• Carmelo Anthony will go for the Knicks tonight, one night after returning from injury against the Spurs. New York’s Kenyon Martin, however, was scratched just minutes before tip-off due to a sore left ankle.
  • Houston will attempt to avoid its first three-game losing streak of the season when it hosts the Knicks on Friday. The Rockets have played to their level of competition too often for coach Kevin McHale‘s liking, which has prompted McHale to challenge his team to play with greater intensity against seemingly inferior opposition. “We’re not chopping down tall timbers and dragging out the ox. We’re playing basketball,” McHale said. “It drives me nuts. … The motivation to play well is the fact that you’re going against another team that comes in here and wants the same thing that you want. … You drop it down there, you step back and say, ‘Only one of us is going to get it. Let’s see who it is.’ If you don’t like that, you shouldn’t do it. Don’t come to get your paycheck.”
  • The superstars on both sides did not disappoint the last time the Knicks and Houston squared off, a 109-106 Rockets victory on Nov. 14 at Madison Square Garden. Houston overcame Anthony’s season-high 45 points and 10 rebounds thanks to a 36-point, nine-board effort from James Harden. “Harden is one of the key figures for their team in terms of how they play,” New York coach Mike Woodson said.
  • Toyota Center has been a house of horrors for the Knicks in recent years. New York has lost eight consecutive games in Houston by an average of 14.1 points, and only one of these eight contests has been decided by less than nine points. The Knicks have also dropped eight in a row overall against the Rockets. “I wish I knew [why we don't match up well with them],” Woodson said. “They’re a matchup problem for a lot of teams based on how they play. … Last year was just wide open the way they played, and that was kind of a problem for us.”
  • Houston is a step closer to possessing a full supply of healthy big men, as reserve center Greg Smith will return Friday. Smith missed the past six games after re-aggravating a right-knee sprain he suffered in November during the Rockets’ Dec. 21 win in Detroit. Houston remains without the services of Omer Asik (thigh, knee), while Raymond Felton (groin), Metta World Peace (knee) and Pablo Prigioni (toe) are still sidelined for the Knicks.

Matt Miller

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