On Friday night at Toyota Center, the Rockets beat the New York Knicks 102-100, but they had to dodge some bullets to get it done.
With less 25 seconds left and the game tied at 100 Beno Udrih missed a three, but Tyson Chandler got an offensive rebound and kicked it out to a wide open J.R. Smith, who instead of holding the ball for a possible final shot, launched a three, only to miss. Aaron Brooks got the rebound, was fouled by Udrih and knocked down both free throws to make it 102-100 Rockets.
“I’m just really glad he shot it,” Jeremy Lin said.
After the game, Smith said he shot it because he thought the Knicks were down by two, but despite the blunder, his team wasn’t done. New York got two shots at tying the game, 18-footer by Iman Shumpert, and then a 14-foot runner by Udrih at the buzzer that rimmed out.
“It’s a huge sigh of relief,” a relieved James Harden said. “We found a way. Like I said it wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t the prettiest win, but at the end of the night a win is all that matters.”
After scoring 38 in Tuesday’s loss to Sacramento, Harden went for 37 against the Knicks, with 27 of those points coming after halftime. He made half of his ten three-point attempts, and all 12 of his free throws.
“I tried to do a good job early in the game of just trying to play the right as far as getting my teammates involved, rebound the basketball, make sure guys got open shots, and then in the second half, be more aggressive,” he said.
New York led 81-73 after three quarters, but less than three minutes into the fourth, Francisco Garcia’s three capped a 10-1 run to give the Rockets a one-point lead. For over seven minutes it stayed a one possession game until Harden scored five straight points to make it 100-95.
The Rockets shot 53% in the fourth while turning the ball over just twice. New York made just five of 20 shots, and just one of seven from three. In the games first three quarters, they shot 46%, canning eight of 17 from behind the arc.
Iman Shumpert led the Knicks with 26 points, he knocked down all six of his three point tries, and Carmelo Anthony added 25, but they combined for just seven points in the game’s final quarter.
Houston gets to 23-12 on the season after losing games to Oklahoma City and Sacramento, in games where they simply didn’t play hard. That wasn’t the case in this one.
“I thought we just played harder,” Lin said. “(Knicks) played an awesome game. They had guys who hit big shots. Melo always hits big shots and they played a great game, but I felt we played much harder than we did the last couple of home games.”
This was game number 35 for the Rockets. Only Utah has played more. They won’t be back in action again until Wednesday night’s game against the Lakers. After that, they hit the road for four.
In Friday night’s game, they didn’t play great, but they put themselves in position to win the game, and that counts too, just as long as you dodge some bullets along the way.