The Knicks began 2013 the same way they ended 2012: with a loss to a lesser opponent. The Knicks lost their tenth game of the season and third at home in a 105-100 loss to the Portland Trailblazers. Nicolas Batum led the Blazers with 26 points, six assists and four rebounds. Meanwhile, the Knicks were led by Carmelo Anthony’s second 45-point effort of the season.
Despite a buzz in the crowd with the imminent return of Amar’e Stoudemire, the Knicks obviously believed they were still in Sacramento. The Blazers began the game with 9-2 run and maintained that seven point lead thru the end of the quarter. Nicolas Batum and J.J. Hickson in specific gave the Knicks huge problems, as both scored eight points, with Batum adding five assists and Hickson three rebounds. Carmelo Anthony looked like the only Knicks player who didn’t go out for New Year’s Eve, as he scored the team’s first 10 points and finished with 13 in the period on 4-for-6 shooting. The only other Knicks to score in the period were J.R. Smith and Ronnie Brewer, who each scored five points. The team committed six turnovers (leading to ten Blazers points) and Kurt Thomas was a human wrecking machine on the court, picking up three fouls in his four minutes of action.
The Madison Square Garden crowd did get some reason to cheer in the quarter, as Stoudemire made his long awaited return with 3:31 remaining in the period. However, he would turn the ball over on his first touch and missed his first two field goal attempts while displaying the lack of defense Knicks fans have become accustomed to from him. All in all, a bad start to 2013 for the Knicks, as they were down 30-23 after the first quarter.
The start of the second quarter was almost a mirror image of the start of the game. The Blazers started the quarter on a run, this time a 13-2 spurt, to push their lead to 18. The Knicks hot shooting to start the game evaporated which was offset by the turnovers turned ice cold, as they missed 10 of their first 11 tries in the quarter. On the bright side, they had no turnovers in the quarter. Eventually, they would get their offense going, led primarily by Anthony and Smith, who combined for 18 points in the quarter, as the Knicks outscored the Blazers by seven after the Blazers run.
As for Stoudemire, he had more rusty moments in the quarter, missing all three of his attempts. He did have his first highlight of the season, blocking a LaMarcus Aldridge layup attempt out of bounds. However, he had trouble with the Blazers other big man, getting mauled in the lane by Hickson. Hickson beat Stoudemire to the rim on two occassions (first slipping behind him for an alley-oop dunk and then blowing past him for a score) and was a beast on the boards. He scored 10 points and hauled in five rebounds in the period to finish with 18 points and eight rebounds in the half to help Portland go into halftime leading 58-47.
The Knicks finally came alive to start the second half, using a 12-4 run to begin the quarter to cut the Blazers lead to three, 62-59. The Knicks bench was huge for them in the quarter, scoring 16 points, led by Smith’s eight points. Amar’e Stoudemire got into a little bit of a flow with help from the pick-and-roll, getting his first score off a feed from Anthony and then throwing down a classic STAT slam over Victor Claver (who?) off a Smith assist. However, the Blazers would outscore the Knicks 16-12 the rest of the quarter, mostly off the hot hand of Batum. He scored 13 points in the quarter, drilling three-of-six attempts from beyond the arc, to help the Blazers hold onto their lead going into the fourth quarter, 78-71.
A 7-4 spurt to start the final period helped the Blazers push the lead back to double digits and with under five minutes remaining, they seemed to put the game away after pushing their lead to 15. That’s when Anthony got to work. After a quiet third quarter, Anthony scored 19 points in the fourth quarter to help the Knicks crawl back into the game. a 16-4 Knicks run, capped off by an Anthony three-pointer with 57 seconds remaining, brought the Knicks to within three. However, leading rookie of the year contender Damian Lillard had his first NBA Madison Square Garden moment, drilling a three-pointer over Pablo Prigioni to extend the Blazers lead to six. Anthony was far from done, driving thru the lane on the Knicks next possession and dunking home a score while being fouled to again cut the Knicks deficit to three. On the Blazers next possession, the Knicks would force a jump ball which they would win, giving them a chance to get closer or tie the game up. Without hesitation, Anthony brought the ball up court and got a great look at a three-pointer but missed. Missed free-throws also hurt the Knicks in the quarter, as the team went 10-of-14 from the charity stripe in the period and 18-of-24 in the game. Two more Blazers free-throws would ice the game, giving Portland a 105-100 victory.
- Stop the presses!! Ronnie Brewer has finally hit another three-pointer! Brewer connecting on a trey tonight, his first since December 9th. Overall, he had missed 13 straight three-point attempts before his make tonight.
- J.R. Smith has simply been on fire lately. He finished with 28 points and has scored over 25 points in each of his last four games (the first time in his career he has accomplished the feat). He has scored in the twenties in five of his last six games played.
- After committing six turnovers in the first quarter, the Knicks managed to commit just four the rest of the game.
- Steve Novak was more Ambien than Novakaine tonight. He finished scoreless, marking the fourth time this season he has played over 20 minutes in a game