Portland Trail Blazers (8-7) at New York Knicks (6-7)
Nov. 22, 2016, 4:30 PST
Watch: CSN NW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Festus Ezeli (out), Al-Farouq Aminu (out)
Knicks injuries: Joakim Noah (doubtful), Lance Thomas (doubtful)
SBN Affiliate: Posting & Toasting
The Trail Blazers will take on the resurgent Knicks in Madison Square Garden this evening. New York has been victorious in three of its last four games, while Portland is coming off a victory against the crosstown Brooklyn Nets.
The Blazers were able to come up with the first win of their current five-game road trip, but they’ll face a New York team tonight that is capable of giving them real problems. Al-Farouq Aminu’s absence has been a tough hurdle to overcome for the defense, and the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis will only add to coach Terry Stotts’ headache.
Ed Davis has started the last two games for the Trail Blazers with mixed results. His mobility will be put to the test in this contest, as Porzingis owns one of the rarest size-to-speed ratios in the NBA. If Portland opts for a smaller defender - like Detroit did with Tobias Harris - New York will consistently feed him the ball in the paint. If the Trail Blazers go with a bigger defender, like the Hawks did with Paul Millsap, the Knicks will keep Porzingis active on screens and cuts. Both of those scenarios resulted in victories for New York, which goes to show how much of a nightmare the 21-year-old can be for opposing teams.
Outside of Porzingis, the defensive pairings get friendlier for the visiting team. Carmelo Anthony is always a threat, but he will be matched up against Portland’s strongest defender in Maurice Harkless. This matchup also presents some potential benefits on the offensive end for the Trail Blazers; Harkless is at his best when he is moving towards the basket away from the ball, which could present problems for the heavy-footed Anthony.
Damian Lillard is coming off a game in which he tied his lowest minutes total of the season (28 minutes), so the added rest could fuel a breakout performance. The Knicks are currently allowing opponents to shoot 36.5 percent from beyond the arc, which ranks as the fifth-friendliest rate in the league. This is a solid recipe for a big night from the Trail Blazers’ guard tandem.
Derrick Rose is still capable of impacting a game in a variety of ways, but his perimeter defense has suffered significantly due to his injuries. The Knicks were forced to put Courtney Lee on John Wall for long stretches in a loss to the Wizards last week. They won’t have that luxury when facing the two-headed monster that is the Trail Blazers backcourt.
Portland’s bench unit is coming off of its best game of the year. Three players reached double-digit points against the Nets, which is a promising sign after a string of rocky performances. The Trail Blazers have struggled to supplement CJ McCollum and Lillard’s scoring, but the reserves should be able to exploit the Knicks’ lack of depth.
Joakim Noah’s untimely illness isn’t helping an already shallow New York bench, but it has set the stage for a showdown between the Plumlee brothers. Fresh off a D-League performance, Marshall Plumlee managed to beat traffic to make his regular season debut against the Hawks on Sunday. If he is active, this will be the first time he faces his brother Mason in the NBA.
Tonight’s matchup will likely be decided by Portland’s ability to mitigate the damage done by Porzingis. There is a reason why he was mentioned at the outset of this preview, as the Trail Blazers have struggled to stop players with his skill set (Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis). If Portland can limit Porzingis’ effectiveness, they should be able to capitalize on a favorable backcourt matchup.
Blazer’s Edge Night 2017
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