Portland Trail Blazers (8-6) vs. New York Knicks (8-9)
How long has it been? Six days! It has been six days between games for the Portland Trail Blazers, who were kept away from the court on Wednesday and Friday due to their would-be opponent Memphis Grizzlies going through coronavirus health and safety protocols. The Blazers looked out of sorts without CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic against the San Antonio Spurs, but let’s see what the team has been doing with its time off. The Knicks come to the Moda Center for the third game of a four-stop West Coast swing.
Sunday, January 24 - 7:00 p.m. PT
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Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), CJ McCollum (out)
Knicks injuries: Frank Ntilikina (questionable), Austin Rivers (questionable), Reggie Bullock (doubtful)
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Ntilikina and Rivers are now availble.
Knicks Injury Update:— Jamie Hudson (@JamieHudsonNBCS) January 25, 2021
Frank Ntilikina and Austin Rivers are available; Reggie Bullock is out vs. Blazers tonight.
What To Watch For
- Rust. The Blazers haven’t played in almost a week. Yes, the team, particularly Damian Lillard, has had time to let some things heal but watch for how long it takes the Blazers to get back into the swing of things. The team’s Wednesday and Friday clashes with the Memphis Grizzlies have been postponed until later in the season due to coronavirus health and safety protocols.
- Rotation. Terry Stotts elected to play Rodney Hood and Enes Kanter in the starting positions vacated by CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic last Monday. Will Hood start again or is it time for Gary Trent Jr.? Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little, and Harry Giles III also got some burn against the Spurs. Could we see more of this trio as they work to crack regular non-injury related rotation minutes?
- Rodney. To complete our little alliteration exercise, we turn to Hood. Against the Spurs, the rangy wing reminded us of the level he was capable of before he suffered the dreaded Achilles injury. Hood put up 21 points, two rebounds, two assists and a steal in 25 minutes and with McCollum out for at least four weeks — and Nurkic for six — the Blazers need these numbers to become the norm.
What Others Are Saying
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has hailed his budding star wing RJ Barrett for his versatility through the early season, reports Steve Popper of Newsday.
“I think RJ’s played really well over, I’d say, like the last five or six games, playing at a really high level,” Thibodeau said. “He started off the season where he had a big opening night and I think teams came after him pretty good. But he’s adjusting, and even during the stretch where he wasn’t shooting particularly well, he was rebounding great and he was playmaking.
“I think now he’s playing a great all-around game. His floor game is terrific. His defense is vastly improved. And he’s making the right reads. He’s got a good blend going of scoring and passing. He’s commanding a lot of attention, which is opening things up, so I’m very pleased with his progress.”
Peter Botte at the New York Post highlights big man Julius Randle could be in line for an All Star berth this season.
In addition to his improved offensive numbers across the board, the 26-year-old former Kentucky star also has assumed an expanded leadership role in his seventh NBA season and second in New York.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau also has praised Randle’s play at the defensive end of the floor, especially in the team’s stingy 91-84 win Monday over Orlando.
“That’s what I loved about that game. Just his grittiness, his sticktoitiveness,” Thibodeau said Wednesday about Randle. “He just kept going. His will. His rebounding was huge for us. Those two loose balls at the end of the game. Those type of effort plays, you know it inspires the team.