Linsanity. I could talk for quite some time about its personal effects being half-Japanese, but that would be a topic for another time.
It has been nearly 18 months since a supposedly tanking Houston team caused New York executives to resort to playing hide-and-seek amid the hotels of Las Vegas, under the idea that if New York simply did not receive Houston’s $25 million offer sheet, the deadline which they would need to decide if it would be accepted could be extended.
It has been 11 months since Jeremy Lin, whose role was now called into question in the aftermath of the Harden trade, returned to New York. He put up 22 points on 15 shots and had 9 assists as the at the time 12-12 Rockets blew out the Knicks 109-96.
And now, Jeremy Lin, playing as well as if not better than his time during Linsanity, and the Rockets will return again to New York. And within those 11 months, both teams have once again changed quite a bit.
The biggest story in New York these days has been how the Knicks will survive in the aftermath of Tyson Chandler’s knee injury. The All-Star center fractured his right fibula eight days ago, which has meant that New York is now utterly without rim protection, defensive big men, or rather defense at all. Still, the Knicks have managed to go 2-1 since then, with their only defeat against the still-dominant San Antonio Spurs.
Still, even if the Knicks lack a single player on their rotation who is a plus defender aside from perhaps Metta World Peace, they are a team which can put points on the board. New York does not run the transition game nearly as often as Houston does, preferring to slow it down and relying on Carmelo Anthony’s skill both in isolation and the post. Current starting center Andrea Bargnani, who has been endlessly mocked over the years due to his poor defense and rebounding, has averaged around 20 points a game since the Chandler injury, Carmelo Anthony is one of the best players in the game, and they have players around their stars who can actually hit the long ball unlike Houston this season.
Meanwhile, Houston is coming off of two straight overtime games. Harden did not play in tonight’s game due to foot trouble, and it is currently unknown whether he will be able to play tonight. With the rest of the Rockets exhausted after playing huge minutes and suffering a disappointing loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, Harden will likely need to have a huge game if the Rockets are to come out and defeat the Knicks.
Omer Asik will also be important to watch for Houston’s long-term interests. The center has gone from being in the starting lineup to playing only 4 minutes against the 76ers. Part of that could be due to the fact that with Spencer Hawes shooting 3 pointers, the 76ers are very much a jump shooting perimeter team which leaves Asik out of position, and that also applies to the Chandler-less Knicks. On the other hand, Philadelphia is currently one of the fastest transition teams and New York is one of the slowest, which will be better for Asik.
Person of Interest:
The eclectic shooting guard struggled mightily during his return from a drug suspension against San Antonio, as he went 1-9 from the field for 5 points. However, Smith did start against the Atlanta Hawks, and he is capable of lighting it up on any given game. Given the track record of teams making ludicrous shots over and over against Houston this season, it would not be a surprise if he broke out for 50 tonight.