by Jonah Ballow

8:00 PM ET | Toyota Center
TV:  MSG Network
Radio: ESPN 98.7 FM

1.  The Knicks were prolific in the first quarter on Friday night in Atlanta.  In the first of a back-to-back set, New York jumped out to a 39-24 lead despite Enes Kanter absence in the starting lineup.  Fast forward to the third quarter and Atlanta found its offensive groove by putting together a 16-6 run and outscoring New York 57-37 in the second half.  Led by Dennis Schroder’s 26 points and eight assists, the Hawks upended the Knicks 116-104. 

2.  Kanter did not suit up for New York on Friday night due to back spasms.  The big man received treatment yesterday and during the game to try to alleviate the severe discomfort.  Inside the locker room following the contest, Kanter expressed his desire to return tonight in Houston.  However, he does not want the injury to linger throughout the season and is taking precautionary measures.  Kanter has been invaluable to the Knicks this year as he leads the team in rebounding and field goal percentage.  The center is one of the reasons New York ranks second in the league in second chance points.  Last night, the Hawks outscored the Knicks 24-5 in second chance points and outrebounded New York 13-5 on the offensive glass.

3.  Courtney Lee is an unsung hero when discussing New York’s strong start to the 2017-18 season.  On Friday night, Lee poured in a season-high 26 points on an eye-opening 11-for-14 shooting from the floor.  He did not miss a shot until the last seconds of the first half.  Additionally, Lee nailed 2-of-3 shots from downtown and grabbed four boards.   This season, Lee is shooting a career-best 46.2 percent from the 3-point line while averaging 12 points per game.

4.  The first meeting between the Knicks and Rockets took place on November 1 at Madison Square Garden.  James Harden and company launched 52 long bombs and hit 19 en route to a 119-97 victory.  In the win, Harden posted 31 points and nine assists, Ryan Anderson scored 21, and Eric Gordon finished with 17.  On the other side of the court, Tim Hardaway Jr. registered a team-high 23 points and the rookie, Frank Ntilikina dished out a season-high eight assists. 

5.  Houston’s offense was hard to contain with All-Star Chris Paul out of the lineup.  Now that Paul is back on the floor, the Rockets are downright scary.  The point guard sparked Houston with three consecutive victories since his return.  He missed the previous 14 games with a left knee injury.  In those three outings, the Rockets averaged 124 points, a 121.9 offensive rating, and shot 60.6 percent from the floor.  Houston is 14-4 on the season but oddly enough, the team has played better on the road (9-1) than at home (5-3).  The primary objective for the Knicks defense is to chase the Rockets shooters off the 3-point line where they rank No. 1 in makes and attempts this year.