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Portland Trail Blazers vs. New York Knicks Preview

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The Blazers can extend their winning streak to eight games with a win against the struggling Knicks.

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NBA: New York Knicks at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (38-26) vs. New York Knicks Preview (24-40)

Tuesday, March 6th - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Moe Harkless (questionable)
Knicks injuries: Kristaps Porzingis (out), Ron Baker (out), Joakim Noah (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Posting and Toasting

This is a classic matchup of teams going in opposite directions. The Blazers are riding a seven-game winning streak; the Knicks are looking forward to the lottery, and have every incentive to move down the standings.

Last time out the Blazers defeated the Lakers 108-103 in Los Angeles, but it wasn’t easy. A 15-point third quarter from the Blazers allowed the Lakers to build a substantial lead, but Damian Lillard said “no” and Portland found a way to win.

The Knicks enter Tuesday’s game against the Blazers with an extra day off, having played a close game against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. The Knicks ultimately lost the battle of downward-trending teams 102-99.

What to watch for

  • Lots of Blazer defenders in the paint. No team has fewer 3-point makes than the Knicks. It’s only gotten worse after the injury to Kristaps Porzingis, a very good shooter from deep. Courtney Lee can and will take threes and is shooting 40.9 percent from beyond the arc, but beyond him guys either aren’t shooting threes or can’t hit them. Usually both. Expect to see the Blazers give guys a bit more room than usual on the perimeter.
  • Block Party? One of the few areas that New York is doing well in is blocks. The Knicks are sixth best in the league, averaging 5.4 blocks per game. The Blazers aren’t far behind at 5.1 per game. With New York in experimental mode (also known as tanking) things might get a little loose on both ends of the court. Loose play, bad defense and inexperienced guys on the floor are the perfect ingredients for more blocks than usual — on both ends.
  • Will the Knicks bother to make it a game? New York is 1-12 over their last 13 games. The average point differential in those 12 losses? 12.7 points. The fact is: the Knicks are rarely competitive these days, and frankly, they are probably okay with that. At this point their season is all about trying new things, figuring out which players have a future in New York and getting a good draft pick. In spite of the Blazers playing on the second night of a back-to-back, this game will be there for the taking if Portland wants it.

What they’re saying

Kurt Helin of NBC Sports says that the Knicks have resorted to trying lottery pick Frank Ntilikina at the two:

When the Knicks drafted Frank Ntilikina out of France, the idea was to develop him as a big point guard (remember, Phil Jackson was still in charge there at the time and he loves big point guards). Over the course of the season, Ntilikina has played 84 percent of his minutes at the point.

However, in the past month the Knicks are giving Ntilikina a much longer look at the two guard slot. They went out and got more traditional point guards Trey Burke and Emmanuel Mudiay, and have played Ntilikina with them off the ball a lot more.

Michael Beasley isn’t pointing the finger at himself for his declining production according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

Nobody talked more than Michael Beasley before this season about his greatness — about how he’s just as skilled as LeBron James, about how he’s a “walking bucket” who can score 25 points per game, about how the Knicks could be the 5 or 6-seed in the Eastern Conference.

Now, it’s different. With the team in a tailspin and Beasley’s production falling off a cliff, he often pretends like he’s at a loss for words.

”Not sure,” he said Monday about his dip in production. “I don’t call the plays.”

Al Iannazzone of Newsday reports that Emmanuel Mudiay is looking to get in shape and get comfortable after coming via trade with Denver:

Mudiay concedes his body still needs work and said he will take his conditioning to “another level” during the offseason, but he looks forward to showing improvement in all areas during the final six weeks of the season.

“This month should be the month I get a lot more comfortable with the whole system,” Mudiay said before recording nine points and seven assists as the Knicks opened a four-game road trip with a 128-105 loss to the Clippers on Friday night. “I’m still trying to learn a lot of the plays. I’ve been running the plays I’m more comfortable with. And Coach has helped me out from the sidelines.”