The Portland Trail Blazers and the New York Knicks were scheduled to play a basketball game Tuesday night in New York City. Instead they opted for a scrimmage. Whether the uniform said Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Kristaps Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony, Mindaugas Kuzminkas, or Joe the Hot Dog vendor, everybody was invited to put the ball through the hoop. The Knicks ended up scoring last, sealing a 107-103 victory with a Derrick Rose step-back fade-away jumper. By that point all Blazers fans could do was shrug. Neither team was entitled to the win, but somebody was going to claim it.
This game might as well have been a practice session wherein each team took turns trying different offensive sets against stand in defenders. When they bothered to defend, which was seldom, each team acted like they were limited to a single help rotation. Any kind of pass or decent dribble moved resulted in an open look. The “Game Flow” was a wide-open faucet, marred only when somebody blew their free chance at the twine.
For 42 minutes or so the contest went back and forth that way. New York played more consistently than Portland in the final half-dozen minutes. They ran screens while Portland hoisted threes off the dribble. That proved the difference.
Those hoping that Portland’s bounce back game against the Brooklyn Nets was a sign of good things to come might want to keep the party poppers in the plastic for a little while longer.
Portland’s good defensive stands were rare, but they did have a couple. With 25 seconds remaining in the the 4th quarter and the score 105-103 New York, the Knicks ran a high pick and roll above the three-point line that left Rose isolated on Maurice Harkless. Harkless got down and played Rose brilliantly, deflecting the ball and giving the Blazers a final chance. It didn’t pan out but it was something. Harkless deserves credit for defending while his teammates crumpled around him.
The Knicks narrowly missed scoring 50 percent of their total points in the paint tonight: 52 out of 107. They average 41 in the paint for the season. It wasn’t like the Knicks were attacking Portland cleverly. Whatever they tried, the result was optimal.
Exhibit A: this Kristaps Porzingis shot chart.
Everywhere Porzingis ventured he met little to no resistance. Put a big on him and he’d dribble-drive from the 3-point line into the lane for the score. Put a shorter wing on him to stop penetration and he’d post up, turn, and shoot. 31 points and 9 rebounds from Porzingis testify to Portland’s plight.
If you’re looking for some sort of silver lining, at least the Blazers didn’t foul much? Portland attempted 26 free throws against 8 for New York. This kept the Blazers in the game. Then again, not fouling meant the Knicks scored with impunity.
As for the non-defense related items, the Blazers shot 44 percent from the floor and 27 percent from distance. Getting to the free throw line helped them score 103 points. On an off night from the field, they still broke the century mark. While no individual player save Ed Davis had a spectacular game, 5 players got into double digits and 6 players got up 8 or more shots. At least the offensive attack was diverse.
Something new did pop up tonight that really hasn’t been an issue for most of the season: Turnovers. 16 TO’s led to 23 points for the Knicks. They surely didn’t need any more help scoring but Portland gave it to them anyway.
Let’s find a few positives.
Ed Davis became the beneficiary of a Knicks defense predicated on stopping Lillard in the pick and roll. Every time Lillard worked the set with Davis, two Knicks defenders trapped and pushed Lillard to the sideline. That meant they paid no attention to Davis as he rumbled down the middle. Lillard found him repeatedly in the first half, leaving Davis with 14 points and 3 offensive rebounds in the first half alone. Davis didn’t get a single shot in the second half, but did manage to complete a double-double: 14 points and 10 rebounds on 7-for-9 from the field. He also gave Porzingis the only real pressure he saw all night.
Maurice Harkless continues to play well. Alongside the previously-mentioned defensive effort, he gave his team 13 points, 8 rebounds, a steal and a block. Over the last four games, Harkless is averaging 13.5 points and 6 rebounds on 53 percent shooting. #ThirdOption
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum weren’t steady tonight. They scored 38 between them but took 35 shots to get there. They shot 3-for-9 from behind the arc and only got to the line 7 times. If Portland’s defense is going to continue struggling, anything less than superhuman stats from these two will prove inadequate.
Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard shot 3-for-16 from the field and 2-for-10 from distance. Both had ample opportunities that were WIDE open, but just couldn’t knock one down. In the game where defense was optional, it’s strange to see two of the purer shooters on Portland’s roster struggle so mightily. Even worse, neither managed to contribute in any other meaningful facet.
Links and Notes
PostingandToasting will continue their love-hate relationship with Carmelo Anthony (the only Knick to struggle obviously tonight) and their love-MORE LOVE relationship with players ending in -is and -as.
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