A blast from the past rocked the New York Knicks defense in their preseason-opener as the Mike D’Antoni-coached Houston Rockets piled on a 130-103 rout on Tuesday.
The Knicks missed their newly acquired defensive anchor Joakim Noah (hamstring) and had trouble defending Houston’s perpetual motion offense. The Rockets knocked down 20 three-pointers led by newly-installed “points guard” James Harden (28 points, 7-11 FG, 11 assists, six rebounds), whose pick-and-roll prowess seemed masterful throughout the night.
New point guard and birthday boy Derrick Rose, 28, scored 16 points (7-14 FG) and dished out five assists in his Knicks debut. The former Bulls guard showed flashes of his 2011 MVP game but addressed the team’s visible defensive lapses following the game.
“I’m more worried about our defense than anything,’’ Rose said. “We’re going to score the ball. We have to become the team defensively when you come in, you’re going to have a hard time on that side of the ball. We want to be known for our defense when we come into the regular season.’’
New York will have plenty of time to prepare for the regular season, but after one preseason game, a few things stand out about this oddly constructed Knicks roster:
KRISTAPS PORZINGIS poured on triple after triple in New York’s preseason-opener, notching 22 points (8-11 FG, 5-6 3PT), four rebounds and two blocks on Houston.
He showed his improved ball-handling skills with a nifty face-up move over Clint Capela and caught fire in the third quarter when he went a perfect four-of-four from downtown.
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If Tuesday night’s play is the norm for Porzingis, who is entering his second NBA season, the Knicks could certainly have a third viable option on offense.
The Knicks’ pick-and-pop defense couldn’t have looked worse as a slashing Harden found open shooters time and time again en route to his 11-assist night.
New York has been notorious for whiffing defensively on screens, and the preseason-opener showed more of the same. Carmelo Anthony, who finished with 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting, said the Knicks were unprepared defensively for Houston.
“We didn’t really have nothing to go off — a game plan,” said Anthony, who looked like “iso-Melo” in his off shooting night. “We need to protect the paint. It’s a weird team to play against without no scouting report. We know they want to shoot 40 threes and that’s not something we’ve worked on.”
New Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek implied his team was playing soft and needed to ruffle a few more feathers on the defensive end.
“I want to see more physical play on the ball,’’ Hornacek said. “We were playing it too safe.
“We need to work on our weakside help and we gave up too many open looks on 3s.”
Willy Hernangomez is going to steal someone’s minutes come regular season play. He only finished with four points and three rebounds, but Hernangomez showed poise finishing at the rim and appeared hungry for every loose ball at arm’s length.
The Knicks acquired Hernangomez from Philadelphia, who drafted him 35th overall in 2015. Bringing him over from Spain may have been an underrated move to bolster New York’s front court.
Carmelo Anthony said he had no clue what the Knicks offense would look like come game time. It seemed neither did Hornacek on Tuesday.
New York flipped back-and-forth between Triangle sets and high screen-and-roll against Houston, shooting just 5-of-25 in the first quarter. It’s still early, but the Knicks will need to establish an identity on both ends of the floor.
Mindaugas Kuzminskas didn’t play until the 6:11 mark in the fourth quarter, but his high-energy style seemed to give the Knicks a much needed shot of adrenaline.
Kuzminskas scored seven points in the waning moments of the fourth, showing the versatility Hornacek says could enable him to play the two, three or four.
New York signed the Lithuanian forward to a two-year, $6 million deal in July. His energy is reminiscent of former Knicks forward Derrick Williams.
Kristian Winfield covers the New York Knicks for Elite Sports NY. You can start the conversation on Twitter @Krisplashed.