The Rockets had a tough match up against the 76ers in their last outing on Monday night, where they were blown out by 28. As they’re facing a much weaker team in the Knicks this time around, look for things to hopefully go a lot more smoothly tonight. Whenever the Rockets play teams near the bottom of the NBA’s standings, at this point in the season and with their current record, those are certainly must win games. The 1 seed isn’t completely out of reach just yet, as the Rockets are currently sitting 6.5 games back from the first place Warriors. Regardless of the amount of injury struggles the team is currently facing, this is a must win game if they have serious aspirations to once again not have to play the Warriors until the WCF and have home court throughout the playoffs.
The Knicks main focus for weeks now has been in developing the youth on the roster for the remainder of this season. That is to say, sitting at 10-35, their team is fully in tank mode. The Knicks routinely have been getting blown out this year, particularly by teams with winning records, and they currently have a point differential of -8.5. Enes Kanter has been benched in place of second year prospect Luke Kornet (although Enes will likely get the start tonight with Kornet sidelined with an ankle injury), Kristaps Porzingas won’t be coming back until at least mid-February when he’ll be re-evaluated for a torn ACL, and Tim Hardaway Jr. is currently the team’s best player averaging 19.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.7 APG with a PER of 14.6. They also rank in the bottom five teams in the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency and are currently riding a 6 game losing streak. All in all, the Knicks seem to have their eyes on the future much more than they do the present, as their current state of affairs isn’t looking too hot right now.
The Rockets, on the other hand, are beginning to get a little closer back to 100% healthy with James Ennis and Eric Gordon recently returning to the lineup over the last couple of games and Chris Paul hopefully back by the end of the week. Everyone knows James Harden is going to nearly always get his (now at 43.7 PPG over his last 10 games), but he’ll continue to need secondary playmaking help from Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers, and bench scoring from Gerald Green and the rest of the supporting cast to be successful. Most importantly, though, the Rockets need, need, NEED to put a concerted effort in rebounding the basketball against a Knicks team that actually isn’t too shabby in that respect (11th in the league). Even though Kenneth Faried recently signed to help bolster the front court, the Rockets need to have a group mentality to crash the boards while Capela is out, as the rebound disparity against their opponents continues to play a large factor in the games they have lost as of late. One never can truly predict what will happen on any given night in the NBA, but the Rockets need to take care of business in this one, and I see them doing so handily against the Knicks tonight.
Prediction: Rockets 118 – Knicks 107