Rockets 117, Knicks 102 - The Machine

The Houston Rockets are, in the words of Matt Moore, a machine. They might not be the dispassionate and steadily-grinding machine that the San Antonio Spurs are, or the unpredictable and suddenly-encroaching Flying Death Machine that was the LeBron-era Miami Heat. No, the Rockets Machine that destroyed the New York Knicks tonight is something else, and it shows no signs of going anywhere. This game was special for how not special it ended up being. Even with all the theatrics, it was simply one of many. It's the product of a machine.

The Rockets took the entire first quarter off and trailed by as much as 22 to a Knicks team missing both Kristaps Porzingis and Enes Kanter. It didn't matter. By the end of the third quarter, the Rockets led by 21. By the end of the night, they had shot 18 of 47 from deep, a percentage (38.3%) and volume both a little cool for their recent exploits. They allowed the Knicks to score 39 in the first quarter. The Knicks only scored 63 for the rest of the game. The Knicks, when up 22, had no chance.

And, increasingly, that's the new normal.

This Rockets Machine is powered by two engines, like a train with a locomotive on either end. James Harden and Chris Paul are interested in only one thing: burying their opponents under a withering barrage of threes, and to do this they never, ever relent. All it took was two quarters to make a 43 point turnaround. There is no team in the NBA against whom that is not impressive and a bit terrifying. Harden scored 37 with 10 assists, and it was a fairly average night for him. Chris Paul's 13 assists were all small nightmares for the Knicks. There is no release. There is no respite. There is only the train.

The Rockets aren't a Flying Death Machine or even a Chaos Engine or whatever malicious contraption the Golden State Warriors are. They are the Doomtrain, a collection of cars rumbling toward you with Harden pulling from the front and Paul pushing from behind. The train might slow down sometimes, but it never stops, and it keeps bringing more and more threes with it. It lasts for exactly 48 minutes or until you give up and go another way, whichever comes sooner. They are are succeeding beyond the wildest hopes for the Harden/Paul pairing and it's a specter of despair for every team they've railroaded since his return.

The Knicks lost because they had no other choice. The Doomtrain rattles on. The Rockets Machine is relentless and it is grinding and it is not going to stop any time soon. I recommend to board the train at the earliest available opportunity. On the train is the only place you know you're safe from it.

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