Final

Regular Season Series (Game 1 of 2)

Series starts 1/9

Game 1: Saturday, January 9th
Knicks96Final
Rockets105
Game 2: Sunday, March 21st
Rockets116Final
Knicks112

Knicks 96

(15-21, 6-11 away)

Rockets 105

(21-16, 11-4 home)

    Coverage: KTXH

    8:30 PM ET, January 9, 2010

    Toyota Center, Houston, TX

    1 2 3 4 T
    NY 32 25 22 1796
    HOU 21 30 27 27105

    Top Performers

    NY: D. Lee 26 Pts, 12 Reb, 6 Ast, 2 Stl

    Hou: L. Scola 23 Pts, 7 Reb

    Knicks-Rockets Preview

    STATS LLC

    The Houston Rockets haven't lost at the Toyota Center since late November, and they could use a spark upon returning home from a winless three-game road trip.

    A visit from the New York Knicks these days is hardly the pleasant sight it was earlier this season.

    The Knicks look for a fourth straight victory as they begin a three-game trip Saturday night in Houston, where the Rockets will try to extend their six-game winning streak in their first home game of 2010.

    New York (15-20) had the look of one of the league's worst teams during a 3-14 start, but since Dec. 1 it's put together a remarkable turnaround. The Knicks are 12-6 in that stretch, and their three-game win streak has put them on the cusp of playoff contention.

    Hot shooting has been the key for New York, as it's been above 50.0 percent from the field in each of the three victories, highlighted by a 53.4- percent effort in Thursday's 97-93 win over Charlotte.

    A staunch defensive improvement, however, is the biggest reason for the Knicks' transformation. New York has gone from giving up 109.2 points per game in October and November to an average of 96.0 over the past 18 games, and it's defended the 3-point arc better than any team (26.9 percent) since the beginning of December.

    "Our defense, I think, is good enough now to keep us in the game," said David Lee, who's averaging 22.8 points, 11.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists over his last six games. "We're not going to dominate too many people, but we scramble enough to hold teams to a low enough shooting percentage, and we're taking away easy buckets."

    Second-leading scorer Al Harrington missed the win over the Bobcats with a calf injury and is day to day, but Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari have made the Knicks less reliant on Harrington.

    Chandler has averaged 24.7 points during the three-game winning streak -- the Knicks are 8-2 when he scores at least 18 -- and Gallinari leads the league in 3-pointers made after hitting five Thursday night.

    "That's a plus," coach Mike D'Antoni said of Gallinari's penchant for making big shots. "You never know if a kid has that in his blood lines."

    The Rockets (20-16) gave up too many big shots in their last game, letting Phoenix shoot 54.4 percent and rally from a 16-point deficit Wednesday to win 118-110, sending Houston to its first three-game slide.

    "We've had slippage in the chemistry department," forward Shane Battier told the Rockets' official Web site. "You can just tell by the way we play. We haven't been as unified at both ends of the court. You can say that with pretty good confidence because the second group that comes in, the guys off the bench, have great chemistry."

    The second unit has been bolstered by the return of rookie Chase Budinger, who showed signs of being a solid contributor before missing seven games with a sprained ankle. He had nine points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes against Phoenix, his first extended minutes since Dec. 19.

    Aaron Brooks (34) and Carl Landry (31) each scored career highs in the loss to the Suns, but the player Houston needs to step up is Trevor Ariza, a 2004 Knicks' second-round pick. Ariza has averaged 11.9 points over the past nine games while shooting 31.3 percent.

    Houston had won eight in a row in the series before the Knicks won 104-98 at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 26 behind 37 combined bench points from Chandler and Nate Robinson.

    SPONSORED HEADLINES