Few games will be as easy as beating the New York Knicks this season, as the Houston Rockets led by James Harden become the next in the long line of teams that had fun with the worst group assembled in the NBA, winning 120-96.
Fans with paper bags on their heads. Derek Fisher delivering comedic speeches you’d think won’t motivate 12 year-olds. More than anything, a list of players that simply looks like it doesn’t belong in this league, not in the roles they’re playing right now. There are too many injuries on the Knicks to call it the “real” them but this is what happens when someone who should be ninth or 10th on a team’s rotation gets to start.
Not that it should bother the Rockets, feeling no mercy or remorse, picking up a second consecutive win. James Harden scored 25 points with 9 assists, leading seven different players in double figure scoring. Trevor Ariza was finally on target, hitting four 3-pointers to finish with 18 points, Donatas Motiejunas had a very easy time in the paint with 17, Patrick Beverley was on fire from beyond the arc and Jason Terry off the bench, both scoring 14, Dwight Howard scored 13 points on only six field goal attempts and Corey Brewer scored 11 points.
Their most important player off the bench, Josh Smith, didn’t even have to be good. He took only three shots, finishing with 2 points. Smith apparently asked to come off the bench because he needs more practice. The Rockets do seem better when he’s not starting, but it’ll be interesting to see if his ego won’t start bugging him to start at some point, regardless of how well the team does.
So the Knicks lost for the 14th straight time. More than ever before, they’re simply irrelevant to the narrative of the season, which is probably the worse thing you can say about a basketball team and a group of athletes.
The Houston Rockets are probably done adding pieces to the team, and from here will need to be about more than good or bad nights from Harden. There’s no excuse about not being close to contending for the Western conference. Not for Kevin McHale, and not for the rest of the supporting cast, which has a future hall of fame center and someone like Smith, who has the All-Star kind of talent, but now needs to show he has the attitude as well to do his job and not take over the show.