Porzingis, surging Knicks host slumping Rockets
NEW YORK -- New York Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said he didn't bother showing his players film of their ugly loss in Boston on Oct. 24.
A week after getting handed a 110-89 loss to the Celtics, the Knicks are on a three-game winning streak and Kristaps Porzingis is creating all sorts of highlights.
Porzingis and the Knicks seek a fourth straight win Wednesday night when they host the Houston Rockets.
The Knicks are on their third three-game winning streak since Hornacek took over before last season. New York is seeking its first four-game streak since Nov. 30-Dec. 6.
New York followed up its first win of the season Friday against Brooklyn by getting a double-digit win at Cleveland Sunday. Then the Knicks swept their first back-to-back set by building a 23-point lead in the third quarter and holding on for a 116-110 win over the Denver Nuggets Monday.
"I'm very happy with the way they've responded, 0-3 you can duck your head, but I think that says something about these guys," Hornacek said. "They kept working. I think they have the belief that we're going to get there."
The Knicks also hold the belief Porzingis is going to get them wins, especially after he showcased a dominant mid-range game and tied a career high with four 3-pointers on the way to scoring a career-high 38 points on 14-of-26 shooting against the Nuggets.
Porzingis entered this season with three 30-point games in his first 138 games. After finishing off Denver with two key mid-range jumpers down the stretch, he is up to eight career 30-point games, making the 7-foot-3 forward as the first Knick to get at least five 30-point games in the first six games of a season.
"He's 7-3, what can you do?" New York forward Tim Hardaway Jr. said. "Really, he's 7-3, can handle the ball, run the wing. You can't really do much. We'll give the ball to the big man all the time as long as he's producing like this. It's great to watch and be on the floor the same time he's doing it."
Porzingis, who averaged 14.3 points as a rookie and 18.1 points in his second season, is averaging 29.3 so far by thriving in numerous areas on the floor thanks to improved strength. He is shooting 47.8 percent overall and on shots 10 to 15 feet from the basket, the Latvian is shooting 62.5 percent (20-of-32).
"I think my strength is helping my game a lot, just having my balance on all those shots, even though a lot of these shots are contested," Porzingis said. "I'm just more comfortable in the post with guards trying to get at my legs."
In three games against the Rockets, Porzingis is averaging 15.7 points and shooting 55.2 percent (16-of-29). He scored just three points nearly a year ago when Houston rolled to a 118-99 win at New York.
In his rookie season, Porzingis totaled 24 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocks in a 107-102 win at Houston on Nov. 21, 2015.
The Rockets will try to contain Porzingis after losing consecutive games for the first time this season. After dropping a 103-87 decision at Memphis on Saturday, Houston was handed a 115-107 home loss by the Philadelphia 76ers Monday.
While James Harden rebounded from shooting 6-of-19 Saturday and scored 29 points, Houston trailed by 10 after the first quarter and the lack of energy annoyed the guard.
"Terrible, terrible," Harden said. "We allowed too many easy points (in the) first and third quarter. We can't have those mental lapses on the defensive end."
"It's just like we're playing in spurts," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "There's just not an overall theme of being gritty and grinding, figuring out ways to win until we get it straight."
The Rockets are shooting 38.7 percent (62-of-160) in their last two losses. It is the first time since D'Antoni took over before last season that they have shot under 40 percent in consecutive games.
It is not just shooting plaguing the Rockets in their last two games. Turnovers and interior defense also are troublesome areas as Houston allowed 45 points off 34 giveaways and was outscored 98-64 in points in the paint during the last two games.
Those issues are resulting in a problem with picking up the pace. Last season the Rockets ranked third at 100 possessions per game but this year they are slightly below the league average at 97.5 possessions.
"We haven't done it," D'Antoni said. "We've been working at it and talking about it, trying to get better. That's the key. We can't do it otherwise."
The Rockets are 12-1 in their last 13 meetings with the Knicks. They have scored at least 100 points in each of those games.
Updated November 1, 2017