1. Unprecedented rebounding discrepancy
The most glaring differential of the Rockets/Knicks game was the rebounding differential by far. The Knicks came into the game as the #1 ranked team in offensive rebounds, as they averaged 12 offensive rebounds per game, so we knew they were going to grab boards on the offensive end.
But the Knicks had an unprecedented 65 total rebounds to the Rockets’ 34, which is very unusual. To put that into perspective, the Knicks averaged 46 boards heading into Monday’s game against the Rockets, which is certainly not the recipe for success.
The Houston Rockets haven’t allowed that many rebounds since switching to the positionless style of play we all famously refer to as small ball. All in all, there have been 15 games this season in which the Rockets have gone without a traditional center or played their reserve forwards more minutes than the traditional center they started the game with.
The Rockets have been out-rebounded in 12 of those 15 games and have gone 13-2 in those games. So it’s not a surprise that the Rockets got rebounded, as that’s to be expected.
However, they’ve only allowed 60+ rebounds once since switching to this strategy, which was in their February 2nd victory over the New Orleans Pelicans when the Pels grabbed 63 boards. The Rockets’ 43 rebounds proved to be enough in that game, as they won 117-109.
The Knicks are the type of team that should present problems to the Rockets in the rebounding category, as they’ve got six players in the rotation who are 6-foot-7 or taller, which includes Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis and Mitchell Robinson, who are all 6-foot-9 or taller.
The Knicks have grabbed 60+ rebounds twice this season, not including Monday’s game against the Rockets, which is easy to understand considering the aforementioned size advantage they possess. Although the Rockets have decided to sacrifice size, they haven’t allowed the 65 rebounds they allowed against the Knicks all season, including before they traded Clint Capela and afterwards.
Truth be told, it’s fair to expect a loss when the opposing team grabs 65 boards and when they grab 30+ more rebounds, which was the case on Monday. Because this is such a rare feat, it isn’t going to happen again. In fact, the largest rebound differential the Houston Rockets have faced since committing to the small ball strategy was on a back-to-back game against the Phoenix Suns, in which they were out-rebounded 51-29.
But since that was a back-to-back game, Russell Westbrook didn’t play, which negates the Rockets’ lack of rebounds. We can’t expect the Rockets to allow 65 rebounds again or to face a 31 rebound margin again either, especially not in the playoffs..
This is arguably what caused them to lose, as they lost 123-125, which was just one possession. If the Rockets grab one more rebound, that could have been one less possession for the Knicks, which could have made all the difference.
Although it was a bad loss to have against a lottery team, there’s no reason to panic, as the Rockets won’t lose in this fashion again all year.