Offense stalls: Three takeaways from Saturday’s 108-88 loss to the Knicks

Dec 31, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. (1) tries to steal the ball against New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) in the first quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Offense stalls: Three takeaways from Saturday’s 108-88 loss to the Knicks

The Rockets finished 2022 by losing for the eighth time in nine games, as they dropped a 108-88 decision to the New York Knicks, who entered the game losers of five in a row. Kevin Porter finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists, but Jalen Green scored just 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting to go with five turnovers.

Offense craters after fast start

The Rockets shot 61% and drained eight 3’s in a 35-points first quarter and followed it up with a 14-point second that saw them shoot 6-of-22 from the field, 1-of-12 from behind the 3-point line, and commit 12 turnovers.

For the night, the Rockets shot just 38% from the field and committed 25 turnovers, leading to 37 Knicks points. The Rockets played without Alperen Sengun after he was a late scratch. Bruno Fernando started in his place and provided nothing for them offensively, finishing the game with one point in 21 minutes.

Can’t stop Julius Randle

With Jalen Brunson and R.J. Barrett unavailable due to injuries, the Knicks were going to rely heavily on their leading scorer, and he came through for them in a big way. Randle led the Knicks with 35 points, and while he only shot 9-of-20 from the field, the Knicks forward lived at the free throw line, attempting 16 on the night, way up from the 6.7 free throw attempts he averaged entering the game.

The free throws were big, not just because they gave the Knicks easy points, but they got the Rockets into foul trouble, most notably Jabari Smith Jr., who picked up three fouls in the game’s first seven minutes.

Depth gets tested

Alperen Sengun was a late scratch due to low back soreness, and with Smith in foul trouble, the Rockets were forced to go deep into their bench to counter a Knicks team that almost always plays with two bigs on the floor.

Bruno Fernando and Usman Garuba played their normal minutes at center, but Stephen Silas eventually had to turn to little-used Boban Marjanovic, who made both of his shots in four minutes. The Rockets shifted to a zone defense while he was in the game, and they outscored the Knicks by one while he was out there, but the offense cratered without Smith on the floor as Stephen Silas was forced to play Usman Garuba at power forward.

Next up

The Rockets will open the 2023 portion of their schedule when they take on the Dallas Mavericks for the third time in 11 days on Monday night inside Toyota Center.

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