Game 39 Preview: New York Knicks vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Game Time:  7:00 p.m.  TV:  CSNNW

First of all, condolences to Ducks fans.  I won't necessarily say they played a good game, because what do I know?  But they played a close game.  I wish they could have won it for you.

Meanwhile the Blazers lace 'em up against the New York Knickerbockers on Tuesday night.  At 21-15 the Knicks are counting their season a success so far, 21 wins being about two seasons' worth for recent vintage New York teams.  The Knicks have won 3 of their last 4 including victories against San Antonio and in Phoenix.  They sport the highest scoring average in the NBA, led by the interior play of Amare Stoudemire (26.3 ppg).  They've also loosed the chains on a happy Raymond Felton, who goes for 18 points and 9 assists. Wilson Chandler adds his own 18 to the mix.  After that they stir a whole bunch of three-point shooting wings into the mix and voilà!  You get an instant 108 points per game.

Despite the gaudy average the Knicks are not fast-break specialists.  They rank in the middle of the league in fast break points generated.  They rely instead on interior scoring, high percentage shots, and (naturally) the three-pointer.  Their overall shooting percentage ranks 9th in the league but their effective field goal percentage shoots up to 5th.  They depend on Stoudemire to score on any defense, Felton to run past his man, and everyone else to stroke when the defense shifts to compensate.  It's hardly an original plan but the prowess of Stoudemire makes up for it.  Plus they generate tons of shot attempts so they have plenty of chances to try.

The Knicks' defense is another story.  About the only thing they do well is get back in transition.  (That's to their credit, as they didn't used to.)   Undersized and not stocked with defensive-minded bigs in any case, they get killed in the paint.   They're bottom-third in the league in shooting percentage allowed and three-point percentage allowed.  Being lousy rebounders doesn't help.

If the Blazers are to beat the Knicks they'll have to deal with Stoudemire using as few players as possible.  The New LaMarcus Aldridge and the old Marcus Camby make a good start.  New York doesn't have real centers so Portland's lack of them shouldn't bother.  Instead they can freely experiment with smaller lineups.  Felton probably can't beat the Blazers on his own no matter how many points he scores, but the rest of Portland's defenders will need to stay home on their men collectively, as that three-point attack can be effective and the Blazers don't have the means of compensating if the Knicks go on a real scoring tear.  On the other end the Blazers should rip New York's defenders at every position save perhaps small forward.  Any kind of attack should result in success.  Drawing fouls against Stoudemire with Aldridge is the place to start, but Miller can drive, Matthews can cut and shoot, and Rudy Fernandez should be able to go crazy.  Portland is also looking at a potentially huge rebounding advantage.  The Blazers usually win games in which they can control the glass.

This ought to be a great game in which Portland can get back on track.  There's no reason to lose it at home.

See the fun over at Posting and Toasting.

Enter tonight's Jersey Contest form here.

Check out the LaMarcus Aldridge All-Star discussion and more in the Blazer Chat Thread.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)  

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