Knicks hold on to end Rockets’ six-game win streak, 125-123

NEW YORK (AP) — The small-ball Rockets had big problems in New York.

The Knicks bullied them on the backboards and pummelled them in the paint, making an impressive first impression on their new team president.

Rookie guard RJ Barrett tied his season high with 27 points and the Knicks held on for a 125-123 victory on Monday night, snapping Houston’s six-game winning streak.

“Everybody was locked in,” Barrett said. The Rockets, playing without a traditional centre, couldn’t overcome the Knicks’ whopping 65-34 rebounding advantage, or New York’s 64-36 edge in points in the paint.

Julius Randle added 16 points and 16 rebounds for the Knicks, who held on after building a 21-point lead in front of Leon Rose, the longtime player agent who was hired on Monday as team president.

“We played to our strengths and advantages, which is obviously the paint,” Randle said.

“We know they play small, so we should get a lot of second-chance opportunities on offensive boards if we miss shots.”

The Knicks ended a nine-game home losing streak against the Rockets with their first victory over them since January 26, 2009 — when Houston coach Mike D’Antoni was on the other sideline.

“Can’t take games like this lightly,” Russell Westbrook said. “It’s the NBA. Everybody goes out and competes. You’ve got to be ready to play.”

James Harden had 35 points and eight assists for the Rockets. Westbrook had 24 points and nine rebounds but missed a pull-up jumper on Houston’s final attempt.