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Jeremy Lin loves New York, Knicks weak transition defense. Rockets cruise to win.

Dec 17, 2012, 10:52 PM EDT

Houston Rockets Lin defended by New York Knicks Chandler in first quarter of NBA basketball game in New York Reuters

The obvious line is easy — Jeremy Lin has always been at his best when playing in Madison Square Garden with Carmelo Anthony out.

The reality is that Jeremy Lin and his Rocket teammates are perfectly suited to expose some of the Knicks weaknesses. And some new troubling Knicks trends.

The result was Lin, James Harden and the rest of an aggressive Rockets team ran right past the Knicks, exposed their transition defense, attacked the paint and eventually handed the Knicks their first home loss of the season. Easily. The final 109-96 score made the game look closer than it was.

Lin had 22 points, 8 assists and pushed the tempo early (he had 16 and 4 of those final numbers in the first half) and was key for the Rockets to pull away from New York in the second quarter. Lin had one of his best games of the season. James Harden chipped in 28. Carlos Delfino 16 off the bench on 4-of-7 from three.

On one hand, the Knicks can write this game off. Forget it. Flush it. No Carmelo Anthony (out with an ankle injury still), no Rasheed Wallace, no Marcus Camby. Just call it an off night and move on.

But there are a few things that the Knicks should take notice out of this.

One is transition defense — New York came into this game 27th in the NBA in points per possession allowed to the other team in transition. Which is a bad matchup with the Rockets who play at the NBA’s fastest pace (99.6 possessions per game, nearly two faster than second place Dallas).

The result was, just as did their first meeting, this game felt like a 1980s throwback where the fast teams ran on everything — makes, misses, turnovers whatever. It worked for the Rockets at first as they started out 7-of-10 shooting because they attacked in transition — 16 of their first 17 points came in the paint. Houston pushed out to a nine-point lead in a signs of things to come.

But two things turned it around for a stretch — the Knicks played a spurt of better transition defense, and more importantly J.R. Smith shot 5-of-5 in the quarter off the bench and had 12 points. It was 31-29 Knicks after one quarter, one where the Knicks shot 63.3 percent themselves. It felt like we were in store for another shootout between these teams.

But the Knicks start second quarter 0-of-6, they couldn’t sustain an offensive surge without Anthony.

Meanwhile the Rockets just kept attacking — 30 or Rockets first 42 points came in the paint. They pushed lead out to 45-34. Jason Kidd was on Harden for a while and that didn’t work for New York and the lead grew. It was 56-42 Rockets at the half, Lin and Harden each with 16 on a combined 11-18 shooting with six assists. By the end of the third quarter it was a 23-point Rocket lead.

This off night defensively was not some out of the blue fluke by the Knicks — they came into this having allowed 110.2 points per 100 possessions in their last five games (via stats). That is 26th in the NBA over that stretch and well off their 102.6 season average.

The Knicks have not played great defense of late and the Rockets exposed it. This is the kind of thing you expect Mike Woodson and Tyson Chandler to work to fix in the coming weeks. Not let it grow, not let bad habits develop.

Knicks fans looking for a bright spot, there was 29 points on 19 shots and a lot of hustle from Chris Copleland. J.R. Smith finished with 17, Chandler had 14 rebounds.

For the Rockets, maybe this is a step forward for Lin, who has struggled this season. He did well when he was paired with Harden in this game and he attacked. Of course, the Rockets went on a 16-3 run when it was just Lin on the court in the second quarter, no Harden. But baby steps, this was better than it had been.

Or maybe Lin just plays his best in the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.

  1. eflem80 - Dec 17, 2012 at 11:11 PM

    Absolutely meaningless game. I’ve been hoping they lose at home for a couple games now simply because I didn’t want it to come when Amare came back them have to read stupid articles from this telling us how it’s all Amare’s fault. all of the “1st” are all out the way, 1st loss, 1st home loss, loss to Brooklyn, ect….just play ball. It’s just a game in December, good for Jeremy though…kid deserves it.

