Game Preview – New York Knicks vs. Houston Rockets

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The Houston Rockets head to Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Knicks in a nationally televised matchup featuring Dwight Howard’s Garden debut as a Rocket and the second return of former Knick Jeremy Lin.

Current Records – New York Knicks (3-4) – Houston Rockets (5-4)

What to watch for - For over 20 games in the 2011-12 season, Jeremy Lin owned New York. Linsanity was the talk of a town that hadn’t cared about basketball in a while. He made Mike D’Antoni a relevant coach, and made the eighth-seeded Knicks a relevant story.

For two games last season, Lin extracted his revenge on the city that refused to re-sign him. In those contests, he averaged 17.5 points 5.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists, and the Rockets averaged a win margin of over 20 points.

For years and years, the Rockets had Dwight Howard on their mind. They tried so hard to be a part of every trade rumor that surrounded the league’s best center, but had to settle for signing him outright this past summer.

For the first time tonight, Howard enters Madison Square Garden as a member of the Rockets. It’s up to New York to slow him down enough to avenge for last year’s embarrassing losses. The Knicks have been slow out of the gate so far, but maybe last night’s victory was a sign of things to come. The Rockets haven’t looked like title contenders just yet. Something has to give.

Keys - Defending Dwight without Tyson Chandler will be a tall task. Chandler usually does a pretty good job on Howard but who will step up in his absence? There’s obviously no one on the roster that’s going to shut him down offensively, but if Andrea Bargnani can knock down a few shots to start, it’ll go a long ways towards keeping Howard out of the paint defensively.

- A lingering foot injury kept James Harden out of the Rockets visit to Philadelphia last night. He may opt to sit this one out, but if he plays, the Knicks are going to need to step up their perimeter defense, especially considering Houston’s advantage on the interior.

- Howard will probably have the Knicks in tons of foul trouble, so it’ll be important not to pick up any cheap ones. Save the fouling for inside the paint. No layups. Just ask Pat Riley.

- Without their best interior defender, the Knicks need to simply outscore teams in order to get wins. It’s a must that they come out as hot as they did last night.

- Lin has been up to his New York tricks over the last two games, putting up point totals of 31 and 34. You know he wants to prove something at MSG, so it’ll be important for the backcourt to slow him down.

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