Lin is one of the better if not one of the best Point Guard defenders

During Linsanity, a lot of critics (especially the Haters) complained about Lin’s poor defense. I think this had more to do with them trying to find things to criticize Lin on. I always felt that Lin’s defense was highly underrated and he’s clearly showing that this year. I think last year, a big reason why Lin’s defense didn’t shine through was because of D’Antoni’s system, which encouraged a lot of switching on defense, rather than on ball defense. When Woodson took over, Lin showcased some of his defensive capabilities, because he was encouraged to fight through screens and stick to his man, rather than switching. But by that time, his unjust reputation as a poor defender, thanks to the Haters who just couldn’t see how an Asian kid could stop any NBA player, was already ingrained.

McHale is big on defense. I think that’s what McHale cares about the most, which is ironic, because Houston is such a high-scoring team. I think McHale and a lot of Houston fans are starting to come around on Lin’s defensive prowess. In fact, it’s a big reason why McHale has left Lin in the game in the most recent stretches of games where Lin has struggled offensively. He has seen Lin shutting down guys like Vasquez and even Westbrook (these guys went off on Douglas and that’s how they were able to get the bulk of their scoring and get a rhythm going).

Last year, I thought Lin was a highly underrated defender. This year, I think he’s one of the best complete defenders in his position. Lin has always been a good help defender (sometimes helping too much), but what I’m  seeing this year is that Lin is also a great on-ball defender. The only time Lin has trouble is when he’s defending a mouse like Nate Robinson. Lin is actually better defending bigger men. I’m not as familiar with other Point Guard’s defensive abilities (I assume Rose and Rondo are good), so I can’t say definitively if Lin should be included in the NBA All-Defensive Team, but I think he should definitely be in the conversation. My concern is that because of his reputation and because Lin doesn’t look the part, he won’t be recognized for his defense.

As a tribute to Lin’s defense, I’ve compiled some of his best defensive efforts here (in no particular order) and would really appreciate you adding to the list.

I still remember this defense by Lin from last season against the Bucks in which he single-handedly forced Jennings to put up a horrendous air ball with the game on the line and the clock winding down. Unfortunately, the Bucks got a lucky loose ball tip in by Ilyasova. This is, perhaps, my favorite Lin defensive effort, because of how critical the possession was. At 3:50 in this video:

Of course, everyone remembers the block on Rose. He also had a great steal on Rose in that game:

Lin good help defense, strips Nowitzki (at 1:18):

Lin good help defense block on Josh Smith:

Lin’s defense on Kobe and the Lakers. One of my favorite defensive efforts by Lin is the one where he forced Kobe to throw up a shot falling out of bounds on the baseline behind the backboard. Lin also provided good help defense on Metta World Peace in this video and at 2:04, he provided good help defense on Kobe to force a rare air ball. It’s no wonder that in last night’s game, Kobe respected Lin’s defense and played very cautiously when Lin was on him. I remember a possession in the third quarter when Lin was guarding Kobe one-on-one, which Lin did a quite a bit in the second half of this game, and Kobe kept hesitating and finally put up a deep fade away over Lin which missed.

Lin is actually even better when he’s defending bigger men on-on-one. Here’s a great example of Lin giving 6′ 10″ Gallinario all kinds of trouble, forcing Gallinari to put up a horrendous prayer with the shot clock winding down at 4:36:

Good helpd defense to take the ball away from Bosh at 2:01. Draws an offensive foul in transition on Cole at 2:36. Lin does this quite a bit, which is very difficult to do in transition. It requires a great deal of anticipation to get there in time and a willingness to be completely still and sacrifice your body, which Lin has no qualms about. I love this defensive effort by Lin one-on-one at 2:56 on Lebron. Lebron thought he would get an easy drive to the hoop, but Lin forces him to lose the ball.

Good help defense on Zach Randolph to force a jump ball at 2:48. And at 3:23, Lin is a pest to Randolph again.

