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Friday, November 23, 2012
W2W4: Knicks at Rockets

By Ian Begley

The sexy storyline heading into Friday's game is that the Knicks will face Jeremy Lin for the first time since he left New York.

But the Knicks aren't really worried about Lin.

They're more concerned with avoiding their first two-game losing streak of the season.

In fact, they haven't lost two straight regular season games in the 34 games coached by Mike Woodson. That's a streak they'd like to have intact when they leave Houston.

Here are a few things to watch on Friday night:

HELP OUT ON HARDEN: Sure, all eyes will be on Lin. But he's been struggling mightily of late, averaging seven points, six assists and three turnovers on 27.5 percent shooting in his past five games. He had just four points in Houston's previous game, against Chicago, and was benched during a pivotal stretch.

So the bigger threat to the Knicks is James Harden.

The Rockets guard is scoring 24.5 points per game, the fourth-highest total in the NBA and 0.4 more than Carmelo Anthony.

He's coming off of a masterful 28-point, four-rebound, three-assist, five-steal night against Chicago on Wednesday.

Harden operates in isolation a lot and can be turnover prone, so the Knicks would be wise to throw an extra defender his way in selected spots.

THE TURNOVER BATTLE: The Knicks and Rockets are on the opposite end of the turnover spectrum.

New York's averaging a league-low 10.7 per game and has set a franchise record for turnover differential (-58) through 10 games (the stat's been tracked since 1970).

Turnovers, though, hurt the Knicks in Wednesday's loss to Dallas. They turned it over 14 times and lost the rebounding battle, which led indirectly to the Mavs taking eight more shots than the Knicks. That proved costly in a three-point loss.

So it would benefit the Knicks to take care of the ball on Friday. Houston, by the way, is averaging a league-high 17.3 turnovers per game.

DOMINANT D? Through the first nine games, the Knicks' defense had been dominant, ranking in the top five in opponent field goal percentage and points allowed per game. But they were torched in Dallas, allowing the Mavs to shoot nearly 50 percent from the field and hit 45 percent of their 3-point attempts.

The 'Bockers were playing the second game of a back-to-back though, so you'd think they'd be able to come up with a better defensive effort on Friday. The Rockets are a middling offensive team (they rank 17th in offensive efficiency -- a measure of points per 100 possessions), but they like to push the pace, averaging 97 possessions per game. The Knicks are the slowest team in the league, averaging 90 possessions per contest.

So it'll be interesting to see which team wills its style of play on the other.

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