Houston at New York
Time: 7 PM (CT), ESPN
Spread: HOU -5.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The New York Knicks and Kristaps Porzinigis have lost three-straight games after beginning the season 3-0, but the Knicks will try to get back on track as it hosts the Houston Rockets at Madison Square Garden on ESPN at 7 PM (Central). The Rockets enter as 5.5-point favorites behind the hot shooting of 2-guard Eric Gordon and last season’s MVP runner-up James Harden.
For his part, Porzingis has been sensational, looking like the superstar many suspected he was as he dwelled in the shadows of the now-departed Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose. Often lost in the shuffle of a dysfunctional offense last year, Porzingis has exploded thus far through six games with a 29 point per game scoring average. The No. 3 pick from Latvia is showing he can play to the expectations, and he says he is “just playing his game,” something he was unable to do through his first two NBA seasons.
Kristaps exploded for 38 points and seven rebounds the last outing in a 116-110 win over the Denver Nuggets, and he has scored 30 points or more in all three of his past outings. Porzingis is the real deal, and at his best, he is more than enough to keep the Knicks afloat, even without Anthony’s high scoring isolation offense. Perhaps the Knicks rightfully now have realized that handing the proverbial keys to the Latvian was the best way to achieve quick success after a disappointing 16-17 season.
Houston, meanwhile, has been getting elite production from Eric Gordon, a reclamation project of sorts. Gordon’s hot shooting has resulted in a 24.7 point per game average, a perfect complement to Harden—even with Chris Paul battling injury thus far this season. The Rockets have gone 4-1 on the road so far this season, even after a 103-89 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, its first away loss of the year. The Rockets proceeded, however, to fall 115-107 to the Philadelphia 76ers, and are now owners of a two-game skid.
Harden has been dishing the rock much in the same manner as last season with Paul unavailable. CP3 is listed as out for this matchup with a knee problem but is considered day-to-day and when he is available the Rox may really get rolling. Paul had just four points and 10 assists in his debut, but to see him average a double-double this season would be unsurprising as the true point guard of the attack. In the meantime, Harden’s 9.3 assists and 26 points per game will be plenty to win games.
Clint Capela has also emerged as a major consistent threat at center. Capela is averaging a double-double with 13.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per game, and the Rockets assemblage of role players are all doing their part. Ryan Anderson is averaging 12.4 points per game, while Luc Mbah a Moute is adding some much-needed defense to Mike D’Antoni’s oft most criticized aspect as a coach.
While the Rockets are far from a defensive powerhouse, the team plays better defense than often credited for while taking into account the torrid pace the team plays at.