Lin forces a Nash travel, which the refs didn’t call at 7:29, after Lin woke up from his 1st half slumber in last night’s game against the Lakers. At 8:20, Lin blocks Nash. Kobe respecting Lin’s defense and hesitates when Lin is on him at 11:15, putting up a deep fade-away, rather than trying to drive on Lin. At 14:34, Lin single-handedly forces Metta World Peace to put up a horrendous short-distance air ball one-on-one.

Great help defense by Lin on Nash to force a jump ball at 2:20. The level of difficulty here is very high, because it could have easily been a foul if Lin didn’t have quick hands and perfect anticipation.


Houston Wins 5th Straight in Battle of the Back Court Vs. Lakers

Without Lakers’s three Bigs, I expected tonight’s game to be the battle of the back court. Kobe defied my expectations by not going for 50. Instead, Kobe decided to be a team player for most of the game until the 4th quarter. The Rockets won the battle of the back court with Linharden combining for 50 points (31 for Harden and 19 for Lin) and Kobe/Nash combining for 36 (an uncharacteristic 20 for Kobe and 16 for Nash). Linharden did get edged out in assists by three. I expected this match up to be pretty even, but in the first half, it looked like Nash was going to get the better of Lin.

I was very disappointed in Lin in the first half. He was so tentative the entire time. It was like he forgot how to play. He immediately dropped off the ball in the perimeter and didn’t drive or even try to make any plays, despite the lack of Howard on the floor, although Sacre did a solid job of blocking shots. Lin looked like he looked earlier in the season. I’m not sure what he was thinking. There were many situations where he looked very hesitant. All his actions were tentative and he gave up his dribble prematurely. It was like his mind and body weren’t in sync. He stopped dribbling almost in mid dribble at the perimeter and then wasn’t sure what to do with the ball. I’m not sure if he was nervous in front of his former coach or what. But Lin looked so hesitant in the first half and I wasn’t surprised at all that McHale quickly replaced him in the first quarter. I think McHale did the right thing, because Lin wasn’t playing his game and sometimes players need some reminding. Again, I was really surprised in the faith that McHale had in Lin. I expected McHale to bench Lin for much of the game, but he stuck with Lin and it payed off in a big way. So I think it seems as if McHale is letting Lin play through his mistakes and is starting to believe in Lin’s clutch genes. Lin finally played aggressively in the second half like he was supposed to do the entire game. I’m sure he got a talking from from McHale during halftime, because during one of the time outs in the third quarter, McHale had a very positive exchange with Lin–probably telling Lin that that’s the way he’s supposed to play all the time.

One major thing that I’ve noticed about Lin is that he starts out the game really not wanting to do much. I think it’s because Lin wants to take time to get a sense for what the defense is giving him. So I think he spends the first quarter studying the game. I think as a result, the Rockets tend to start out slowly. I think the Rockets coaching staff probably notice this about Lin, also. I don’t know if they’re going to do anything about it. Lin rarely plays aggressively from the get go. He usually is tentative in the beginning and takes it easy then starts playing more aggressively as the game develops. Also, Lin is more concerned about getting his teammates going in the first quarter and, as a result, he sacrifices his game. But I think this is counterproductive, because when Lin plays aggressively, he makes his teammates better.

Another thing I’ve noticed about Lin is the fact that when he drives into the lane, his first thought is to pass the ball out, rather than to score the ball. This is the complete opposite of what guys like Harden or Melo do. I think this is why Lin is not as great at finishing, because he’s not singularly focused on scoring when he’s driving to the basket. This is a tough one to rectify, because on the one hand, you want Lin to be a distributor and get other guys involved, but I think he does this a little too much and  passes up a lot of potential scoring opportunities when he’s so close to the rim. If Lin is more focused on scoring in those situations, rather than turning around in mid air and passing the ball out, then I think he’ll be able to put himself in position to draw fouls more often, like Harden. I think Lin makes it too easy on the defender when he keeps driving all the way in and then passing the ball out. The problem is, when you’re not focused on scoring, you don’t see the shot so you pass it out. But if you’re focused on scoring, then you’ll see the shot or ways to draw fouls. During Linsanity, Lin struck a perfect balance between scoring and distributing and if you recall Lin was great at drawing fouls. He has many opportunities to draw a lot of fouls this season, but he just ends up turning away from the basket to pass the ball out after he did all the hard work of getting into the paint. It’s just a mental shift. One of the reasons why pure scorers like Melo is so lethal is that when he has the ball, he’s purely focused on all the ways in which he will put the ball through the hoop and, as a result, he finds a way to do it. Now, I’m not saying that Lin should be like Melo, because that’s not Lin’s game. But I’m saying that Lin needs to focus a little more on scoring when he’s driving to the lane, rather than dishing when he’s driving to the lane. I’m not sure if this is something the Rockets have caught onto about Lin. I’m not even sure if Lin realizes this about himself. He should, because during Linsanity, he did a great job of balancing scoring with making plays. I think with Harden, Lin thinks he should focus more on distributing, rather than scoring. But I think he needs to find a better balance.

