The last time James Harden faced the Knicks, the result was a jaw-dropping 53 points, 17 assists and 16 rebounds in a 129-122 win on New Year's Eve. Harden will look for to put on an encore performance on Wednesday night as his Houston Rockets face a New York Knicks team that has looked completely different after an 0-3 start (8 p.m. ET on ESPN/WatchESPN).
Harden has a history of stepping up his game against the Knicks. Since dropping 30 against the Knicks for the first time in his career in the 2012-13 season, Harden has six 30-point games against New York, tied with Russell Westbrook for the second-most such games (only behind LeBron James with seven). Since joining the Rockets, Harden's points, rebounds and assists numbers against the Knicks all rank in the top four for his career numbers against a single opponent.
At Madison Square Garden specifically, his scoring and rebounds go down, but assists go up as he increases his scoring efficiency.
Harden's last game against the Knicks is the most noteworthy. His 53 points tied Wilt Chamberlain for most in a triple-double until Westbrook's scored 57 points in a triple-double late last season. While gaudy numbers are common for Harden, his performance on New Year's Eve stands out among his career marks.
One player who was missing from Harden's domination of the Knicks last season was Kristaps Porzingis, who is enjoying a stellar start to his 2017-18 season. After only scoring 30 points three times in his first two seasons, Porzingis has opened the season by scoring 30 or more points in five of the Knicks' first six games. Porzingis capped off his hot start with a 38 points in 34 minutes in New York's win over the Denver Nuggets on Monday, putting the Latvian forward in company with some Hall of Famers.
After the Knicks stumbled to an 0-3 start, it looked like it was going to be a long season for the team in a new era without Carmelo Anthony. Head coach Jeff Hornacek made a change to the starting lineup before the team's game against the Brooklyn Nets, inserting Jarrett Jack into the starting lineup for Ramon Sessions, giving them a new look at point guard. Since then, the Knicks have ripped off a three-game winning streak which includes a 19-point win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The new starting lineup has unlocked the talents of the Knicks' biggest free-agent acquisition, Tim Hardaway Jr. Since the change, Hardaway has improved his scoring by 10 points (9.3 to 19.3), chipped in with 4.3 APG and is shooting 36 percent from the 3-point line. All told, the Knicks starting lineup has become a major positive.
ESPN's Basketball Power Index sees the Rockets as a safe bet to come out on top, but what do you think? Who will win Wednesday game? Vote in the poll below!
The Rockets will present a major challenge for the the Knicks as Porzingis and his cohorts hope to show fans that they are closer to playoff contention than another lottery selection.