Frankly, a loss tonight at home against a dysfunctional Knicks squad would be unacceptable and highly discouraging, but to its credit Portland found a way to take care of business, even while not looking its best.
But a victory wasn’t all but guaranteed - New York hung close for the entire first half and stayed within spitting distance until the final minutes before Portland managed to put them away. Playing down to the opponent didn’t cost the team tonight, but the Blazers were definitely playing with fire.
Random thoughts and takeaways:
Ho-hum. If anything, tonight serves as proof that Portland is good enough to win even not firing on all cylinders... and with a flat tire to boot, albeit against a very bad team in the Knicks. Of the Blazers’ “Big Three,” only Jusuf Nurkic reached the 20-point threshold (he had 20 exactly), while Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum shot a combined 12-31 from the floor. They won’t get away with that kind of performance very often, but tonight it got the job done.
Greener pastures. Making his return to Portland, Noah Vonleh started for New York and might might have been the Knicks’ best player on the court. The former Blazer, controversially traded near the deadline last season for “financial reasons,” showed some grit against his former team posting a double-double with 16 points and 13 boards, including some highlight-quality dunks. Vonleh’s tenure in Portland was enigmatic and ended with what felt like a bit left on the table, but it’s nice to see him earn a bigger opportunity somewhere he has room to grow.
The Blazers get a day off before hosting the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night at the Moda Center.