You have to admit — seeing a team with so much promise and potential pick up a win like the home-team did, was a fair joy to watch.

The New York Knicks came out on-top against the young-and-sprung Portland Trail-Blazers, in a back-and-fourth 107-103 victory. There were over twenty lead changes, along with eleven times when the game was tied. New York received a huge effort from their highly-regarded big man out of Latvia, Kristaps Porzingis — who finished the game with 31 points. They also found some great highlights from their bench, sealing the win late in the fourth.

Keep in mind that New York was without some key front-court players — Center Joakim Noah and Forward Lance Thomas, but it didn’t seem like it would quite matter.

FIRST QUARTER: 

The game began on a signature post-up from nine-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony, who’s being depended on to be more of a leader than he’s ever been — as he’s entering his fourteenth season in the NBA.

However, little did he realize how rough of a night he would have — with a pretty interesting player guarding him. Portland’s Maurice Harkless is well-known as a solid one-on-one defender, and is a pest for broken plays. He didn’t have any shortage of it against Anthony in this game.

Melo was just 3-7 in the first quarter and included one turnover.

But anyway, there was some pretty shaky plays to start. The Blazers seemed to have the younger and quicker legs than New York, as the Knicks couldn’t really find anything early.

A more important thought of a game entering it’s opening stages, is the pace — and Knicks’ guard Derrick Rose will tell you that it’s no problem for him.

Rose finished the first quarter with six points, including a coast-to-coast layup off of some solid interior defense from New York.

The Blazers had an early 12-9 lead, but New York had an even-earlier start from their second-year Latvian product Porzingis, who nails one of maybe five crossovers he had that night against Portland’s big-men (Plumlee in particular):

Along with that contribution, the Knicks really rolled along in the first — with their activity on the offensive glass. That alone kept it close.

But I should take a brief moment to hint at Portland’s inside-out team. I mentioned that it must be a “blessing” to have two perimeter-oriented Guards (Lillard and McCollum) operating with two athletic interior-bigs (Davis and Plumlee). You really can’t deny that this is what the NBA is turning to as time goes on.

Knicks call a timeout after being down by seven. And did I mention that Lillard and McCollum were “perimeter-oriented”?

I stand corrected:

Lillard and McCollum combined for 10 points and 6 assists in the first.

Afterwards, the score was 23-16 with about 3:40 left. New York really had their bench come right out of the gates. Their 2nd-round pick Willy Hernangomez came in and made an early impact. Well, not too early — as he elected himself as a nice candidate for “Shaqtin’ A Fool.”

Yeah, that wasn’t pretty — but Hernangomez still had more than a few solid moments in this game. It just didnt’t come in the first — as he only had a personal foul and that ridiculous turnover to end the period.

Portland closed the first quarter with a 33-28 lead. Ed Davis led Portland with 8 points and 3 rebounds after one.

SECOND QUARTER:

The 22-year old Spanish Center continued to make his presence felt. Hernangomez opened up the second with even more promise. He even included this awesome Hakeem-like move:

I heard Mike Breen and Wally Szczerbiak bringing up that Willy has drawn some similarities to Memphis Grizzlies’ star Marc Gasol — and to me, that isn’t a bad (nor disrespectful) comparison.

If you’ve seen Willy play at all in this early season, he’s got nice footwork for his size, and is very mobile on the court. He’s also a space-eater and can make nice passes when needed. Very similar to Gasol — but with a hint of athleticism. His only issue is settling down between plays, but that’ll come through age.

With about two minutes into the second, the Blazers continued to hold a short advantage. CJ McCollum was able to knock down another open jumper. Blazers’ offseason acquisition Evan Turner came in with 11 points off the bench, including this beautiful play on the break:

Knicks Head Coach Jeff Hornacek was later received a technical foul after showing anger — to what was replayed as a clean strip on Mindaugaus Kuzminskas.

Things were starting to get real chippy at Madison Square Garden. Knicks’ reserve Point Guard Brandon Jennings was T’d up due to snatching the ball away from Noah Vonleh. Therefore, a jump ball was held — leading to a wide open look for Justin Holiday.

And all of a sudden the Knicks came-alive midway trough the second:

After finally took a brief 46-45 lead, New York continued to tighten up their defensive rotations. On a later play, Jennings was able to thread-the-needle to find Kuzminskas for the open jam.

Kuzminskas, a fill-in for the injured Lance Thomas, made sure that every minute counted in his 20:41 minutes played. He finished the game with 10 points.

Porzingis continued to thrive in the second — and yes, that included this awesome one-handed slam over Mason Plumlee:

Kristaps was ELITE in the second quarter. With 12 in the quarter alone, he finished with 17 before the half.

And once Rose and Anthony returned to the game, the #KnicksTape was in full effect.

