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Rockets Rout Knicks Once More

December 18, 2012 4:01 am EST

NEW YORK, NY - There’s nothing crazy – or Linsane, if you prefer – about it: the Rockets are simply a matchup nightmare for the New York Knicks.

Behind a bevy of good looks borne of punishing pace and penetration, the Rockets made sure Jeremy Lin’s return to Madison Square Garden was befitting of the place which gave rise to his international stardom – and an endless number of cringe-worthy puns – as Houston raced past the Knicks for the second time this season, this time by a score of 109-96.

For those keeping track, that means the Rockets have now outscored New York by 41 points over the course of their two meetings this season. Just a thought: here’s guessing the Knicks want no part of Houston in the NBA Finals – assuming New York actually makes it that far, of course.

All jokes aside, however, the Rockets seriously ran over, around and through the Knicks in much the same fashion they did during their 131-103 rout of New York at Toyota Center November 23. The primary reason: the Knicks once more appeared powerless to deal with the Rockets’ relentless transition attack, nor did New York seem capable of keeping Jeremy Lin and James Harden from repeatedly punishing them with their fearless forays to the hoop.

The duo, dynamic beneath the bright lights of Broadway, combined for 50 points on 18-33 shooting while running what at times appeared to be little more than a layup drill against New York’s beleaguered and overmatched defenders. Time and time again, Lin and Harden broke down the Knicks’ defense off the bounce, allowing them to create an endless array of quality scoring chances for themselves and their teammates. Both players lived in the paint where Houston enjoyed a 52-46 advantage in scoring – a margin that only appeared close due to New York’s garbage time stat padding. They were destructive, tenacious and efficient. In short, the Rockets’ starting backcourt provided the team with a lethal one-two punch that knocked out the Knicks while offering proof of the potential inherent within their on-court partnership.

“Tonight I think we complemented each other really well,” said Lin, following his 22-point, 8-assist performance. “I think that’s really important for us to be aggressive and pick our spots and feed the hot hand. Tonight we did a good job and took a step in the right direction in terms of figuring it out.”

While Monday’s romp represented a step forward for the Rockets’ Lin-Harden pairing, it was just as big for the team as a whole, especially in the wake of Sunday’s disappointing defeat in Toronto. The Rockets played with all the attacking thrust and aggressiveness that had been so sorely absent the day before, as reflected in their 25-10 advantage in fast break points. Houston pushed the pace early and often, taking full advantage of New York’s porous transition D. And on the other end of the floor, with no Carmelo Anthony (out with a sprained ankle) to worry about, the Rockets were able to clamp down on the Raymond Felton-Tyson Chandler pick-and-roll while tirelessly working to contest the Knicks’ 3-point barrage.

The end result: Houston brought its seven-game road losing streak to a screeching halt and in the process ended New York’s run as the league’s only remaining unbeaten team at home.

“As a team we’ve got to find our footing where we play the same style every night,” said Rockets head coach Kevin McHale. “We may not shoot it as good and may not do a lot of stuff, but we have to play the same style.

“Harden and Lin scoring like that was big because they got in the paint. James is such a downhill player; he starts coming at you and it gets hard not to foul him. And when Jeremy starts driving and breaking down the defense, it opens up for our shooters. We have to play a drive-and-kick game and … that should suit Jeremy very well because that’s the type of player he is.”

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

We had good energy today, the ball moved well. We just had a little more jump in our step today and ended up playing much, much better against a good team. They didn’t have Carmelo of course, but for us to come in here and get this win is a real good win for our guys. We played hard and we played well and we played unselfishly and pushed the ball the way we need to push it.

(on Jeremy getting off to a good start)

We keep on telling him to be aggressive and attack. Maybe he felt comfortable here in Madison Square Garden, I don’t know, but he played very well. He and James got us off to a great start. Carlos came in and made some big, big 3s for us, but overall we had a good solid game from everybody out there.

He played very well, I was happy for him. As I said in the pregame, I think we’re all kind of getting to know each other a little bit. We have a real young team and we haven’t been together that long and Jeremy – I hope this is the start of a nice run for him because he works really hard, he’s a great kid and he deserves it.

(has he been too harsh on himself?)

Probably. That’s hard to say. You’re always your own worst critic. If you’re competitive you always expect more out of yourself. But there are times when you have to give yourself a break. He’s going to be fine. He’s had some really good games for us. As a team we’ve got to find our footing where we play the same style every night. We may not shoot it as good and may not do a lot of stuff, but we have to play the same style and that style should suit Jeremy which is an up and down style.

Harden and Lin scoring like that was big because they got in the paint. James is such a downhill player; he starts coming at you and it gets hard not to foul him. And when Jeremy starts driving and breaking down the defense, it opens up for our shooters. We have to play a drive-and-kick game and, like I said, that should suit Jeremy very well because that’s the type of player he is.

(feel like you match up well against the Knicks?)

I don’t know. We’ve played them twice and had two real, real good games in which we’ve shot the ball well. I think for us, regardless of who we play, we’ve just got to attack and move the ball. We have a style we have to play which is up and down with ball movement and we did a good job of that tonight. We decided to go under a lot of screens and make Raymond shoot the ball and try to keep him from getting into the paint and collapsing our guys.

