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Blazers Can’t Solve OG Anunoby, Lose Big to Knicks

Portland gets bitten in the Big Apple.

Portland Trail Blazers v New York Knicks Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers lost in blowout fashion to the New York Knicks 112-84 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday evening. Oh what a difference 48 hours can make. The Blazers were coming off one of their best shooting games of the season against the Brooklyn Nets one night prior. Against the Knicks, it was a very different story. The Blazers were not able to get over the 50-point mark until halfway through the third quarter.

Maybe it was the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, but the Blazers played tight and it showed on their shot attempts. Shaedon Sharpe started the game with two air balls, Anfernee Simons seemed to have 4-5 shots roll around then off the rim, and no Blazer could buy a bucket from three point range.

The offense wasn’t the only side of the ball to blame tonight. The Blazers defense was slow and not able to keep up with the passing of the Knicks. Normally the Blazers can rely on solid three-point D, but tonight it simply didn’t matter. OJ Anunoby had 16 points in the first quarter, mainly due to the corner three-point shot. The Blazers were a step slow on defensive rotations and the Knicks made them pay over and over and over again with made threes.

Portland maintained a decent amount of effort given that the deficit was ballooning towards 40 points. It’s always fun to play in the Big Apple, but the Blazers will leave with a sour taste in their mouth.

If you missed the game, you can find our quarter-by-quarter recap here. After you’ve read that, here are the details that defined the contest.

Setting the Tone

Scoot Henderson has been playing much better as the season has progressed. He’s settling into the offense and getting used to the speed of the NBA. Jalen Brunson, the starting point guard for the Knicks, is not known for his defensive prowess, so I was expecting Scoot to attack early. The first two plays for the Blazers did run through Scoot, but they didn’t have the positive outcome the team was hoping for.

Henderson started the game off with a bad pass that led to a fast break dunk, followed by a drive to the basket that ended in another unforced turnover. These were just two plays in an entire game, but they set the tone.

The point guard has many jobs, but some of the most important involve getting your team off to a good start and positioning your squad to finish strong. If you aren’t able to start strong, it won’t matter how you finish because the game will get out of hand. As the season drags on, I want to see Scoot focus on getting the team off well, setting his teammates up for early success, getting Anfernee Simons and Shaedon Sharpe in rhythm. Scoot has the speed and athleticism to get to the rim or find his own shot anytime he wants, but as he evolves as a point guard, the hard part will be making others better.

Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

Jerami Grant led the Blazers with 21 points on 8-16 shooting in only 28 minutes of play. His totals would have been higher if the game had not been a blowout.

In contrast, Simons scored 12 points on 4-14 shooting in 27 minutes of play. I bring this up to make the point that Simons is still the engine that moves the Blazers. Grant is a vital part of the current make up of the team. His scoring from the forward position is essential in bringing balance to the roster. But Grant can have a good start to a game, and the Blazers can still find themselves down 20 points. When Simons has a good start, the Blazers tend to be in games or carry a lead. The gravitational pull Simons has on the team is greater than Grant’s pull.

The Knicks were content with giving Grant one-on-one coverage to make sure the Blazers shooters did not find their shooting stroke. Whenever Simons touched the ball, New York swarmed him like bees to honey. The Knicks adding Anunoby bolstered their perimeter defense, which happens to be where Simons plays.

The Blazers would be stuck in the mud without Grant but the Blazers don’t even have a vehicle to off road with if it wasn’t for Simons.

Ibou Badji

Ibou Badji played 27 minutes tonight for the Blazers. He scored 4 points, grabbed 7 rebounds, and dished out 3 assists. Those stats are nice for a young player looking to impress the coaching staff, but I want to talk about his shot blocking. The official stat sheet will show 2 recorded blocks, but that doesn’t even begin to tell the story.

Badji is so tall and long, he can block a shot from the bench. He had a block tonight at the 3:20 mark of the first quarter that sent Julius Randle into a tailspin for the rest of the game. Badji can play that role for the Blazers: a defensive anchor coming off the bench. He moves his feet well and does a great job of staying out of foul trouble, which is extremely tough in today’s NBA because refs are very quick to blow the whistle on young players, especially bigs.

Because of injuries to Deandre Ayton and Moses Brown, the Blazers have to depend on Duop Reath and Badji to hold down the middle. All things considered, they both have played well and have earned the minutes they are getting. If the Blazers could find a way to fuse them together, they would have a beast on their hands.

Right Guy, Right Time

The New York Knicks have been trying to upgrade their team in free agency for the past three seasons. They finally struck gold with Anunoby. He fits their team like a glove.

Brunson and Randle are offensive-minded players. The Knicks have surrounded them with shooters. Anunoby is focused on defense and brings toughness to the team. He can also shoot the ball pretty well. His three-point touch from the corners set the tone for the Knicks tonight.

The Toronto Raptors, Anunoby’s former team, wanted a lot in return for the up-and-coming forward. He’s not going to be the superstar of any team, but he plays like the glue guy every championship squad needs. Toumani Camara is the easy comparison for the Blazers. If Camara can master the corner three, and put on some more muscle, he will become a player like Anunoby, but with a higher ceiling.

Tryout Season

There are a lot of rumors going around that Malcom Brogdon might be a trade target for the New York Knicks. If that was the case, Brogdon played like he would rather stay in Portland than play in Madison Square Garden. Because of the blowout, Brogdon only played 15 minutes and scored 2 points.

The team wasn’t playing well tonight, but Brogdon’s body language told the story. He did not play with the same IQ and leadership that we are used to seeing.

Even in the big win versus the Nets, Brogdon slept through the first three and a half quarters before turning it on. He has been the coach on the floor all year for Portland, but it looks like energy is running low for the former Rookie and 6th Man of the Year winner.

Up Next

Boxscore

The road doesn’t get any easier for the Trail Blazers. Portland’s next game is an away tilt against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday with tipoff scheduled for 5:00 PM, Pacific.