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Portland Trail Blazers vs. New York Knicks Preview

The Trail Blazers look to secure a win at home against a potentially vulnerable opponent.

NBA: Boston Celtics at New York Knicks Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (9-15) vs. New York Knicks (4-19)

December 10, 2019 - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Rodney Hood (out), Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out)
Knicks injuries: Wayne Ellington (out), Reggie Bullock (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Posting and Toasting

The Portland Trail Blazers face the New York Knicks following a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-96. Damian Lillard had 26 points for the Blazers, while Hassan Whiteside put up a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Kent Bazemore started in place of the injured Rodney Hood. A lack of scoring from key contributors kept Portland from getting a win despite an attempt at a comeback.

The New York Knicks arrive in Portland after a loss to the Indiana Pacers 104-103. Marcus Morris Sr. led the scoring for the Knicks with 25 points, and Julius Randle had 16 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double. A missed free throw by Randle in the last seconds led to the loss. The Knicks fired head coach David Fizdale last week.

What to watch for

  • Ball Movement. With so many changes to the lineup, the Blazers have been lost in isolation hell. Iso ball only gets a team so far, especially when the players who are actually good at it suddenly have a not-so-good game. If the Blazers want to make a comeback from the current slide, they need to start clicking and start passing.
  • Fast Break Points. Along with the existing penchant for iso ball, there is a decided trend for fast break points. It might make you think a positive is balancing out a negative, but if the Blazers aren’t able to convert on fast breaks, that positive disappears.
  • Season of CJ. CJ McCollum has shown us flashes of the player we hoped he could be so far this season, but he needs to step up and do it consistently. The backcourt duo has to be able to rely on each other in order to handle the offensive load, and this team desperately needs someone to make a difference.

What they’re saying

Rob Mahoney of the Ringer proposes a plan to fix the Knicks, noting that they need to take advantage of easy buckets in transition:

These are lean times for the Knicks, who have managed the worst half-court offense and the worst transition offense this season, per Synergy Sports. It’s hard to escape the former; without savvier creators or dramatically different spacing, attempts to score against a set defense will always feel like pulling blood from bricks. With that being the case, the Knicks should disregard the premise as much as possible. Even though New York has struggled on the break, those struggles are relative. It’s always a better proposition for an offense to roll downhill, before a defense can get itself in order. This isn’t exactly a roster built for speed, but the Knicks haven’t tried their luck enough in transition.

Over at Posting and Toasting, Knicks Nuance digs into RJ Barrett’s ability to get to the line:

This is encouraging. Not as encouraging is that RJ’s 53 percent from the foul line is emphatically the worst percentage of all 20 players. This is a group that includes Howard (67 percent), Griffin (64 percent) and Stoudemire (66 percent). It’s not close — to the tune of an 11 percent drop-off — through the first quarter of Barrett’s debut season.

Herein lies the fascination with the Knicks’ 19-year-old rook: his biggest strength is diluted, overshadowed and knotted up in his biggest weakness. He gets to the line at a rate indicative of future stardom, but when he’s there — on an increasingly worrying sample size — his struggles swallow up that optimism and burp up a gigantic alarm bell instead.