New York Knicks (27-44) at Portland Trail Blazers (32-38)
March 23, 2017, 7:00 PST
Watch: KGW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Ed Davis (out), Festus Ezeli (out)
Knicks injuries: Derrick Rose (questionable), Joakim Noah (out)
SBN Affiliate: Posting & Toasting
The Trail Blazers continue their three-game home series tonight, hosting the Knicks in the Moda Center. After falling short against Milwaukee on Tuesday, Portland will try to get back on track against a New York team that is playing on the second night of a back-to-back.
Despite an offseason that involved some major fireworks, the Knicks have struggled down the stretch of the season. Coach Jeff Hornacek’s squad has only won one game in their last six attempts, which has New York focused on the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery instead of the playoffs.
In a loss against the Jazz last night, Derrick Rose suffered an ankle injury that has put his availability into question. If the former league MVP is unable to play, the Knicks will rely on a pair of unheralded rookie guards to fill his shoes. Ron Baker will likely see the most minutes, as Chasson Randle has only seen limited action since joining the Knicks in February.
With the point guard spot in question, Courtney Lee will be tasked with the majority of the work out of New York’s backcourt. Playing on his seventh team in nine years, Lee is no stranger to adversity. He is shooting above 40 percent from beyond the arc for the first time in two seasons, making him one of the Knicks’ more viable outside scoring threats.
New York’s frontcourt is where the problems begin for Portland’s defense. Kristaps Porzingis torched the Blazers in November, racking up a game-high 31 points in the Knicks’ victory. Slowing down the former lottery pick should be easier this time around, as Al-Farouq Aminu is healthy, giving coach Terry Stotts a little more versatility on defense.
With Joakim Noah out of the lineup, Porzingis has been seeing a considerable amount of minutes at the center position. This could cause problems for Jusuf Nurkić, who spends the majority of his time in the paint on the defensive end. Luckily for the Bosnian Beast, Porzingis has only connected on six of his last 23 attempts from the 3-point line. If that shooting trend continues, Nurkic will be able to avoid the journey to the perimeter, allowing him to stay inside his comfort zone.
If the Blazers are able to amass an early lead in this one, it should be enough to bury a Knicks team that is underperforming. Carmelo Anthony is enduring one of the worst scoring slumps of his career, but a few timely buckets could reverse that streak in a hurry. With Denver defeating Cleveland last night, Portland can’t afford another setback at home.