HOUSTON — Making his first Knicks start at point guard, Mario Hezonja got his first career triple-double and helped hold Rockets star James Harden to “just” 26 points — but his club was routed wire to wire anyway, 120-96, Friday at Toyota Center.
The Knicks (15-64) clinched at least a tie for the NBA’s worst record with the loss.
It went from the absurd to the surreal as Hezonja started at point guard because all their natural PGs were out with injury — Emmanuel Mudiay (shoulder/hamstring) as the latest.
Hezonja, though he wasn’t able to penetrate early on, became a dish machine, hit the boards and finished with a team-high 16 points, 11 assists and 16 rebounds. He had never posted more than seven assists before Friday. He was coming off a career-high 29 points in Orlando on Wednesday.
The Knicks, in the modern-day era, have never finished with the NBA’s worst record. With three games left, the 15-64 Knicks are well on pace to post the worst record in franchise history, which stands at 17-65, set in 2014-15.
James HardenNBAE/Getty Images
If the Knicks finish last in the NBA, they can fall no worse than fifth in the May 14 draft lottery. They’ve already clinched a bottom-3 finish, giving them the shared top odds of 14 percent to win the lottery.
The Rockets led 32-16 after one quarter and 72-43 at halftime and by 39 points after three.
Hezonja, 6-foot-8 combo forward, alternated between defending Harden and Chris Paul. He limited Harden early before he got rolling but still finished with 26 points — 10 below his scoring average. Paul finished with 11 points and 10 assists.
Houston shot 59 3-point shots — even with pioneering former Knicks coach and current Rockets head man Mike D’Antoni calling in sick with a stomach virus.
Fizdale said Noah Vonleh is all but done for the season with a bone bruise in his ankle, and Allonzo Trier (calf) may be done, too. But the coach said there’s hope Dennis Smith Jr. (sore back) returns.
Houston native Damyean Dotson played just garbage time in his first trip to his hometown last season but scored seven points on 3-for-14 shooting in 28 minutes Friday. Dotson attended the first-ever game at Toyota Center in 2003.