The impressive Portland Trail Blazers come to town to take on the slumping Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
If you thought this recent stretch of games was a tough ask, I have some bad news for you. Tonight kicks off a stretch during which the New York Knicks (4-13) play teams that are actually good. The Portland Trail Blazers (11-5) come to NYC as the top team in the Western Conference, led by the elite backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
Many believed this Blazers team would be on the verge of a break up, but instead they have been a force on both sides of the ball. They are top 10 in the league in both Offensive Rating (112.3) and Defensive Rating (105.3). The Knicks are on the other end of the spectrum. They rank in the bottom five of the league in these categories at 105.5 and 112.1, respectively.
When asked how the Knicks plan to slow down one of the top teams in the league, David Fizdale kept it brief. His plan for the night is prayer. For us, the viewers, prayer, patience, and maybe a shot of Patron might do the trick.
Here’s what to look for during Tuesday night’s tilt.
Swiss Cheese D
The key to success is simple for the Knicks: play defense. That sounds easy in theory, but is much more difficult in practice. Emmanuel Mudiay and Allonzo Trier will have their hands full. The duo has not been as putrid on defense as the Mudiay–Tim Hardaway Jr. pairing that boasts a 125.8 DRtg, but the tandem of Lillard and McCollum is a different animal.
Fizdale could opt to go more defensive heavy with Frank Ntilikina and Damyean Dotson, but if he doesn’t the onus will fall on the starting backcourt to slow down those Portland guards. If they fail, Mitchell Robinson will be under pressure in the paint all night, which could lead to foul trouble for the rookie.
Following a loss to the Pelicans in which he played just 15 minutes, Enes Kanter tweeted this out:
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) November 17, 2018
After a second straight Sunday loss to the Magic in which Kanter played 38 minutes and totaled 21 points and 19 rebounds, there was no tweet. Coincidence?
Kanter’s role on this team has devolved into purely showcasing for other teams. When he is on the floor, there is no mistaking who and what Kanter is playing for. He is on a contract year and rightfully trying to get one last pay day. The problem is he’s not doing anything else.
Will his clear stat-chasing land him on the bench or does showcasing him get the Knicks closer to ridding themselves of Kanter altogether? It is something to keep an eye on not just tonight but as we move toward December 15, when trade activity is expected to pick up.
Sunday was rough for Kevin Knox in his pseudo homecoming. Aaron Gordon poured gasoline on him, then lit a match to the tune of 31 points. The bad showing led to some concerns about his motor, a key weaknesses coming out of college.
Whether Knox was going hard at all times or not, Gordon whooped his ass. That was going to happen regardless of Knox’s energy. Al-Farouq Aminu does not pose nearly the threat that Gordon did. Aminu could frustrate Knox on defense with his length, but what we want to see is how active the rookie is on defense. Aminu is a 3-and-D cog for Portland, which should allow Knox to gain some confidence and battle on the boards.
Spotlight: Emmanuel Mudiay
To his credit, Mudiay has shut all of his detractors up for the time being. Fizdale’s undying confidence in the young guard seems to finally be paying off as Mudiay looks like he has found his footing. His shot selection remains suspect on occasion, but as an initiator, he has done a fine job.
Tonight he gets the toughest assignment of the season. If Mudiay can corral Lillard and remain relevant on offense, we might have something here. Lillard dropped 40 in his last game agasint Washington, and you can bet he is craving a MSG moment of his own. Frank is a good safety blanket should things get messy quickly, but Mudiay can shockingly put a hold down on the starting point guard position with a strong outing.
- Trey Burke has been on fire his last two games. He has called out his teammates and backed up his words with strong play, scoring 24 and 31 points respectively on 64 percent shooting.
- While the Knicks struggled in Orlando on Sunday Luke Kornet had quite the game in Westchester.
He dropped 27 points on 7 triples ? pic.twitter.com/vZLdqFViOv
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) November 19, 2018
His 27-point outing further laminates why he should not be on the chopping block for December 5, when Allonzo Trier needs to be converted from a two-way contract. Once that is taken care of, Kornet could play an integral role in spacing out a clogged frontcourt.
- Courtney Lee is inching closer to his return but remains out with neck/chest injury.