New York Knicks 70th Anniversary

HOU 129, NYK 122: Jennings Scores 32 But Harden’s Career-High 53 Leads Houston to Win

by Jonah Ballow

How It Happened:
The Knicks refused to go into 2017 without a fight in their last contest of 2016. Saturday’s matchup presented enough problems against an offensive juggernaut in Houston, let alone a shorthanded roster heading into a back-to-back situation.  Prior to the opening tip, head coach Jeff Hornacek announced that Kristaps Porzingis (sore left Achilles), Kyle O’Quinn (flu-like symptoms), and Courtney Lee (sore right wrist) would be unavailable for the New Year’s Eve clash.

Hornacek started Brandon Jennings in the backcourt alongside Derrick Rose and placed Lance Thomas at the small forward spot while shifting Carmelo Anthony to power forward.  New York showed some fire early by jumping out to an 11-point first quarter lead and took a 32-27 lead into the second quarter.  The second frame was all Houston as the home team exploded on a 23-6 run to completely reverse the momentum.  The Rockets scored 42 in the second quarter and eventually built a 14-point lead at the half.

Anthony was dealing with a sore knee heading into the game and he was ruled out for the second half of action after attempting to help his short-handed squad.  Anthony’s absence opened the door for Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who scored 12 of his 14 in the third quarter.  Jennings posted 15 in that period while New York outscored Houston 27-16 over the last 7:09 of the quarter.  The Rockets lead was dropped to just seven points heading into the third period.

The Knicks continued to fight in the final stanza and even trimmed the deficit to three points with 5:38 to go in the contest.  However, Harden connected on three free throws after he was fouled behind the arc and then Ryan Anderson buried a triple to give Houston the necessary cushion to capture the 129-122 win.  Harden was brilliant in becoming the first player in NBA history with 50-plus points, 15 rebounds, and 15 assists in a game.  He finished with a career-high 53 points, 17 assists, and 16 boards.

Knick of the Night:
Jennings scored a season-high 32 points on 54.5 percent shooting from the floor to go along with seven dimes and five rebounds. 

Rose posted 21 points and seven assists, Justin Holiday registered 15 points, and Joakim Noah recorded a double-double with 15 points and 16 rebounds.

News and Notes:
Ron Baker and Marshall Plumlee were recalled from the Westchester Knicks today and after a game in Ft. Worth, joined the team in Houston.  The Knicks needed the depth to counter the significant injury issues.

Statistically Speaking:
Houston’s offensive attack was jaw-dropping, considering the team shot 55 three-pointers and connected on 21.  Interesting enough, New York outscored Houston in fast break points, 17-7.

Next Up:
The Knicks concluded the three-game road trip in Houston on Saturday night.  Following the contest, the team will return to New York with a day off to recover from the trek and prepare for a matchup against Orlando on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.