    • saint1997 - Dec 18, 2012 at 1:12 AM

      You know that everyone is gonna bag out STAT regardless

    • cramsinned - Dec 18, 2012 at 10:27 AM

      But when the Knicks beat the Heat twice, fans are over reacting, its just a regular season win

      • cbking05 - Dec 18, 2012 at 11:10 AM

        I think it means soemthing to beat the Heat Twice in the regular season …playoff implications are a big part of that.

      • cramsinned - Dec 18, 2012 at 1:00 PM

        Just like when the bulls swept the heat on 2010 season and they got torched by the heat on the playoffs

  2. metalhead65 - Dec 17, 2012 at 11:13 PM

    no need to try and diminish the game lin had by talk of knicks injuries. he came he saw and kicked their ass! the only thing they did to try and slow him down was a cheap by chandler but it did not faze lin or the rockets. injuries are part of the game and the knicks had won 4 in a row so stop your whining and take the loss like a man.

  3. biasedhomer - Dec 17, 2012 at 11:29 PM

    Knicks won’t be able to keep up the pace anyway, do you see how high their 3p% is? It should go back to the norm as the season progresses.

  4. dinklespiel - Dec 18, 2012 at 12:11 AM

    Maybe Jeremy could play a few more games like that this season. Please?

  5. jimmygrahamchrisivory - Dec 18, 2012 at 12:11 AM

    As I said before, Houston’s coaches needs to feature Lin and Harden more like this every game consistently and they’ll be more than just a .500 team. This just further proves that. 50+ combined points by those two every night going forward would put them amongst the top teams in the West

  6. yousuxxors - Dec 18, 2012 at 12:20 AM

    Their 3 pt % is so high because they have great shooters and there good looks. Its not like they are just jacking up threes.

    • scalfor3 - Dec 18, 2012 at 11:50 AM

      Yeah, it makes sense that they are a good 3 shooting team, but 56% (or whatever crazy number it is) is simply not sustainable. Expecting four different shooters to stay red hot the entire year is ludicrous.

  7. limonadamas - Dec 18, 2012 at 12:28 AM

    Who’s Chris Copeland? He just put up Melo numbers! Does NYK have another dynamite rookie like they did last year with Shump? Crazy…

  8. badintent - Dec 18, 2012 at 1:01 AM

    “I ‘LL BE BACK “… Lin the Terminator

  9. rickyspanish - Dec 18, 2012 at 1:18 AM


    What’s the dilly?

    • heat256 - Dec 18, 2012 at 10:46 AM

      She’s out editing the 2012-2013 Knicks highlights, which will be their two wins vs MIA, but will “accidentally” omit their 1st round playoff exit against the Nets

  10. golewgo2 - Dec 18, 2012 at 2:07 AM

    Springfield bound not Canton, unless I’m missing the sarcasm .

  11. 00maltliquor - Dec 18, 2012 at 3:24 AM

    Look at the pic…Chandler tryna end Lin’s season! No love!

  12. fanofevilempire - Dec 18, 2012 at 7:03 AM

    Houston has our #, they match up good with the Knicks, next time we meet could be finals so…….
    Melo was out, Amare too, short bench.
    I want to beat Brooklyn and start a new streak.
    No worries here!

  13. lemfaxx - Dec 18, 2012 at 7:29 AM

    Good thing. He minimize his TO compared to last year. Keep up the good work kid

  14. skids003 - Dec 18, 2012 at 7:49 AM

    Come on, Kurt. If sheed and Camby had’ve played, they would have gotten beat worse..

  15. dman6015 - Dec 18, 2012 at 8:22 AM

    It’s just “Lin-sane”!

  16. dysraw1 - Dec 18, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    a tough lost on a december night, nothing to start running two a days over.very short handed.but no excuses

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