Blazers @ Knicks: MSG 730pm
Happy New Year Knickswag readers, Amar’e Stoudemire is back! The Knicks host the Blazers at MSG after three days of rest and some much needed practice. STAT will be coming off the bench and Carmelo Anthony is a game time decision. Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd did not practice in those three days but both are expected back on Tuesday as Chandler suffered a sprained ankle on Friday in the loss at Sacramento and Kidd needed some rest.
New Year’s Resolution Number 1 for the Knicks must be getting their defense back to the way they started the season during the first seven games, when the Knicks were a top 5 defensive squad. They are just not very good defensively on a consistent basis and it’s concerning. Over the last seven games, the Knicks are 3-4. Their three wins included narrow defeats over the Timberwolves and Suns. In the four losses to the Rockets, Bulls, Lakers and Kings, the Knicks gave up an average of 106.3 points per game, allowing their opponents to shoot 48% from the field, and 38% from three. Overall, the Knicks have fallen to 17th in the league in defensive efficiency at a rate of 102.7. They are 20th in the league in opponent’s field goal percentage, allowing foes 45.5% from the field shooting; even more startling, the Knicks are 26th in opponent’s three point shooting percentage, at 37%.
Portland is a dangerous team. Their record is just 15-14 good for 9th in the West. They were embarrassed last year in their only New York appearance, 121-79. The game marked Nate McMillan’s exodus and Coach Woodson’s introduction as “Head Man” for the Knicks. Only three players from that game have any real playing time on this year’s Blazers squad, LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, and Nicolas Batum.
A major difference for Portland this year is that they have Rookie of the Year candidate, Damian Lillard, who is going to give Jason Kidd nightmares. Lillard looks and plays like a leader. He’s averaging 18 points and 6 assists in 38 minutes. Aldridge is playing very well coming off a tough 2011-12 campaign. Aldridge is averaging 21 points and 8 rebounds. Nicolas Batum is having a terrific all around season, with 16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.5 steals. JJ Hickson is leading the team in rebounds with 11 per game to go along with 12.5 points and a 56% shooting percentage from the field.
With all that being said, the Knicks are 12-2 at home and I would bet Carmelo Anthony is going to start. Portland is a bottom ten defensive team in the NBA, specifically, 20th in points allowed per game, 28th in opponents field goal percentage, and 21st in defensive efficiency. I have no doubt that Woodson has been dissecting the tape and highlighting the areas where the Knicks must improve, which are protecting the three point line and attacking the glass. This Portland team is extremely athletic, but they are young and the Knicks must take this game early and not allow any confidence to build.
It’s going to be extremely fun to watch Pablo Prigioni running the pick and roll with STAT on the second unit, alongside JR Smith, Steve Novak and Chris Copeland. The Knicks have too much talent and should be able to overwhelm the young Blazers squad. The Knicks have just 13 games in January and are just a game behind Miami for home court advantage. Home game victories are essential to maintaining in contention for the top seed in the East. GO KNICKS!