HOUSTON (CBS Radio) – The Knicks won their fourth straight game as they beat the Rockets 107-102, at Toyota Center on Saturday night. The Rockets fall to 1-2 under new head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and 5-9 overall. Houston entered Saturday’s game with an 11-game winning streak against New York with the Rockets winning all ten games at the Toyota Center until this past contest. The last Knicks’ win over the Rockets was on January, 26, 2009, at Madison Square Garden and their last win in Houston was on November, 18, 2004.
Saturday’s game was a back-and-forth affair, with neither team leading by more than seven points. With seven seconds left in the game, Terrence Jones nailed a three-pointer to pull Houston within three, 105-102, but then the Knicks’ Lance Thomas sunk both his free throws after a Jason Terry foul and Marcus Thornton missed a three-point attempt at the buzzer to force overtime.
“You can’t really pinpoint what it is because we’re struggling right now,” Thornton said after Saturday’s game. “We still played hard, we just didn’t win. We have to figure out what it is to get us over that hump.”
All five Rockets starters were in double figures while Thornton added 12 off the bench. James Harden filled the stat sheet with 24 points on 8-of-20 shooting along with a game-high 10 assists, marking his third double-double in the last five games and his fourth of the season. He also had seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks. The Rockets have been holding Dwight Howard out of one game in each back-to-back, and since he played in Friday night’s loss to the Grizzlies, he sat out against the Knicks. Clint Capela started in his place and notched a double-double with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting along with 14 rebounds, but he fouled out with 5:03 left in the game after having a hard time keeping the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis, who is 7’3″, off the boards. Jones added 18 points and nine rebounds while Jason Terry and Trevor Ariza scored 11 and 10 points, respectively. Houston shot 12-of-28 from beyond the arc and killed the Knicks in points in the paint (42-20) and second-chance points (33-20).
Porzingis led the Knicks with 24 points and 14 rebounds. Rockets head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said Porzingis’ length is one area where the Rockets didn’t have an advantage and they needed to be more physical when facing a guy that’s longer. Players also said they didn’t help each other enough on defense to stop Porzingis and Rockets forward Terrence Jones explains the issues the Rockets had guarding the Knicks’ rookie sensation.
“I think he caught us a lot,” Jones said. “We like to switch a lot on break offs and it seemed like every time we switched, he used his length over our guards and got a lot of offensive rebounds. He’s just a very versatile big. “He’s moving around, spotting up and just when you think you can switch, he’s going in for the offensive rebound on the smalls, so I think we had a tough time with that.
“I think I got him going early in the first half letting him get too many spot-ups and that was on me,” Jones added. “I tried to lock that down in the third and fourth (quarter). Without Dwight (Howard), we went with just me and Clint (Capela). Clint not really used to guarding guys that are out that much, got in a little foul trouble early.”
Aaron Afflalo chipped in 16 points for the Knicks while Carmelo Anthony finished with 14 after getting into early foul trouble.
The Rockets have Sunday off followed by a couple days of practice before hosting the Memphis Grizzlies at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. Everyone agrees the small break will be good for them to recharge and work on fixing their issues.
“Just our defensive mindset, us rebounding the basketball, offense cutting and just playing for each other, but I think our head is in the right place, our confidence is getting back,” Harden said.
“It’s been a crazy week and a half with a lot of changes, but I think once we finally get a solid momentum of what we are as a team and what we want to do as a team, we’ll get this thing rolling,” Jones said.
And it’ll be good for the team to get a couple solid practices under their new coach.
“J.B. — he’s been doing a really good job of in-game adjustments and trying to get us into his system and the things that he’s doing,” Ariza said. “So, with two days of practice, we can only get better.”