I’ve been so engrossed with the Eastern Conference standings–and the Knicks’ rise therein (smile)–that I had no clue as to what kind of season Houston was having. I was surprised to see Houston sitting in 7th place–ahead of Utah and New Orleans– in a very tough Western Conference. I honestly expected Houston to struggle this year after losing Artest to free agency, Yao-Ming to injury, and McGrady to micro fracture recovery and later to his ego.
I actually had to do a double take as I prepared for this game preview because of how similar New York is the Houston on offense. The team have nearly identical offensive efficiency ratings, and they are very close in eFG%. Even their pace is nearly the same with 94 for New York and 93.3 for Houston (9th and 11th respectively). The turnover ratio is about even, ditto for FT/FG ratio. The similarities continue on defense. This game may turn out to be like the epic (but cheesy) Clark Kent v. Superman duel. New York comes in on a 3 game win streak. Houston dropped its last three–all road games to conference rivals. 3 of Houston’s last 4 losses–all on the road–are a direct result of Houston’s inability to score consistently. The Knicks might want to keep that in mind tonight.
What to watch for: Wilson Chandler.
I called for Wilson to show up big time against Charlotte’s super defender Wallace and Wilson answered the call. Chandler will need to play well again against Battier and Ariza. I’d love to see Wilson continue what he has done over the last 10 games that being get to the cup. Houston lacks a shot blocker, they started Chuck Hayes at center this season. Carl Landry leads the team with 1.2 blocks per 36. So Wilson, and the rest of the crew need to try to get inside. We may not have Harrington tonight so we need another solid game from Wilson.
What to watch for 2: Three point shooting, Gallanari this means you.
Houston is right in the middle of the NBA in opponent 3pfg% allowing teams to connect on 34.6% of attempts. New York should look to exploit this defensive weakness in tandem with Houston’s lack of a shot blocker. Good ball movement will help the team find open looks outside and inside.
What to watch for 3: Aaron Brooks.
Brooks is second on the team in PT/36 (19.2), he leads the team in assists–20.3 AST-R (about the league average). Brooks is quick he takes about 6 3ptfg per game and he hits a good clip (39%). New York should look to keep a fast player on Brooks. If Nate Robinson was a stronger face up defender and less of a lane hawking gambler, I’d lobby for him to stick Brooks. Perhaps Duhon’s size advantage will be enough.