Well, there wasn't a "Let's Go Blazers!" chant inside Madison Square Garden Monday - although there was a brief "Jimmer!" - but the Portland Trail Blazers continued to take care of business as they dispatched the lowly New York Knicks 104-85 to pick up their sixth-straight road win and third in-a-row on what is becoming a quite compelling six-game road trip.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard (30 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds), CJ McCollum (25 points, three rebounds, two assists) and Meyers Leonard off the bench (11 points, 14 rebounds, 3 3PT).
The Knicks were led by Carmelo Anthony (23 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists) and Arron Affalo (13 points, 6 rebounds).
The Knicks weren't about to get embarrassed on their home court yet again, and predictably came out of the gates peppy and enthused, flaunting some focused defense and renewed energy which stood toe-to-toe with Portland throughout the opening period.
Unsurprisingly, keying in on Lillard and McCollum at both ends of the court appeared to be a major part of New York's gameplan. Defenders paid mind to the duo's at-any-given-moment scoring ability and clearly tried to force the ball out of their hands and into just about any other Blazer's. Al-Farouq Aminu was given a bevvy of open looks throughout the quarter but missed four of his five shots, and outside of a couple opportune and emphatic putback dunks from Noah Vonleh, Portland struggled to put points on the board early.
At the other end, Afflalo looked to take the smaller McCollum down in the post, using his nearly patented back-to-basket game to decent success, scoring six in the period as the Knicks used a 9-0 run to take a 15-10 lead on Kristaps Porzingis' and-1 jumper.
Amidst the action, a funny moment occurred following a blocked shot out-of-bounds call after Anthony's lay-in was rejected by Ed Davis - after the whistle blew, and players began to relax, Anthony casually corralled the ball, spun to the hoop and emphatically rim-checked himself, sending the ball darting backwards and the 31-year-old forward lumbering to the ground as he lost his balance. Nowhere to hide, he could only join in on the laughter. Despite the folly, Anthony still added seven points to the initial effort.
It wouldn't be a first quarter in this road trip without a notable mention of Lillard, who scored 10 points - including a driving layup to beat the buzzer - as he quietly kept the advantage in Portland's favor.
End of First: Portland 27, New York 25
The bench unit has been the subject of much praise as of late and it certainly looked every bit the part Tuesday, particularly Davis, who had a sensational shift during the first half where he made all four of his shots for 9 points, 5 boards (3 offensive) and 2 big-time blocks for a not-too-shabby +13 in 16 minutes of court time. It was vintage "Easy Ed" and as soon as he checked into the game the Blazers' just started to find success.
The Knicks threatened about halfway through the second quarter following Kyle O'Quinn's three-pointer and another pull-up jumper from Afflalo as New York took a brief 36-33 lead, but Maurice Harkless answered right back with a three of his own to go along with his five points, and two buckets from Davis restored order at 42-41.
It would set the stage for what is becoming a routine, brilliant stretch for Lillard, who scored 14 points in just 2:45 towards the end of period, including three triples and foul while shooting a three as the Knicks had no answer. The surge all-of-a-sudden vaulted the Blazers ahead running into the locker room.
Halftime: Portland 58, New York 50
After a cold opening half, McCollum finally broke out during the third - following a driving dunk by Aminu off a steal to open the period, CJ scored the next four Portland field goals for 13 points over a nearly seven-minute span. Most encouragingly, the points came from a variety of ways; starting with an open three, working his way to the rim for two pretty reverse finishes and then knocking down a mid-range fadeaway as he kept the Blazers ahead 70-61. Following 24 points in the first two quarters, Lillard's only point during the third came off Robin Lopez's technical free throw.
Some familiarly tenacious play from Lopez managed to snare a putback dunk to cut into the defecit to seven, but threes from Allen Crabbe and Leonard helped Portland finish the period strong and hold another double-digit lead.
End of Third: Portland 85, New York 72
New York didn't put up much of a fight during the final frame, missing its first six shots as the Blazers pulled away for good. O'Quinn was booed by his home crowd after chucking up a long two airball that never had a chance with Leonard completely in his face. There were also cries for "Jimmer!" - referencing seldom-used former BYU star Jimmer Fredette, who is nearing the end of a 10-day contract with the club. He did eventually enter the game in garbage time and perhaps received the loudest ovation of the evening.
Late-game heroics from Lillard were rendered unnecessary, as McCollum picked up right where he left off with eight points in the period to pull Portland even further away. His three with nearly four minutes remaining gave the Blazers a commanding 97-79 advantage. Lillard added his own dagger to push Portland to the century mark and extend his incredible 30+ point scoring streak to three games, and eight out of the last nine.
The road trip continues, as Portland heads to Boston to take on the surging Celtics in the second half of a back-to-back Tuesday at 4:30 pm. Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge tonight, for extended analysis of this game from Dave Deckard.
-- Ryan Rosback | email@example.com | Twitter