Knicks Win 11th of 12 in Blowout. 5 Reasons Why NY 122 Houston 97

The Knicks started off their tough 6-game, near-end-of-season, West Coast trip by taking care of business in Houston, drubbing the horrid Rockets from start to finish. Julius Randle led the Knicks with another MVP-esq performance — 31 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists — and sidekick stars RJ Barrett and vintage Derrick Rose dominated as well, with 21 and 24 points respectively.

Houston falls to 16-49 — the worst record in the NBA; the Knicks are rising — 4th in the East at 36-28.


1. Randle Another MVP Performance

The Knicks jumped out to a 10-pt lead after 1 quarter, and a 15-pt lead at the half. When the Rockets put up small resistance in the 3rd quarter, with Christian Wood and Kelly Olynyk pulling Houston to within 9 — Julius Randle took care of business right away with 3 straight buckets to put NY up by 17.

By the end of the 3rd quarter NY was up by 22 and Randle rested the entire 4th quarter — the Knicks coasting by 30 most of the way.

Said coach Tom Thibodeau on Randle: “He’s gotten comfortable against the double team, he’s become comfortable attacking zones; he’s become very efficient against the switch. And you have to guard him all over the floor; you can’t lock into him at the post or at the elbow; you have to defend him on the pick and roll, you have to defend him as a ball handler, you have to defend him as a catch and shoot guy. So there’s great versatility to his game which puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”

2. Barrett Sidekick Star

RJ Barrett played his usual brand of bully ball on both the offensive and Defensive end. He finished with 21 pts on 7-16 shooting (3-7 from 3, 4-5 free throws), 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and a +31 in 40 minutes.

Some in media on Twitter questioned 40 minutes as too long to play Barrett in the blowout. Others pointed out he’s 20 years old, and 40 minutes is not that many minutes.

As Derrick Rose said afterwards in a question about the 30 minutes he is playing a night the last few games, “People overlook practices. How do you overlook me being on the court for an hour and a half to 2 hours in practice and then talk about playing 26 minutes in a game. It makes no sense.”

3. Vintage Rose

Derrick Rose was Vintage Derrick Rose — playing North to South — driving the Knicks, penetrating, hitting the floater, hitting 3’s, and scoring 24 pts on 8-11 shooting (4-5 from 3, 4-4 in free throws) for a +35.

Elfrid Payton played well enough — and hit several floaters at the beginning of the 3rd to keep the Knicks up by double digits at the time. He had 7 pts on 3-6 shooting (1-1 from 3) in 14 minutes but it was Rose who took over this game at the point for the Knicks.

Immanuel Quickley came off the bench in the 3rd to launch 3’s and really snuff the Rockets out. Quickley had 13 pts on 5-9 shooting (3-5 from 3) for a +15 in 23 minutes.

4. Knicks DEFENSE & Rockets Tanking

The Knicks laid down their Defense throughout the game, and picked it up in the 3rd and 4th to route Houston.

The Knicks Defense snuffed Kevin Porter Jr, who had scored 50 points against Milwaukee on Thursday night. Against the Knicks, Porter had 14 points on 6-13 shooting (0-4 from 3) for a -27.

At the same time, Houston seemed almost disinterested in winning this game — clearly a loss would help them more than a win in their pursuit of the best lottery odds.

At the end of the 1st quarter and again at the end of the half, Houston had the ball with 2, and then 3 seconds left and did not take a shot, just dribbling the ball up. Kevin Porter Jr was the culprit just before the half — with 3 seconds on the clock he just dribbled it up and failed to shoot — worried about heaving one and missing, to hurt his shooting percentage, it seemed.

Houston also threw single coverage at Julius Randle all night — as pointed out by the NY Post’s Marc Berman — which seemed… counterintuitive to a team trying to win.

6. Noel Injures Ankle

The only loss on the evening for the Knicks was Nerlens Noel injuring his ankle in the 3rd quarter. He left the game playing only 11 minutes. He’ll be reevaluated on Monday. The Knicks play Monday night in Memphis and will need Noel on this road trip. Taj Gibson played 32 minutes of grit and rebounds and defense and was a +36.

With Noel out and Randle resting in the 4th, Obi Toppin got 17 minutes and played well — 5 pts and a +9.

Reggie Bullock — the invisible hero for the Knicks — had a usual efficient game — 11 pts on 4-7 shooting (3-6 from 3) for a +17 in 26 minutes.

Thibodeau emptied the bench for the last 4 minutes, giving everyone a chance to play.

The Boxscore

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