Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau watches during the second half of...

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau watches during the second half of the team's NBA game against the Indiana Pacers on Dec. 8 in Indianapolis. Credit: AP/Darron Cummings

HOUSTON — Considering the last time the Knicks faced the Houston Rockets before Thursday was at Madison Square Garden and the Knicks had to rally in the fourth quarter to avoid the embarrassment of being the team at the end of a 15-game Rockets losing streak, it may have seemed odd that Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was pointing to them for inspiration.

But with the Knicks having lost seven of eight games entering Thursday’s meeting and the Rockets having turned their season after their loss to the Knicks by winning their next seven straight games, maybe there is something to it.

"Last time we played them they were like 1-15 and they ran off seven straight," Thibodeau said. "That’s an example of how quickly things can turn in this league. So they’re playing good basketball. They had a tough game last night, they had guys out. So they may be back tonight and we have to be ready for that. They’re playing good basketball. They’re shooting the ball well, sharing the ball. They play hard, real hard."

Championship quotes — the origin

Rudy Tomjanovich was honored Thursday with the banner hanging at the Toyota Center updated to reflect his selection to the Basketball Hall of Fame. The long-time player and coach, who guided the Rockets to back-to-back titles — including one over the Knicks — is remembered for his phrase in the celebration of the second title, shouting, "Never underestimate the heart of a champion."

But the quote could have taken a very different tact.

"You want to know the truth about it?" Tomjanovich said. "It wasn’t one of my greater moments if you understand what I mean. It was sort of bragging after the fact, which is not me … I found the words - heart of a champion - I got those from Kevin Johnson. He said, 'Very hard to beat them, they have a heart of a champion,’ because we had won the championship the year before.

"Charles (Barkley) used a different analogy. He said, ‘They’re like those big old Texas roaches. You step on them and you hear the crunch, you think they’re going to die and they’re still alive.’ I chose the heart of a champion instead of the toughness of a roach."


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