HOUSTON -- Houston guard James Harden scored 37 points, but the Rockets benefited from a curious decision by New York Knicks reserve guard J.R. Smith in a 102-100 win on Friday night at the Toyota Center.
The Rockets (22-13) blew a late 100-95 lead and the Knicks (10-22) had an opportunity to hold for the final shot, but Smith inexplicably hoisted a 3-pointer with 19.9 seconds left after center Tyson Chandler corralled a critical offensive rebound. Knicks guard Beno Udrih followed by fouling Rockets guard Aaron Brooks, who then hit two free throws.
During their final possession, the Knicks were left with Udrih attempting an errant runner in the lane as the final buzzer sounded.
The opening three quarters were defined by spurts, with the Knicks using two dunks and two 3-pointers 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 scored 14 first-half points, including a driving layup and three-point play that keyed the Rockets' 8-0 push. The Knicks replied with three consecutive treys 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, a symbol of its passiveness, 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 control.
Anthony and Shumpert combined to score 24 points in the third quarter on 9-of-15 shooting from the field as New York shot 59.1 percent during the quarter. The Knicks' exceptional passing and spacing yielded the open looks that Anthony and Shumpert converted, the foundation for a 34-point quarter.
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)."