Tonight’s game was very illustrative of these things that I’ve pointed out about Lin. The first half and second half were two different Lins. In the first half, when Lin drove into the lane, he didn’t think about scoring at all. In the second half, Lin drove into the lane to score. Lin needs to play like how he played in the second half of tonight’s game. It also helped that Lin’s shot fell tonight.

Someone else who got his shot back was Parsons. That was great to see, because Parsons has been struggling with his shot for quite a while. Parsons had a lot of patience tonight with his shot and they really looked good. He did say that he felt good in the shoot around in the pregame interview, so I was happy to see it translating in the game.

Harden, once again, was magnificent. 31 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds. Harden has had an amazing string of games (13 consecutive 25+ point games), but this one has to be one of his best. He embarrassed Kobe on several possessions. I’m sure that felt good.

Delfino continues to be a big factor off the bench (5 of 7 from 3-point) to finish with 19 points, including back-back nearly identical shots from beyond the arc in the first quarter. Both were feeds from Harden. I felt that he really kept the Rockets in the game when they needed it the most. Fun fact, Delfino had the highest +/- of any NBA player last week with +64.

It was funny, late in the first quarter, I casually asked why Delfino hasn’t checked in yet and right on cue McHale put him in. I’ve been giving McHale a lot of credit, lately, for sticking with Lin, even in games when Lin has struggled. I also need to give McHale credit for his coaching overall. I think McHale does a great job of really letting the guys do what they do best and just getting out of their ways (with the big exception of Lin early on in the season). He also understands match ups very well and is very versatile about the line ups and will make quick line up changes depending on the flow of the game. It’s very critical for coaches to be able to do that, because this is how coaches have a direct impact on the game. So far McHale has really impressed me with this skill. Also, the fact that the Rockets were able to turn around that Bucks game so dramatically is a testament to McHale. I’ve always believed that the third quarter belongs to the coaches, because that’s the quarter after they’ve had a chance to digest the game and make adjustments during half-time. Good coaches make the right adjustments and find ways of firing up their squad.

During Linsanity, when Melo returned and the Knicks went on like a six game losing streak or something, they did terribly in the third quarter. And that was one of the big clues to me that D’Antoni is not a very good coach. I’ve complained about D’Antoni’s coaching in previous posts last season, so no need to rehash it here. But just thought I’d bring it up as a point of contrast to McHale, who I think is a very good coach. Even when he didn’t know how to play Lin, I didn’t complain about his coaching. I only complained about his lack of confidence in Lin and how he was playing Lin. But I wasn’t ready to call him a bad coach because of it. I just didn’t know enough about McHale’s coaching at the time. But now that I’ve had many games to see how he coaches in different situations, I have to say that I’ve been quite impressed. I like his half-court offense, because it caters well to a team with great play makers in Lin and Harden. McHale keeps it simple, but not so simple that it’s predictable. McHale also has the soft skills to motivate his players, which is extremely important. This is something D’Antoni completely lacks and this is the biggest reason why I’ve never been high on D’Antoni–even during Linsanity. And it’s why, if you recall from my previous posts, that I thought D’Antoni coaching the Lakers was going to be a disaster.

Anyway, another great win for the Rockets. This game could have been a wild card, because you got a wounded animal that’s really hungry. I’m just glad that we were able to tame it in the second half with a combined 23 points from Linharden in the fabulous third quarter.

