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Portland Trail Blazers at New York Knicks Preview

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The Blazers hope to ring in 2020 by getting back on track as they kick off a five-game road trip.

New York Knicks v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers (14-20) at New York Knicks (9-24)

Wednesday, January 1 - 4:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Rodney Hood (out), Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Skal Labissiere (out), Mario Hezonja (questionable)
Knicks injuries: Wayne Ellington (out), Reggie Bullock (out), Dennis Smith Jr. (questionable), Kevin Knox (questionable), Damyean Dotson (questionable)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA TV
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Posting and Toasting

Happy New Year, Blazer fans! The Trail Blazers closed out their 2019 on a bummer note, losing four in a row. The losing streak is especially disheartening after a four-game winning streak gave Blazer fans some hope that the team had turned a corner. Thankfully everyone is undefeated in 2020! Hopefully, Portland can hit refresh as the calendar turns over. They will have to do so on the road. Wednesday’s game kicks off a five-game road trip.

The Knicks are not good, but they closed 2019 by winning their last two games. Their loss in Portland last month gave them a record of 4-20, but they have gone 5-4 since then. New York has only four wins in Madison Square Garden this season. The Blazers have a great chance to get back on track and start 2020 off the right way.

What to watch for

  • Julius Randle. The forward leads the Knicks in scoring (18.7 points per game) in his first year in New York. Randle has played especially well of late, scoring 30 or more in each of his last three games, going a combined 11 for 23 from beyond the arc. His scoring streak isn’t limited to the past three games as Randle averaged 21.4 points during the month of December. Portland held him to 15 points during their December matchup. Limiting Randle’s scoring would go a long way in helping the Blazers secure a much needed victory.
  • Three-point defense. One area Portland has struggled during their four-game losing streak is defending the three-point line. Opponents are shooting 42.1 percent beyond the arc against them in that stretch. Some of that can be attributed to bad luck, but too often Blazer defenders have been slow to rotate and close out on open shooters. The good news is that New York is toward the bottom of the league in three-point shooting at 34.6 percent. Of course, Phoenix shoots a similar percentage (35.1) and just hit 56.2 percent of their threes against the Blazers.
  • Carmelo Anthony’s return to NYC. Anthony has only played one game in Madison Square Garden since leaving the Knicks after the 2016-17 season. Anthony played six and a half seasons in New York, averaging 24.7 points across 412 games for the franchise. He led the Knicks to the East’s 2nd seed while leading the NBA in scoring in the 2012-13 season. Anthony last played in New York in December of 2017 as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He scored 12 points, but shot 5-18 in a losing effort. Hopefully, for both Anthony and the Blazers, he can have a more efficient and successful game on the court he called home for most of the 2010s.

What they’re saying

Marc Berman of the New York Post praised the job Mike Miller has done replacing fired coach David Fizdale:

Entering the new year, the Knicks have held the Nets to 27.9 percent shooting and Washington to 34.4 percent. They switch less on pick-and-rolls and eliminated the zone defense that Fizdale resorted to. Miller wants to hold his guys accountable as man-to-man defenders.

“If the situation dictates, it’s a good changeup, but we focus on other things where we feel like we got a really good base with our coverages,” Miller said. “As time goes, we may look at it but we really haven’t at this point.”

Orestis Rantis of Hoops Habit says the Knicks need to do a better job of making easy shots in 2020:

From a free-throw standpoint, the Knicks are dead-last in the NBA in percentage, shooting a horrendous 69.0 percent from the charity stripe. In comparison, the league average is 76.9 percent from the line meaning that the Knicks make nearly eight fewer free-throws per 100 attempts than an average team.

As if free-throw shooting struggles weren’t enough, it seems like the Miller’s/Fizdale’s men tend to fail to capitalize on the close shots as well. The Knicks are –once again– last in the NBA in shooting from within five feet from the basket, making just 55.6 percent of those attempts.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe praised center Mitchell Robinson’s defense:

Robinson has committed only 17 fouls in 191 minutes over New York’s past seven games -- about 3.2 per 36 minutes. The Knicks would probably sign up for that over Robinson’s remaining career.

On switches, Robinson isn’t leaping at pump fakes and trying to block every jumper. He’ll sometimes open his hips and concede a driving lane -- something Draymond Green does a lot. It looks like a mistake, but it is really Robinson showing faith in his ability to bother shots from behind.

On the latest Blazer’s Edge Podcast, Tara spoke to China of Posting and Toasting about the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony, and more. Check it out below: