Jeremy Lin, left, and his aggressive play helped the Houston Rockets beat Raymond Felton, right, and the New York Knicks in their biggest win of the season, 131-103, Friday in Houston. (Photo : Reuters)
It was definitely a tale of two cities for the Houston Rockets (6-7) and the New York Knicks (8-3) last night in Houston's 131-103 pummeling of the Knicks at the Toyota Center in Houston.
For the Rockets, who have lost seven of their last 10 games entering last night, it was their biggest win of their young season thus far, their offensive prowess showcased by terrific offensive performances from James Harden, who led them with 33 points and Chandler Parsons, who stole the show with 31 points.
For the Knicks, whose stellar play over the last 10 games has many considering them to be legitimate NBA Championship contenders, this was unquestionably their worst performance of the season, their normally stellar defense-which has dropped to 11th in the league after blowouts in Dallas and Houston, allowing 95 points per game-nearly non-existent Friday night as they let ex-Knick Jeremy Lin and Harden victimize them all night on pick-and-roll sequences, allowing a season-worst 131 points.
Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 37 points, but only point guard Raymond Felton chipped in significantly with 17 points on offense and J.R. Smith added 12. All other scorers in single digits.
Lin, playing his former team for the first time since signing with Houston last summer, finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, three assists and four turnovers. In matching up with Raymond Felton, his replacement in the Big Apple, Felton ended up getting five more points, but Lin kept the offense energized and kinetic on a night where the Knicks were out-rebounded , 30 boards to the Rockets' 49, outscored and simply outplayed.
"Today was a big step in the right direction in the way we want to play," Lin said after the game. "The way we moved the ball on offense and spread the floor, that's something that we want to build off of."
Teammates spoke highly of Lin's play, as the ex-New York point guard played aggressively and attacked the basket all through the game as a key component in Houston's win.
"I thought this was one of Jeremy's better games," Houston interim coach Kelvin Sampson said. "He attacked and played with swagger tonight, and that was good to see."
In fact, Lin played so hard that he left a piece of himself on the court Friday-literally.
"I lost part of my tooth on the floor," said Lin, who chipped one of his front teeth while scrambling for the ball near the end of the first half.
The Knicks trailed only 55-53 with less than five minutes to play in the first half, but the Rockets went on a 16-3 run to end the half leading 72-57.
The Knicks were down by 10 in the third quarter before allowing Houston to go on a 11-0 run, capped by a 3 from Lin, to stretch the lead to 94-73 with about five minutes left in the third quarter, and the Knicks were sunk from there. New York also committed 15 turnovers, an atypical stat considering that they've been limiting their turnovers this season, and allowed 23 fast break points by Houston while getting soundly outscored in the paint 54-36, thanks to the interior play of Rockets center Omer Asik.
"They beat us in every way you can beat a team," coach Mike Woodson said after the game. "Our effort on the ball guarding -- one-on-one positions -- was awful. It started in Dallas. ... This is unacceptable. We got the record that we had because we were defending ... and now we're just trying to outscore teams."
Costly fouls by Anthony and Tyson Chandler also did not help the Knicks-a similar pattern they allowed to get into their heads when calls made by the referees against New York in their Dallas game Nov. 21 loss to Dallas, 114-111.
"That's always the frustrating part. You look at the stat sheet and you see guys 16, 17 free throws, and you look at our stats and it's two free throws, three free throws and things like that," Anthony told ESPN afterwards. "We're trying to figure out what guys are doing differently that we're not doing."
New York will get a chance to redeem themselves against Houston when Lin returns to Madison Square Garden in a Rockets-Knicks rematch on Dec. 17.