Good Post-Game Interview with Lin (at 00:24 Lin talks about what goes on during halftime):

Love this And 1 by Lin. It started with a Linharden screen, which I’ve been calling for from day one (but it took McHale a while to figure out). What I liked about this play is that the Linharden screen didn’t work out, but Harden didn’t give up. He just threw it right back to Lin and Lin just when HAM for the And 1. The excitement from Lin and his teammates after the shot reminded me a lot of Linsanity.

Rockets Put Away Bucks in Second Half — Good Mental Win for Rockets

The Rockets looked very sluggish in the first half of this game–it was the most sluggish they’ve looked in a while, I thought. I was concerned about this game and was pretty sure the Rockets would lose the game by halftime, but the fan in me was hoping that they’d talk things over and come out running in the second half. I missed the first half of the third quarter, so not sure how they managed to cut the Bucks lead to 3. It looks like they had some help from the Bucks who couldn’t hit a basket and kept turning the ball over–at least that’s what the announcers were saying.

Lin had one of his worst games in a while. I didn’t see what he did in the third quarter when he got hurt. I only saw him again in the fourth quarter with the five stitches. Lin did manage to turn things up in the fourth quarter. I thought he got robbed when he was called for a foul jumping for a lose ball against Udoh (I think it was) in the fourth. I don’t see how he could have possibly fouled Udoh (he had his back to Udoh). It looked like he just out jumped Udoh and knocked away a loose ball. But I think the refs just didn’t believe that Lin could out jump Udoh, so they just called a foul. They didn’t replay the foul, so I can’t really say for sure that Lin didn’t foul Udoh. Anyway, not a big deal, since that didn’t end up being a factor in the game. I gotta give McHale props again for sticking with Lin and putting Lin on the court to finish the game in the fourth quarter. Douglas did well, so I thought McHale might end up benching Lin in the fourth. I wouldn’t have blamed McHale for benching Lin tonight. But he didn’t and it paid off. Lin played aggressively in the fourth quarter and racked up a lot of assists. Lin is still passing out a little too much when he gets in the lane. He should learn to draw fouls like Harden. The key is to keep the ball high and dare the defender to knock the ball out of your hands. This is what Harden does and the defender often ends up hitting his arm when they try and swat the ball. The refs see it and they call a foul. Refs look for these things, so it’s an easy call for them to make. Lin’s problem is that he often brings the ball down to adjust to the defender’s hand position. As a result, he forces up a wild shot or he has no shot, because the ball is in too awkward of a position (down by his waist) to put up a shot. So Lin just passes it out to a shooter. It’s fine if he does this a fair number of times, but he does it a little too much–especially in tonight’s game.

Tonight’s win was a good mental win for the Rockets. They were able to finish strong on the road after a very sluggish start against a dangerous team. It was a good test for this young squad and they passed. They had some help from the Bucks, who played terribly in the second half. After the first half, I thought it was going to be one of those games that the Rockets were just going to let themselves get rolled over. We couldn’t get anything going in the first half. I think our stagnant ball movement had a lot to do with Lin not playing aggressively in the first half. A lot of our guys also couldn’t hit shots. So for them to turn it around so completely in the second half on the road is a good mental win. In the second half, they looked like the team that they’ve been since the Knicks game. I couldn’t recognize them in the first half. It was painful to watch.

Rockets have a bunch of road games in January with very little practice time, so I’m hoping they’re at a stage now where they have a clear sense of their identity and can continue to play their game without constant reminding from the coaching staff. In the first half of tonight’s game, it looked like they forgot who they were. There was no ball movement and no player movement. So I’m very happy that they needed only a locker room halftime session to turn things around in dramatic fashion.

