By Kenneth Teape (@teapester725)
New York Knicks vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Monday, November 25, 2013
Pre-Game News and Notes
The Knicks will look to end their losing streak in one of the toughest environments against one of the top teams in the NBA currently in Portland against the Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden. The Blazers have been one of the biggest surprises in the NBA as they currently sit second in the Western Conference with a 12-2 record, behind only the 12-1 San Antonio Spurs. This game has everything going against the Knicks, as they have notoriously struggled in Portland, losing 10 of their last 12 games there against some underwhelming Blazers teams. The current Blazers are also riding a 10 game winning streak, its longest since 2007; this is the worst time for the Knicks to be making their lone trip of the season out there. Here are some things to keep an eye on tonight as the Knicks will face their most difficult matchup of the season.
For the Knicks, Tyson Chandler is still out and it is looking more and more likely that Raymond Felton will be inactive again with his hip injury. This is probably a blessing in disguise for Felton as the Rose Garden crowd is relentless in booing and yelling at him as his stint in Portland was not a positive one during the lockout shortened 2011-2012 season.
For the Blazers backup point guard Mo Williams will miss the game because of a one-game suspension. Meyers Leonard will again be a game-time decision as he was in the last two games for the Blazers.
-Point Guard Play
The Knicks have been awful guarding the opposing point guard as night in and night out the opposing point guard takes it at the Knicks and picks them apart. This season the Knicks are surrendering 21.4 points per game to the opposing point guard, the highest of any of the positions on the Knicks and easily near the worst in the NBA. This is an unbelievable stat because with Tyson Chandler not manning the paint you would think big men would have their way with the Knicks but it is the attacking guards taking advantage as the Knicks do not have a rim protector.
Things will not get any easier tonight as they go against the reigning Rookie of the Year in Damian Lillard. Lillard is near his stats from his outstanding rookie season and looks poised to continue tonight against the Knicks. Things haven’t gotten any better with Raymond Felton on the bench, as John Wall scored 31 Saturday night and George Hill went for 23 on Thursday in the latest two games Beno Udrih started.
There are some people clamoring for Iman Shumpert to man up on Lillard but that does not seem like a conceivable option as the Blazers have two very capable wing scorers in Wes Matthews and Nicolas Batum. The Knicks will need a complete effort tonight from everyone on the defensive end to come out of Portland with a victory.
-Get in the open court
The Knicks have struggled throughout the season getting in the open court for easy baskets, averaging only 8.7 points per game in the fast break department. Things have gotten even uglier without Raymond Felton as the number has plummeted in more than half to only 3.7 fast break points per game. Things shouldn’t get any easier tonight against the Blazers though, as they are averaging only 11.4 fast break points against per game. If the Knicks got out in transition tonight it would be a surprise to everyone so it is more likely to expect another grind it out, half-court offensive game for the Knicks. The Knicks have to start getting themselves some easier baskets to get this thing rolling in the right direction.
-Who Takes over the Paint?
Like all their games without Chandler the big question tonight will be who attempts to slow down the opposing players big man? Tonight the Knicks will have their hands full down low with one of the best offensive big men in the NBA in LaMarcus Aldridge.
The Knicks will most likely ask Kenyon Martin to try his hand at slowing down Aldridge at the start, leaving Andrea Bargnani to chase around the energetic and do everything center Robin Lopez. Martin should be able to give Aldridge some fits but what makes me nervous is Bargnani trying to keep Lopez off the glass. Lopez hustles and does all the little things, something Bargnani hasn’t been known for during his time but this should enable Bargnani to go full throttle on offense as Lopez is not a threat scoring the ball.
The question is who will guard Aldridge once Martin goes to the bench? This will be a matchup to keep an eye on throughout the night as Aldridge is more than capable of carrying his team’s offense for the night.