The Houston Rockets (5-3) are in the middle of their first losing skid of the season after they lost 115-107 at home to the Philadelphia 76ers. James Harden had 29 points while Eric Gordon added 25 after returning from illness. However, it was an offensive struggle for the Rockets, who shot under 40 percent from the floor as a team and 28 percent from beyond the arc.
Meanwhile, the New York Knicks (3-3) are suddenly on a three-game winning streak after starting the season 0-3. Kristaps Porzingis had another monster performance as he put up a career-high 38 points on 14-of-26 shooting with seven rebounds against the Nuggets. Porzingis has now scored 30 or more points in five of his first six games this season.
Three keys to the game
Slowing down the stars – All eyes will obviously be on the two big stars, Harden and Porzingis, and the key for both defenses will be to slow those guys down. The Rockets at least have options to throw at Porzingis with PJ Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute. However, the Knicks don’t have anyone who can cover Harden one-on-one, so they need to defend much better as a team.
Supporting casts – Porzingis and Harden have been doing the heavy lifting for their respective teams, but it would be nice if some of their teammates can step up and take some of that burden away from them. Porzingis, in particular, could do with significantly more help than what he’s been getting early on.
Battle of the boards – Something’s got to give when the Rockets (the second-best defensive rebounding team in the league) face the Knicks (the best offensive rebounding team in the league). The Knicks are not nearly the efficient offense the Rockets can be, but they can make up for it by getting more opportunities to score.
Matchup to watch
Clint Capela vs Enes Kanter – Clint Capela will have his hands full keeping the Knicks bigs off the offensive glass. Enes Kanter, in particular, has been one of the best offensive rebounds since coming into the league, so their battle inside will be a particularly interesting one to watch.
Rockets projected starting lineup
PG – James Harden | SG – Eric Gordon | SF – Trevor Ariza | PF – Ryan Anderson | C – Clint Capela
Knicks projected starting lineup
PG – Jarrett Jack | SG – Courtney Lee | SF – Tim Hardaway Jr. | PF – Kristaps Porzingis | C – Enes Kanter
Porzingis can do no wrong at the moment. He’s playing at an insanely high level, and will now go up against a Rockets team that will provide him with a few more extra possessions and come up with another huge fantasy night.
The reeling Rockets should be out to snap their losing skid. While the Knicks have done well to win three in a row, Houston are still the better team and should have enough to win and cover as five-point road favorites.
The Rockets end the Knicks’ win streak with a 114-107 win.
This game will be broadcast on ESPN. Tip-off is at Madison Square Garden at 8:00 pm Eastern.
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