Rose was able to drive past a reaching Lillard, and swiftly laid-in a reverse finish through the wall of Ed Davis. Anthony later hit a three-pointer to put the Knicks up 55-48 with 2:50 left in the first-half:

As the second was winding down, CJ missed a fairly-open layup, then Porzingis was called for a silly travel after passing up a wide-open three-point opportunity.

Porzingis was able to score again for New York, putting them up 57-50 with under two-minutes remaining.

Both teams continued fighting in the final minute of the half. McCollum answered with another jump-shot. You can also include a “blocked made-dunk” from Ed Davis over Porzingis.

Carmelo then stayed with it, and nailed a three before the half ended. The Knicks were holding onto a slight-edge, 60-58.

Anthony followed up with 13 points on 5-10 shooting, and Rose added 8 along with 2 steals. Ed Davis finished the half for Portland with 14, while Lillard added 10, and McCollum with 10.

THIRD QUARTER:

Damian Lillard came out of the break with something to prove, and that was to keep Portland in the game.

He nailed a Curry-like three-pointer from 30-feet out:

Before I go any further into this quarter, I just wanted to point-out a very interesting stat Mike Breen brought up during this broadcast. He mentioned that through the first 13 games, when Derrick scored more than 15, the Knicks were 0-6. When he scored 6 or fewer, they were 6-1.

That’s something else, man.

Rose wasn’t too great in the first half offensively, but his defense on Damian shouldn’t be overlooked. Although, he did have to take a seat after picking up his third — after reaching-in on the Blazers’ Guard.

The game continued to remain close. Carmelo hit an elbow jumper as the Knicks led 69-68 with 7:32 left in the third. I initially believed that Melo was struggling mightily in the game, but he had 15 on 6/12 shooting, including 3/5 on threes, up to that point.

Mason Plumlee hit a euro-step and-one on a struggling Courtney Lee — who was called for the blocking foul. Shortly after, Damian was able to drill a floater with 4:45 left in the third. Blazers down 72-71.

This time, Anthony WAS struggling to find his rhythm. Maurice continued to surmount more defensive pressure on him, and he did one heck of a job.

And continued to struggle…

Carmelo was just 2-9 with 4 points in the third quarter. This is just unacceptable for one of the top scorers in the league.

However,  Jennings was very productive off the bench, and he really needs to be this year — if the Knicks even want to even consider “competing” deep in the postseason. He was finding a lot of holes in the Blazers’ defense, and made way for big shots — especially for Kuzminskas.

The third quarter closed with a knotted-up score of 81-81. Both teams were in for a big finish.

FOURTH QUARTER:

As I mentioned Jennings earlier, he didn’t have a single turnover to go along with those eleven assists. He really is a solid playmaker when those right decisions are made.

The Blazers took an 85-81 lead after a McCollum layup. Afterwards, Derrick Rose was able to provide some great offense down the stretch. He finished the fourth quarter with a “late-but-great” 8 points.

Kristaps very-quietly continued his big scoring night, as Portland’s defense didn’t have much of an answer for him — not even Mason Plumlee.

Porzingis finished with 31 points with 6 minutes remaining, but he wasn’t done doing moves like this.

Kuzminskas was used plentiful in this final quarter, and it was some important playing time for the 27-year old Forward. He air-balled a three which led to a follow from Courtney Lee, but then hit a big-time three to increase the Knick-lead. He also added three rebounds in the quarter.

As the fourth quarter was winding down, Carmelo Anthony finally decided to give it a rest, shouldering his struggles to his teammates — after missing jumper-for-jumper. Knicks fans promptly booed him as he returned on defense.

New York eventually saw the light at the end of the tunnel, as Rose was able to make this play:

Meyers Leonard missed the final shot of the game — instead of Lillard, in attempt to cut the lead to a one-possession game. New York was able to squeeze by with the victory.

FINAL TAKEAWAYS:

  • Carmelo Anthony – 17 points, 6 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block on 7/22 shooting.
  • Derrick Rose – 18 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, 1 block on 8/15 shooting.
  • Willy Hernangomez – 9 points and 4 rebounds.
  • Damian Lillard – 22 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals on 8/18 shooting.
  • CJ McCollum – 16 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists on 6/17 shooting.
  • Ed Davis – 14 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks on 7/9 shooting.
  • Maurice Harkless – 15 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block on 6/13 shooting.
  • Evan Turner – 11 points, 2 assists, 1 steal on 4/8 shooting.
  • The Knicks dominated the Blazers in assists, 26-18.
  • Portland had 23 points off turnovers; a wide advantage over NY (14)

With this win, the Knicks (7-7) will face the Hornets on Friday — in what will be a tough matchup for aa team fighting to remain in the .500 area.

 

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