New York Knicks vs. Houston Rockets: Live Score and Analysis

Matthew SchmidtFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2014

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 3:  James Harden
Bill Baptist/Getty Images

James Harden scored 37 points and the Houston Rockets capitalized on a costly mistake from J.R. Smith to top the New York Knicks, 102-100, in a Friday night thriller at the Toyota Center.

With 20 seconds left and in a tie game, Tyson Chandler grabbed an offensive rebound and kicked the ball out to Smith. With the shot clock off, the Knicks could have held for the last shot, but instead, Smith hoisted up a three and missed. The result was Aaron Brooks getting fouled and getting two free throws to give Houston the win.

Harden was absolutely sensational, dropping 11 of his 37 in the fourth quarter and scoring seven straight Rockets points to put his team up 100-95 late. He went 10-for-19 from the floor (5-of-10 from three-point range) and hit all 12 of his free-throw attempts.

New York held an eight-point lead heading into the final period, but mistakes and empty possessions down the stretch cost it the win.

Iman Shumpert continued his strong play by hitting all six of his three-point tries and compiling 26 points, but it wasn't enough as the Knicks squandered a golden opportunity to take the first two games of their Texas Triangle road trip.

Let's break down the keys to this one.


James Harden, James Harden and More James Harden

The Knicks had absolutely no answer for the Rockets star.

Harden torched them from all over the floor, taking advantage of switches and nailing stepback jumpers with impunity. He toyed with New York, flashing his ballhandling skills at the top of the key and then either slashing into the lane and drawing contact or dropping long Js in the face of his defenders.

Harden also tallied seven rebounds and six assists to go along with his massive scoring output.


Second Half Ball Security

The Rockets rank 28th in the league in turnovers, and their struggles continued in the first half of Friday night's contest as Houston coughed up the rock 10 times in the first 24 minutes.

However, Kevin McHale's club buckled down in the second half, committing only five turnovers the rest of the way.

The ball security allowed Houston to comfortably get into its offensive sets and outscore New York 29-19 in the fourth quarter.


Short-Term Memory Loss

Heading into the fourth period, Shumpert had 23 points and had hit on all five of his three-point attempts, so tell me: why did he only take one shot in the final 12 minutes?

Instead, we saw Smith jacking up triple after triple, going 1-of-8 from downtown and 3-of-13 overall.

It's like the Knicks forgot how hot Shumpert had been going back to the San Antonio game on Thursday night. The one field goal Iman did attempt in the fourth was a made three to bring New York within two late.

If only the Knicks went to him sooner.


Lack of Aggressiveness by Knicks

The Knicks got the Rockets into the penalty with 7:57 left.

Naturally, you'd expect them to take the ball to the basket to draw some fouls, right?

Well, not when you're the Knicks.

Instead of getting aggressive, New York settled for perimeter jumpers throughout the entirety of the fourth quarter and were content to brick shot after shot down the stretch, going 5-for-20 over the final 12 minutes.

Even the Rockets must have been confused.