Locked in a tie game with the HOUSTON Rockets on Friday night at Toyota Center, Knicks reserve guard J.R. Smith inexplicably hoisted an uncontested 3-pointer despite New York having the opportunity to hold for the final shot, a critical blunder in the Rockets' 102-100 victory.
"Honestly I thought we were down two," Smith said. "When I shot the ball I started hearing (center) Tyson (Chandler) say, 'No, no don't take the shot.' By that time it was already released. Good shot, bad timing.
"It was just bad basketball IQ by me."
The Rockets (22-13) led 100-95 when Harden drilled a step-back 20-footer with 2:25 left, but the Knicks (10-22) had forged a deadlock by the time Chandler corralled an offensive rebound off an errant Udrih 3-pointer. Smith followed with his miss, repeating a similar mistake made by Knicks forward/center Andrea Bargnani, who on Dec. 18 against the Milwaukee Bucks took a 3 with the Knicks leading and in possession after Chandler snagged an offensive rebound with 15.7 seconds to play.
Guard Iman Shumpert and Udrih misfired on the Knicks' final possession, with Udrih coming up short on his runner in the lane as the buzzer sounded.
Rockets forward Chandler Parsons had a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds. Guard Jeremy Lin scored 14 points in the first half yet logged just eight minutes after intermission -- zero in the fourth quarter.
"That was crazy," Parsons said of the closing stretch. "It was one of those games where it wasn't pretty again."
The opening three quarters were defined by alternating spurts and white-knuckle play, with neither team owning a double-digit lead. The Knicks used two dunks and two 3s to surge ahead in the first quarter, only to see the Rockets open the second quarter with a 9-3 run.
Momentum was difficult for both teams to wrangle, at least for an extended stretch. Lin was aggressive early, converting a driving layup and three-point play that keyed an 8-0 Rockets push. The Knicks replied with three consecutive 3-pointers from Anthony, Shumpert and Anthony again, and pushed back ahead at 43-41 on a Shumpert jumper.
HOUSTON managed just two free throws in the first quarter, but made eight trips to the line in the second. Two Parsons' free throws with 4.3 seconds left gave HOUSTON a 48-47 halftime lead, but the Knicks shot the lights out in the third to reclaim their edge.
Anthony and Shumpert combined to score 24 points in the period on 9-of-15 shooting as New York shot 59.1 percent during the quarter. The Knicks' smart passing and spacing yielded the open looks that Anthony and Shumpert routinely converted, the foundation for a 34-point frame.
"I've just been in the gym working," said Shumpert, who had a career-high 27 points Thursday night in San Antonio. "I was in the gym working and they weren't falling last month, but now the work's paying off."
NOTES: Rockets C Dwight Howard suffered through one of his worst offensive games on Nov. 14 at New York, scoring seven points on 1-of-5 shooting from the field against Knicks F/C Andrea Bargnani, a player not exactly renowned for defensive might. With C Tyson Chandler back anchoring the middle, the Knicks wanted Chandler to mimic Bargnani, an odd request to be sure. "He had an opportunity to watch some film and see how Bargnani played him, and I thought Bargnani played him great," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. "Tyson has got to do the same thing." ... The Rockets welcomed back F/C Greg Smith, who missed six games with a sprained right knee. "In the last three-and-a-half, four months, Greg has had very few days on the floor," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. "He can give us running and rebounding and rolling and just another big body that we can go in there (to), which we need without Omer (Asik)."