USA TODAY Sports
The Portland Trail Blazers led the New York Knicks all night, blowing a 15 point fourth quarter lead, but held on for a more-stressful-than-necessary victory. This helped erase the taste of an ugly loss in New York last year.
The Blazers were led by Nicolas Batum (26 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds), LaMarcus Aldridge (19 points, 14 rebounds), JJ Hickson (18 points, 9 rebounds) and Damian Lillard (21 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds). Those four players were heavily leaned upon, as nobody else scored in double-digits.
First Quarter: Good start for the Blazers, when a Lillard three pushed the lead to 12-4. The Knicks swished four three-pointers to stay close, though. Amare Stoudamire entered the game to a standing ovation from the Madison Square Garden faithful. He immediately got the ball and stepped on the end line, turning it over. The Blazers immediately went on a mini-run, only slowed by the arrival of Ronnie Price.* However, the Knicks couldn’t take advantage. Two late missed FT’s by JR Smith left the Blazers with a 7 point lead after a quarter. Portland’s early 14-5 rebounding advantage was a huge factor.
* It also coincided with Lillard’s departure, of course.
Gotta be crazy for Lillard to play vs Kidd. Gotta be one of the guys he looked up to growing up, I’d imagine.
Second Quarter: Amare couldn’t buy a basket early on, shooting 0-4. When a Matthews layup pushed the lead to 9, the Knicks called timeout. The Blazers came out of the timeout in a zone defense, completely baffling the Knicks and leading to a Luke Babbitt three for a double-digit lead. As the defense helped the Knicks go cold, the Blazers took advantage at the other end. Soon, a 15-2 Blazer run helped the lead reach 19. However, as Lillard went to the bench, the Knicks started their comeback. Batum gave away the ball on three consecutive possessions, which the Knicks converted for 7 straight points. Lillard immediately returned to the game, getting Aldridge an easy jumper. Before long, the lead was 18 again. The Blazers were still clinging to a 14 point lead, when Carmelo threw a long three pointer toward the hoop at the buzzer. It banked in. So after a lot of work, the Blazers headed to the locker room with an 11 point lead.
Knicks are getting all the bounces
Third Quarter: The Knicks realized they could simply lob to Tyson Chandler. Combined with more Blazer turnovers, the lead was quickly back under 10. The Blazers needed a timeout within minutes, with the lead down to 7. With their mojo gone, and the Knicks’ defense improved, they tried to stay ahead. However, the Knicks closed to within 3 anyway. Matthews had to leave the game after he was hit in the head by Carmelo, and landed hard on the court. Batum hit two consecutive three’s to push the lead to 9. However, they couldn’t pull away. After a rough quarter, the Blazers still led by 7.
Just got to play a solid quarter, and should come out with a win
Fourth Quarter: Batum missed a three, and Carmelo took advantage to cut the lead to 5. Price scores 5 straight points though, to keep the Blazers ahead. The starters returned and the lead reached 10 again on Aldridge free throws. The teams played to a standstill for a few minutes (helped by a handful of missed shots by both teams), and finally Babbitt (playing with the starters over Hickson) nailed a three-pointer for a 15 point lead with just over four minutes left. However, the Blazers went cold again, and the Knicks cut the lead to single digits within a minute. With 2:30 left, two Smith free throws cut the lead to 7. After another Blazer miss, a Carmelo FT cuts it to 6. Another Blazer turnover gave the Knicks more room. They missed, but the Blazers left the lane wide open for a free Smith tip-in. Blazers coach Terry Stotts finally called timeout with 1:25 remaining, arguably two minutes after it was needed. The Knicks had outscored the Blazers 13-2 after the 15 point lead.
Out of the timeout, the Blazers went to a clearout for Lillard, who missed badly... but the ball went to Aldridge, who scored. In turn, Carmelo walked downcourt, got open, and nailed a three-pointer. At the other end, Lillard went one on one. He moved to the hoop, then backed off and launched a three. Swish, in front of the MSG faithful. On the inbounds, Carmelo got wide open for a layup... and Hickson (who just entered the game) inexplicably fouled him on the easy layup. That cut the lead to 3 with 29 seconds left. The Blazers lost the ball on a jump ball, giving them a chance to tie. They went to Carmelo, who bricked a three. The Blazers held on for the win!
Stay tuned for Dave's analysis later tonight. The next game is tomorrow night, in Toronto. 4pm start time for that one! -- Tim