The Blazers had the last laugh against Noah Vonleh and the Knicks as New York has lost four out of five of its games on the road trip.
Despite remaining competitive throughout, the New York Knicks (10-30) couldn’t string together a second-half run to overcome the Portland Trail Blazers (24-17), falling 111-101. The Trail Blazers rode explosive starts to each of the game’s halves to victory in what was otherwise competitive match. The Knicks found some success pushing the pace early, but in the end, they could not find enough fast break opportunities to make a comeback.
Portland had six players score in double figures as it cruised to the win. Facing both injuries and poor performances from its neophytes, New York turned to a couple of players who have recently reentered the rotation in hopes of sparking the team. Fresh off snapping an eight-game losing-streak, the Knicks are now back in the loser’s column for the ninth time in their past 10 games. Let’s get in to what went down in the City of Roses.
Knox’s struggles and Hezonja’s rebirth
Entering the game scoring at least 10 points in each of his past 12 games, Kevin Knox scored only eight points tonight. A poor showing was bound to happen for the 19-year-old, and it should be no surprise that this performance came against Portland. Primarily guarded by Al-Farouq Aminu, a versatile and mobile wing, Knox struggled to create separation for his patented floater. He shot 1-for-6 from the field, with his only make coming from deep with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. One encouraging sign from Knox’s performance was his ability to get to the free throw line when struggling with his shot. The rookie shot 5-of-6 from the charity stripe in attempts to salvage a rough game from the field.
Relatedly, the Knicks’ most effective wing tonight was Mario Hezonja. After being more than justifiably banished from the team’s rotation, Hezonja played under control for his second consecutive game and provided some much-needed scoring and hustle off the bench, scoring 14 points, grabbing seven boards and swiping two steals. As long as he’s not forcing shots, Hezonja is worth as much of a look as any other reclamation project on the roster.
Kanter building his trade value
Currently making headlines for deciding to not go on the Knicks’ upcoming trip to London, Enes Kanter has now quietly put together three consecutive respectable performances on this road trip. Averaging 17 points and 13.7 rebounds per game during the stretch, Kanter has also played acceptable defense of late—and its impact has shown deep in the box score.
Even with the shellacking in Denver, Kanter is now a +11 over his past three games, among the highest of all Knicks players during this stretch. With Kanter now putting up marketable numbers, it will be worth monitoring how frequently his name is mentioned in trade rumors during the upcoming weeks.
Vonleh revenge game
Returning to his former home arena for the first time this season, Vonleh looked to score aggressively in an attempt to exalt revenge on the team with which he spent the bulk of his NBA career. Tying season-highs with 16 points and 14 rebounds, Vonleh appeared to have an extra pep in his step tonight.
In the game’s waning moments, he threw down this dunk contest–worthy two-handed cradle to show out for the Moda Center.
VONLEH SHOWING OUT pic.twitter.com/AbAi5rHjR7— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) January 8, 2019
- Luke Kornet struggled mightily to hang with Nurkic, who feasted for 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting. While the game appeared close at the end, the Blazers’ early runs were largely propelled by Nurkic’s play on the block.
- Emmanuel Mudiay was the key catalyst to the Knicks pushing the pace tonight, finishing with 17 points and eight assists. The Knicks’ reserve backcourt of Trey Burke and Allonzo Trier struggled, however. Burke, who cracked tonight’s rotation due to Frank Ntilikina’s absence, and Trier, who has had difficulty finding a rhythm since returning from his own injury, failed to maintain the pace that Mudiay established.
Next, the Knicks will cap off their six-game road trip tomorrow night, taking on the Warriors in New York’s last game at Oracle Arena. May Golden State have mercy on our young and innocent Knickerbockers.