Knicks host the streaking Rockets as 10.5 point underdogs
The Knickerbockers will conclude their season series against the Houston Rockets tonight at Madison Square Garden. These teams have played only once this season prior to tonight. While the Knicks ended up covering the 14 point spread in the game, they still fell to the Rockets on the road 123-112. James Harden was lights out in the game, as he put up 37 points on a night where he shot the ball 14-25 from the field. RJ Barrett managed to score 21 points while Julius Randle put up a double-double for the Knicks, but it was not enough to overcome the Rockets’ dynamic offense. Russell Westbrook did not play in that game due to a thumb injury, but he is expected to play tonight which could make this a long night for New York. I am worried that this matchup will not be nearly as close as the first time these teams played.
The Houston Rockets are one of the hottest teams in the NBA right now. They are surging at just the right time. Houston has won six straight games, which ties them with the Milwaukee Bucks for the longest active winning streak in the league. They have been dominant during this recent stretch, winning games by an average margin of 15.2 points. The offense has been the Rockets’ bread and butter pretty much all season. Houston has the second best scoring offense in the NBA as they average 118.8 points per game. They have been even better during this six game stretch as that number has gone all the way up to 124.2 points per game. A lot of the success for the Rockets over the last couple of years can be attributed to James Harden, and this year is no different. Harden is the current leader in points per game with 34.9 on the season, thats almost five points more than the next closest player! The addition of Russell Westbrook has also elevated the Rockets to elite status amongst the NBA’s best teams. Westbrook is seventh in the NBA in points per game, but what he has been doing recently has been even more impressive. The former MVP has averaged 35 points, 5.9 assists, and 7.4 rebounds over his last seven games on 57.2% shooting. I anticipate the Westbrook-Harden tandem will be far too much for the lowly Knicks to keep up with.
The Knicks have been one of the worst teams all season in the major statistical categories. New York is 29th in the NBA in scoring with 105.1 points per game. The only team worse than the Knicks at scoring are the Charlotte Hornets. The Knicks are also tied with the Nets for the 26th worst shooting percentage in the NBA this season. New York’s defense has been slightly better but nothing special. They are 18th in field goal percentage allowed and 19th in points per game allowed. These numbers are just not good enough when you realize how bad the offense is. For example, the Orlando Magic have the 27th worst scoring offense in the league, but they make up for that by having the second best scoring defense in the NBA. As a result, the Magic now stand as the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Knicks are generally unimpressive on both offense and defense, and that is why they are the second worst team by record in the Eastern Conference at 18-42.
I believe that this game will get ugly in a hurry. New York lost by double digits to the Rockets last time they played, and that was without Russell Westbrook! Furthermore, the Rockets have beaten bottom-feeder teams like the Grizzlies and the Warriors during this stretch by an average of 29 points per game. With a fully healthy roster, I am certain the Rockets will have no problem covering the 10.5 point spread against the Knicks.