Rockets-Knicks Preview

The Associated Press

While they've struggled defensively for most of the season, the Houston Rockets haven't been as productive on the offensive end during their recent funk.

Considering the way former Knick Jeremy Lin has been playing, the visiting Rockets might not need James Harden to turn things around Thursday night when they seek their 16th win in 17 games against New York.

Since averaging 109.4 points on 49.9-percent shooting during a 4-1 start, Houston (5-4) has scored 104.8 per game and shot 43.0 percent while dropping three of its last four - a stretch that includes three overtime periods.

It certainly hasn't helped that the Rockets have allowed an average of 111.8 points over their last six games.

With Harden out because of a bruised foot, Lin stepped up with season highs of 34 points and 12 assists in Wednesday's 123-117 overtime loss at Philadelphia.

The Rockets were hurting without Harden - a top-five scorer at 24.9 points per game - when they missed 10 straight shots from late in regulation into overtime before Dwight Howard's three-point play tied it with 2:21 left.

Harden, whose foot has bothered him all season, will likely be a game-time decision Thursday. The high-scoring guard totaled 61 points to help the Rockets win both meetings with the Knicks (3-4) last season by a combined 41 points.

If Harden is unable to go, Lin figures to get another start after hitting a career-high nine 3-pointers on 15 attempts.

"It was my worst defensive game of the season," Lin said after Philadelphia's starting backcourt combined for 54 points. "Tomorrow has to be my best defensive game of the season."

During the 2011-12 season, "Linsanity" became an instant sensation when he knocked down several big shots and averaged 18.2 points in 25 starts for the Knicks. In his last two games, Lin has recaptured some of that magic by scoring 65 on 20-of-36 shooting, though he's also turned the ball over 13 times.

This will be his second return to New York after he finished with 22 points and nine assists in Houston's 109-96 win Dec. 17, 2012.

Carmelo Anthony, who missed that contest due to a sprained left ankle, helped the Knicks bounce back from a 31-point loss to San Antonio on Sunday with a team-high 25 points in Wednesday's 95-91 win at Atlanta.

"Oh, man, it was a great way to kind of get back on track," Anthony said after shooting just 9-of-25 from the field. "Any time you can win on the road, that's always a big win."

Although Anthony has a career-low 41.3 shooting percentage this season, he's averaging 34.8 points on 47.9 percent shooting in his last seven games against the Rockets.

The Knicks are hoping to avoid their fourth straight loss at home, where they haven't won since beating Milwaukee in the season opener. They've been outscored by an average of 15.0 points during the home skid while allowing 110.3 points per game.

With Tyson Chandler out due to a non-displaced fracture of his right fibula, the Knicks could have their hands full with Howard. The star center, who ranks second in the NBA with 14.9 rebounds per game, has 41 points and 39 rebounds in his last two.

The Rockets have won eight of their last nine games at Madison Square Garden.

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