A big night for Delfino. He got some revenge on his team. So, so far every Rockets player has had revenge on their former team, except Harden (and Aldrich/Cook). I was anticipating that Delfino would have a big night tonight and he delivered. He finished with 22 point, including a drive in dunk. He was nearly perfect from three point (6 – 7) and shot 8 of 11 from the field. Harden was magnificent, once again. He’s been performing at such a high level for like 10+ consecutive games. Harden and Lin both had four steals, each. Douglas also had a great game, including 6 quick  and easy fast break lay ins to finish with 18 points. Also, it’s so great to see 2Pat back in form. He’s had two great consecutive games off the bench and is showing that he deserves his starting job back. At the beginning of the game, I thought McHale should have started 2Pat over Morris, because I thought 2Pat would have matched up better with the guy the Bucks decided to start, which was Udoh, I believe. I wanted McHale to quickly switch Morris out for 2Pat after Morris committed an early foul, but he didn’t. Who knows, we may even have played better in the first half if 2Pat was starting. We’ll see what happens going forward. I don’t think the coaching staff themselves know who they want for the starting job. Maybe they’ll keep things fluid and decide on who to start, depending on the match up or maybe on who has the hot hand. Right now, with Delfino, 2Pat, Smith, and Douglas, we have a pretty solid second unit. We even got to see the new guy Anderson tonight. I don’t know much about this guy, but if he is a solid perimeter shooter, then he’ll fit in just fine with our club. I’m hoping he can give Harden some rest. We’ll see. It’s unfortunate that we won’t have too many practices coming up to get Anderson up to speed. As a result, I’m not sure how much of him we’ll see. Hopefully, we take care of business against the Cavs early tomorrow and Anderson can get some burn to see what he can do. Tonight, I saw him forcing up a shot that he shouldn’t have taken in garbage time. By the way, the Rockets did horribly in garbage time tonight.

The Boy with the Dragon Tattoo:

Lin Dragon Tatoo

Harden joins in on Lin and Parson’s pregame “handshake”:

Good Article on Lin and Harden Synergy


Here’s a link to the article:

Lin and Harden are paying dividends for Rockets: NBA A-Z

Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports8:58p.m. EST January 2, 2013

One month into the 2012-13 NBA season, the James Harden-Jeremy Lin backcourt for the Houston Rockets sputtered.

It reached a point where some analysts suggested the Rockets might be better off bringing Lin off the bench. At $8.3 million perseason, that was one expensive backup point guard.

There were traditional and advanced statistics to prove Harden and Lin weren’t clicking. In the first month of the season:

  • The Rockets scored 102.8 points per 100 possessions, allowed 102.7 points per 100 possessions, shot 43.6% from the field, including 35.2% on three-pointers, and averaged 97.75 possessions per every 48 minutes.
  • With Lin on the bench, the Rockets averaged 103.9 points per 100 possessions, allowed 100.8 points per 100 possessions and shot 42.5% from the field. With Lin on the court, Houston averaged 102.4 points per 100 possessions, allowed 103.5 points per 100 possessions and shot 44% from the field.
  • With Lin and Harden on the court at the same time, the Rockets averaged 102.5 points per 100 possessions, allowed 104.2 points per 100 possessions and Harden was a minus-3. With Lin on the bench and Harden on the court, the Rockets averaged 104.9 points per 100 possessions, allowed 96.3 points per 100 possessions and Harden was a plus-20.

Now, 15 games is a small sample size for sure, but the early returns suggested Lin and Harden weren’t the dynamic combo the Rockets expected.

But beyond a small sample, a series of other factors were neglected. Harden was acquired just before the start of the regular season and didn’t have a training camp to work with Lin and his new teammates. Lin was in his first season as the known starter headed into Game 1 and was learning a new offense with new teammates on a very young team. Houston’s opening-night starting five included Harden (fourth season), Lin (third season), Omer Asik (third season), Marcus Morris (second season) and Chandler Parsons (second season).

Rockets coach Kevin McHale understood it required time and patience, with patience being the most trying part.

“Until the team really understands how you play – every team has a style and a lot of teams are trying to find that style – but once you find out what works, you have to be dedicated to doing it,” McHale said. “I liken back to Houston and the old Hakeem Olajuwon days. The team didn’t one day all of sudden say, ‘We’re never going to throw the ball to Hakeem tonight. We’re going to ice him out. We’re going to come down shot jumpers.’ They threw the ball to him every single time because that was their style.

