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Feb 11, 2024 7:00 pm

Knicks, Rockets dealing with rash of injuries

alperen sengun

Putting aside everything the New York Knicks have accomplished this season, there still is no denying — in the aftermath of their home loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday — that their margin for error is small.

New York embarks on a three-game road trip starting Monday against the Houston Rockets that wraps around the All-Star break.

The Knicks were without starting forwards Julius Randle (shoulder) and OG Anunoby (elbow) in their 125-111 setback to Indiana, as well as the center duo of Mitchell Robinson (ankle) and Isaiah Hartenstein (Achilles), leaving an already small rotation even more undersized.

Blend in the integration of Alec Burks and Bojan Bogdanovic — both of whom joined the Knicks at the trade deadline last Thursday — and the result is a team that is understandably disoriented.

“There’s going to be a period of adjustment,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “There always is. We don’t have to be perfect, but if we’re playing real hard, we can cover up for those things.”

Defense, rebounding prowess and general grit have come to define the Knicks this season, but only so much can be accomplished through moxie alone. The Knicks have dropped three of four contests since their nine-game winning streak propelled them near the top of the Eastern Conference standings. The absence of so many key contributors is serving as a detriment to progress.

“We have to gang rebound,” Thibodeau said. “We’re not going to be able to rely on one or two guys. We have to put our bodies on people and then we have to go fight for the ball.

“I’m disappointed in the result but I’m not disappointed in our team. We’ve fought all year. We’ve responded to every challenge, so I think we’re capable of doing a lot better and I think we will.”

The Rockets are embroiled in a similar battle against attrition.

Houston was without four rotation players against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, adding center Alperen Sengun (back) and breakout rookie Cam Whitmore (ankle) to an injured list that already included Fred VanVleet (adductor) and Tari Eason (leg). The result was a fourth consecutive loss for Houston, which dropped to 2-10 in its last 12 road games with its 122-113 defeat.

With Sengun, the Rockets’ leading scorer and rebounder, missing his first game this season, Houston surrendered 38 second-quarter points en route to blowing an early double-digit lead. Jalen Green recorded his first career triple-double (26 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists) for the Rockets, whose yeoman effort wasn’t sufficient enough to stem a losing tide.

“I would say OK at best,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “They had a lot of guys missing as well. We always feel like we have enough but similar to the Toronto game where you come out not with the right intensity at times and get yourself in a hole and start to play from there.

“Whatever we’ve done the last two games to come back and work our way back into it, we’ve got to bottle that up from the start and come out with that effort. A little disappointed as far as that.”

–Field Level Media

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