New York Knicks: Combinations that could slow down the Houston Rockets
Nov 2, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) drives past New York Knicks point guard Derrick Rose (25) and New York Knicks power forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) during the first quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks can’t stop the Houston Rockets. That’s impossible. But they have some defensive combinations that may slow them down.

  • New York Knicks (16-16)
  • Houston Rockets (25-9)
  • Saturday, Dec. 31, 8:00 p.m. ET on MSG Network
  • Toyota Center, Houston, TX

The New York Knicks defense has been horrible all season long. After last night’s embarrassing defeat in New Orleans, the Knicks rank 24th in points allowed per 100 possessions.

Playoff teams don’t lose games like the one last night. The first half of a back-to-back against a lesser team with the Houston Rockets looming on Saturday.

New York has now dropped their last three games and six of their last eight. They’re in desperate need of a win and couldn’t be in a more challenging spot.

In Houston, against a top-five offense, led by MVP candidate James Harden, and coached by former Knicks boss Mike D’Antoni.

The three-happy Rockets blew out the Knicks in their first matchup at Madison Square Garden behind 15 long balls and 30 points from Harden.

After the loss to the Pelicans, Carmelo Anthony told Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News that his team isn’t ready on defense.

“At the end of the day, we have to re-evaluate where we are as a team right now,” Anthony said after the 104-92 defeat, the team’s third straight, sounding off the mini-alarm in his typical calm voice. “The different schemes that we’re seeing, we have to adjust to that, react to that. I think we just have to play better. At this point, we just have to play better. We have to play more consistent.”

The Knicks won’t be able to stop the Rockets in Houston. We’re talking about a team that’s scored under 100 points just three times in 34 games.

We used to look at combinations that can hopefully slow Harden’s attack down.

Brandon Jennings, Willy Hernangomez

  • Offensive Rating: 97.7
  • Defensive Rating: 99.5
  • Net Rating: -1.7
  • Games: 27
  • Minutes: 221

Jennings and Hernangomez haven’t been an exciting combination on offense, but Hernangomez’s rim protection has made up for Jennings’ defensive issues.

The two have developed an excellent rapport on offense two. Jennings clearly has a feel for Hernangomez’s game.

Check out this example of the two working the pick and roll against Orlando.

Willy isn’t exactly fleet of foot, so Jennings’ speed helps pick him the big man on the perimeter.

Willy Hernangomez, Justin Holiday

  • Offensive Rating: 92.6
  • Defensive Rating: 99.0
  • Net Rating: -6.5
  • Games: 24
  • Minutes: 184

More Willy Hernangomez. That should become a trend against the Rockets.

Again, Holiday and Hernangomez aren’t a great offensive combination but like Hernangomez and Jennings they can slow down the Rockets on offense with some pick and roll.

When Hernangomez and Holiday share the court, the team plays at a pace of 100.63. If the Knicks want to slow the game down, this is a rotation they can use.

Willy HernangomezMindaugas Kuzminskas

  • Offensive Rating: 101.0
  • Defensive Rating: 97.3
  • Net Rating: 3.7
  • Games: 18
  • Minutes: 127

Kuz and Willy could be the go-to combo tonight.

Hernangomez has played less than ten minutes in the last three games (all losses), and Kuzminskas took a DNP against the Pelicans on Friday night.

When these two are on the court, good things always seems to happen. It’s time to get them more consistent playing time in general.

Justin Holiday, Kristaps Porzingis

  • Offensive Rating: 108.4
  • Defensive Rating: 103.7
  • Net Rating: 4.7
  • Games: 31
  • Minutes: 413

Since this is the last time he will be mentioned, I should say it: Justin Holiday’s metrics are phenomenal.

Not surprisingly, his metrics while on the court with Porzingis aren’t any less impressive. Holiday (.367) and Porzingis (.402) are two of the team’s top three-point shooters and arguably their best interior and perimeter defenders respectively.

Porzingis struggled against Houston in their first game, scoring just 4 points without a field goal. He’ll be looking for some revenge tonight.

Willy Hernangomez, Kristaps Porzingis

  • Offensive Rating: 101.1
  • Defensive Rating: 99.9
  • Net Rating: 1.2
  • Games: 23
  • Minutes: 161 minutes

Porzingis and Hernangomez didn’t need any time to get used to playing together. The close friends and old teammates have gone from teenagers in Spain to the two best rim protectors on a playoff-hopeful team in the NBA.

The close friends and old teammates have made the seamless transition gone from teenagers in Spain to the two best rim protectors on a playoff-hopeful team in the NBA.

Now all Jeff Hornacek needs to do is find them some more time on the court together.

That’s a lot easier said than done with the emergence of Kyle O’Quinn and the urge to play Joakim Noah.

I'm ESNY's Executive Editor for I cover the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. Email: Chip Murphy covers the NBA for Elite Sports NY. You can find him on Twitter @ChipperMurphy.