JEREMY LIN

We’re just thankful to get the win. It was a lot of fun playing out there. I think our team took a step in the right direction. For me, it was great to be back and it was a lot of fun to play on this court again.

(on the reception)

It was fine. I had fun out there and was thankful to the fans. A lot of people showed out and supported and wore my old jersey, so I was thankful for the fans – it was actually a lot better than I thought.

(on the Chandler hard foul)

We know it’s competition. At the end of the day, I totally understand when someone comes into your lane you want to make them think twice about coming back. So he hit me hard and I still kept coming. It was fun and it was friendly; it wasn’t malicious. I talked to him after the game. He was like a big brother to me last year so it was fun to play a game with him.

(any thoughts on tonight’s game being like your run last year?)

Not really. I’m in a very different place now. My mindset is different as well. I’ve moved on, they’ve moved on. We have good memories, but at the same time we’re all in a different place now.

(feel like you figured something out playing with Harden?)

Absolutely. Tonight I think we complemented each other really well. I think that’s really important for us to be aggressive and pick our spots and feed the hot hand. Tonight we did a good job and took a step in the right direction in terms of figuring it out. But it’s early. It really is still early and I have a lot to learn in terms of playing with him and likewise.

This win definitely gives us a little momentum but the story of our season has been win two, drop two … so I’ve got to make sure we keep pushing forward and don’t get complacent.

JAMES HARDEN

On tonight’s game:

“It was a team win. A lot of individual guys played well but I think our defense as a team was good. Give credit to the scouting report as far as knowing who we are guarding, knowing what to do. Guys like Jeremy (Lin) played well. Guys like ‘Mook’ (Marcus Morris) and Chandler (Parsons) made some shots.”

On the defense:

“We were just being active, very active. Even when we messed up, we talked and recovered on our mistakes. We are just getting better with our communication.”

NEW YORK KNICKS HEAD COACH MIKE WOODSON

On tonight’s game:

“We didn’t play well again. It’s just that simple. They played great and we played awful. We came out ready to play, we had a pretty solid first quarter then from there on it went the other way…. The defense wasn’t there tonight. We have to go back to the drawing board and get some practice time under our belt when we can and try to correct it.”

On the momentum swing in the third quarter:

“We cut the lead to six or seven and then we had two big turnovers. Then I think they made two big threes right behind it, so it took the lead right back up and we never recovered from that point.”

More on tonight’s game:

“We’re not going to win every game. They’re a tough match up. In terms of how they play we play similar. They made shots, we had some good looks early. They made shots we didn’t make shots. We gave up too many shots at the rim. That’s a no-no in our system because when teams are scoring constantly in the paint it takes some of the air out of your defense so we have to get back to eliminating those easy buckets.”

RAYMOND FELTON

On tonight’s game:

“The ball didn’t go in the basket for us. We didn’t stick to our defensive principles. Jeremy (Lin) and James (Harden) were able to get to the basket too easily. Guys have games like that. It’s a long season. We had a great run here and now we have to start a new streak.

On playing the Rockets:

“Sometimes it’s like that. You play a team and it’s a tough matchup for you. They are a type of team that spreads the court and just try to drive and do a lot of isolations and screen-and-rolls. They have shooters and guys who can go off the dribble and sometimes that’s difficult to guard. But, at the same time, we got out of our principles a little. They gained confidence. When you give a team confidence like that, they start hitting all kinds of shots. Those guys got hot and everyone was hitting.”

TYSON CHANDLER

On defense:

“I definitely thought we didn’t play well enough defensively to win. We were off on our principles at the beginning of the game and throughout. We didn’t accomplish what coach [Mike] Woodson put together for us… They (the Rockets) play a certain style of basketball. When you play a perimeter-oriented team like that, our principles really come into play. It’s really key that we focus in on that and I didn’t think we played with enough energy to be short-handed and win.”

On flagrant foul on Jeremy Lin:

“I don’t think it was a flagrant foul. It was just a hard foul at the rim. I didn’t want him to make the layup, but it was nothing malicious – just a hard, solid foul.”

On first home loss:

“It’s disappointing, but it is just one game. I’m not going to say I’m okay with any loss, especially a loss like this. You want to go in and compete even if you have guys out or not. I just didn’t like the way we came out and played tonight, to be perfectly honest.”

STEVE NOVAK

On tonight’s game:

“Both games we just didn’t guard them well off the dribble. Coach Woodson was disappointed just like we all were. But we have to win together and lose together. Fortunately for us we haven’t had a lot of loses like this, it’s first lose at home, but we have to bounce back and just need learn from this. It seemed our energy just didn’t wasn’t right tonight for whatever reason. We just have to go watch the film and make sure we can change it.”

On the play of Chris Copeland:

“He did a great job tonight; he played with lots of energy being thrown into the mix like that. He was ready to be called on and he was great. One of the lone bright spots tonight.”

JASON KIDD

Tonight’s game:

“We didn’t execute our game plan. Those guys got some easy baskets early and we just didn’t get our shots. We turned the ball over and that’s something we’ve taken pride in not doing. They have talented guys on that team that can put the ball in the basket. They’ve had our numbers twice this season, so we’ll look at the tape tomorrow and figured out how we can get back.”

On first loss at home:

“It happens. You play 41 home games at home, but you’re not going to win them all. You can only get better and learn from this lost. Now we just have to get ready for the Brooklyn Nets.”