Sunday, March 3, 2024
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NBA Preview: New York Knicks (33-20) at Houston Rockets (23-29)

Putting aside everything the New York Knicks have accomplished this season, there still is no denying — in the aftermath of their home loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday — that their margin for error is small.

New York embarks on a three-game road trip starting Monday against the Houston Rockets that wraps around the All-Star break.

The Knicks were without starting forwards Julius Randle (shoulder) and OG Anunoby (elbow) in their 125-111 setback to Indiana, as well as the center duo of Mitchell Robinson (ankle) and Isaiah Hartenstein (Achilles), leaving an already small rotation even more undersized.

Blend in the integration of Alec Burks and Bojan Bogdanovic — both of whom joined the Knicks at the trade deadline last Thursday — and the result is a team that is understandably disoriented.

Defense, rebounding prowess and general grit have come to define the Knicks this season, but only so much can be accomplished through moxie alone. The Knicks have dropped three of four contests since their nine-game winning streak propelled them near the top of the Eastern Conference standings. The absence of so many key contributors is serving as a detriment to progress.

The Rockets are embroiled in a similar battle against attrition.

Houston was without four rotation players against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, adding center Alperen Sengun (back) and breakout rookie Cam Whitmore (ankle) to an injured list that already included Fred VanVleet (adductor) and Tari Eason (leg). The result was a fourth consecutive loss for Houston, which dropped to 2-10 in its last 12 road games with its 122-113 defeat.

With Sengun, the Rockets’ leading scorer and rebounder, missing his first game this season, Houston surrendered 38 second-quarter points en route to blowing an early double-digit lead. Jalen Green recorded his first career triple-double (26 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists) for the Rockets, whose yeoman effort wasn’t sufficient enough to stem a losing tide.

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