This was the one they needed. The others are not household money; there is no such thing anymore. But the Knicks had to start this subsequent six-game road turn west exactly when they started it Sunday night. The Houston Rockets are terrible and their supply of active players is thin and they play the string.
The Rockets needed to be beaten.
The Knicks knocked the rockets. They clubbed them 122-97 and even managed to give Julius Randle the entire fourth quarter, which was a great way to keep him somewhat fresh for the second part of the trip, Monday, in Memphis.
Now it can be fun really Start.
Now the Knicks can actually think about getting greedy.
The Celtics lost to the Blazers on Sunday; they are now three games behind the Knicks in the table column. Heat beat Hornets; they are two games left in the table bar, the same as Atlanta. So now the Knicks can cross a game from the calendar, they can turn to Memphis and to Denver beyond that, and Phoenix and LA
And start thinking about something else.
Most Knicks fans over the past few days, waiting for the team to play again, agreed that they would sign up for a 2-4 round. You take care of the business in Houston, and then see what happens from there. They have already beaten Memphis, the game that launched their winning streak with nine games, now 1
And no coincidence: the Knicks have proven to be good enough to stick with all the teams on this journey for 48 minutes. But to be realistic about the broader ambitions of the trip, the Knicks needed to take care of business at the Toyota Center in Houston.
The Knicks took care of the business. Randle had 31 points in 30 minutes. RJ Barrett completed the boxing score: 21 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals. Derrick Rose was plus-35 in his 31 minutes on the field, Taj Gibson plus-36 for his 32. It was a nice breath even though the coach was not using such marks.
“I never felt like it was a laugh for us,” Tom Thibodeau said. “You have to play for 48 minutes. You mess with such a team, they start making 3s on you, they can pose some reason. ”
The Rockets had actually stunned the Bucks a few nights back, aided by the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo. They have nothing to lose, can play loose, can be free and easy, and they jumped out to an early five-point lead.
But the Knicks are playing too well right now, driving too strong a wave. They have not lost a trap game in weeks. They understand what awaits them on this journey. They are a team focusing on the current business right now.
“We’re fighting for something,” Rose said. “We know that down on the stretch we want to play our best basketball, give our best effort and play with urgency. It’s about picking up the other person. We need to know that it’s going to be an abrasive game. ”
The next five will definitely be like that. The next five are the ones that Knicks fans have been pointing to for weeks, for months, ever since it became clear that these games were actually going to mean something to the Knicks. Maybe it felt like a happy accident at first, the way this whole season felt in the first 45 games or so.
But there’s nothing unintentional about where the Knicks are now: 36-28, who already got a .500 record of the year and already got a spot in the postseason tournament. Five months and a day earlier, when the Knicks first gathered for the season on the first of December, such goals would have seemed ridiculous, if not downright misguided.
Five months and a day later, the second of May, they felt like a prelude to something bigger, something better. In a few weeks, that will mean a variety of post-season games. From now on, that means a Memphis / Denver / Phoenix / Los Angeles glove that can very well determine how long the second season lasts.
“We take it as a challenge,” Rose said. “We know that everyone is playing for something. Every team, every game becomes a rough game, like an endgame. ”
From Monday night on Memphis’ FedExForum, as long as the trip lasts, they all feel like playoff games. And then be the playoffs. Now the fun can really begin.