“Our style has to be ball movement, moving the ball side to side. You’re going to have turnovers the way we play. We just can’t be throwing the ball to the other team. … But we have to play our style.”

When the Rockets didn’t play well, he pinpointed the reasons.

“The ball was too sticky on offense, too many mistakes defensively. … There’s a lot of teams in the league that are young, asking the same question,” McHale said. “A lot of guys are searching for themselves, trying to figure out who they are. When you pass all of that, it just makes it easier to play basketball. There are times when guys are searching for their offense. The ball gets sticky. Guys are looking to say, ‘Hey, I have to get off.’ ”

However, in December – the second month of the season – signs appeared that Lin and Harden can make it work as they found a better balance between who had the ball and their attacking natures. Lin likes to attack with finesse and the idea that he can pass to open shooters on the perimeter. Harden likes to attack with force and draw fouls.

Take a look at some of the numbers in December:

  • The Rockets averaged 106 points per 100 possessions, allowed 104.5 points per 100 possessions, shot 46.8% from the field and had 101.19 possessions per 48 minutes. The pace picked up, the scoring increased, the shooting percentage increased and the defense allowed a few more points but the net margin between points scored and points allowed was much better in December.
  • With Lin on the court, the Rockets averaged 106.2 points per 100 possessions, allowed 102.3 points per 100 possessions and shot 48.1% from the field. With Lin on the bench, Houston scored 105.7 points per 100 possessions, allowed 108.4 points per 100 possessions and shot 44.7% from the field.
  • With Lin and Harden on the court together, the Rockets averaged 106.8 points per 100 possessions, allowed 101.1 points per 100 possessions and Harden was a plus-54. With Lin on the bench and Harden on the court, Houston averaged 108.4 points per 100 possessions and allowed 110.2 points per 100 possessions and Harden was a minus-1.

Again, that’s a small sample size – 16 games in December for a 10-6 record with victories against the Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Memphis Grizzlies, Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves and Atlanta Hawks. But it’s a sample size that proves it can and does work.

“For us to be successful, we’ve got to move the ball and we’ve got to move our bodies. … Regardless of who we play, we’ve just got to attack and move the ball,” McHale said. “We have a style that we have to play which is up and down and ball movement.

“We’re all getting to know each other a little bit. We have a really young team, and we haven’t been together that long. … As a team, we have to find our footing.”

In a recent victory, Harden had 28 points and five rebounds and Lin had 16 points, eight assists, four rebounds and four steals. In another recent victory, Harden had 26 points, six assists and five rebounds and Lin had 20 points and 11 assists. In Lin’s return to New York to play the Knicks, he had 22 points and eight assists, and Harden had 28 points and 10 rebounds.

“It’s a good example of what we can do,” Lin said.

Rockets > Knicks?

I haven’t been paying attention to the Knicks at all this season, but now that we’re a third through the season, I thought it might be interesting to do some comparisons between Lin’s current team and his former team.

The Knicks got off to a hot start and I had been expecting them to do pretty well this season for a number of reasons:

– The biggest reason is that Melo is playing with a different mindset and a lot of confidence. I also think being on the Olympic team helped his game (it made him more comfortable playing off the ball) and conditioning in the off season.

– Woodson is a solid coach who finally has a team full of superstars to work with for a full season.

– Kidd is a huge upgrade to Baron Davis et al.

– Felton is a slightly better fit for the Knicks than Lin, because he’s a better perimeter shooter and Lin’s game would take away from Melo’s dominance (this is debatable whether or not this helps or hurts the Knicks).

– They’re playing with a huge chip on their shoulders–especially Felton and Melo.

As a result, I haven’t really scrutinize their blazing performance, thus far, because it wasn’t unexpected to me. Currently, the Knicks stand at number 2 in the Eastern Conference, behind Miami and just a half game above Atlanta with a .677 winning percentage. A number 2 ranking looks excellent on the surface, but when you consider how ridiculously weak the Eastern Conference is the number 2 ranking is deceiving. A .677 winning percentage is only good for a tie for the 5th spot in the Western Conference with the Golden State Warriors.

The Rockets, on the other hand stand at number 6th in a very tough Western Conference that has 5 teams over .600 (the Eastern Conference only has three teams over .600). They’re currently 17-14 with a .548 winning percentage.

Currently the Knicks have a better winning percentage than the Rockets, but when we dig deeper this is about the only thing that the Knicks really have over the Rockets: a better win to loss record currently. Aside from this, I think a very good case can be made for the Rockets actually being a superior team to the Knicks–especially going forward.

– Rockets blew out Knicks both times they played with and without Melo, at home and away (the second time on a back-to-back road trip for the Rockets). So I think it’s safe to say that the Knicks are over-matched by the Rockets one-on-one. So in that sense, the Rockets are clearly > Knicks from a match-up standpoint. So this is a big factor in assessing whether the Rockets are > Knicks overall.

– Rockets have had a tougher schedule than the Knicks so far. They’ve played with 12 “top tier” teams (I’m including the Lakers in this group), while the Knicks have played only 8 games with “top tier” teams. Knicks beat Miami twice and San Antonio once. They loss to Chicago twice and Memphis once and traded games with the Lakers. In comparison, The Rockets beat Chicago twice, Loss to San Antonio three times, OKC twice and Miami once. They traded games with Memphis and Lakers. It should be noted that the Knicks have yet to face OKC (while Rockets faced them twice) and they have only faced San Antonio once, while the Rockets have faced them three times. So it’s conceivable that the Knicks could have a record much similar to the Rockets had they faced similar number of “top tier” teams. To make this point a little more simply, the Rockets are currently 12-2 against the weak Eastern Conference, while the Knicks are 13-3.

– Rockets have managed to keep pace with the Knicks even though they just had their team thrown together with a bunch of young guys who needed a lot of time to get any sort of chemistry going–not to mention a last minute trade of Harden. The Knicks have had some new additions to their squad, but there’s no comparison to what the Rockets have had to deal with in terms of getting new players on board, etc. So for the Rockets to even keep pace with the Knicks with only a third of the season to get some cohesion going is saying a lot about the potential of the Rockets going forward.

– Knicks started hot and are cooling off, while the Rockets started slowly (as expected) and are just starting to heat up. Knicks are 5-5 in their last 10 games, which include consecutive losses to the lowly Kings (without Melo and Felton) and the Blazers (despite Melo’s 45 points with an injured Felton). It’s unclear how long Felton will be out, but that’s a huge blow to the Knicks, although Kidd is very capable of filling Felton’s shoes. By contrast, the Rockets went 7-3 in their last 10 games, which include a terrible schedule of back-to-back games against the top teams in the NBA (Spurs and Thunder). Their latest performance has been highlighted by consecutive blow out games against top tier defensive teams, such as the Bulls and Grizzlies. The coaching staff is finally having confidence in Lin and letting Lin play more of Lin’s game. As a result, the Rockets have looked like a more cohesive team and their chemistry as a unit is building. Brighter days are ahead for the Rockets, while the Knicks could remain in limbo until Felton returns. Knicks could also get a boost from Shumpert’s return later in the season.

– Hollinger’s NBA Power Rankings has the Rockets at #5 and the Knicks at #10. Of course, these rankings need to be taken with a huge grain of salt and are extremely short term in focus, nevertheless it is a factor in assessing whether or not the Rockets are better than the Knicks.

So although the Knicks currently have a better record than the Rockets, I think the Rockets are actually a better team. And this is not something I had expected to say at the beginning of the season. I think Knicks will end up with a record similar to the Rockets or slightly better than the Rockets, but it’s because they’re in a much weaker conference. I think if the Rockets were in the East or the Knicks were in the West, the Rockets would end up with a better record. My bold prediction for the Rockets is that they finish with 50+ wins, as long as there are no significant injuries to their key players: Harden, Lin, Asik, Parsons. Rockets will end up 5th or better in the East. I’m hoping I haven’t jinxed the Rockets with this bold prediction, but I figured it’s about time to say some definitive things about this team and put my money where my mouth is, so to speak. I’ve been saying from day one that I’m confident the Rockets will make the playoffs, so I figured it’s time to put some numbers to it.