By Charlie Widdoes (Twitter)
Knicks vs. Nuggets | The Rose Garden
When: Thursday | 10:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG Networks
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: When we look back at this season, last night in Denver will hopefully be its low point. In addition to losing, 117-94, the Knicks lost arguably their two most important players to injury within a span of about six game minutes. After testing out his injured knee for a game and a half, Carmelo Anthony is back in New York to get it drained, while Tyson Chandler left right before halftime with a left knee injury and is going to try to play tonight in Portland. The lone bright spot from last night: Iman Shumpert looked great in scoring 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field.
Portland: After a surprising start that had them in playoff contention for the good part of the season, the Blazers have fallen to 11th in the West due, in large part, to the lack of productivity from the NBA's worst bench. All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge missed yesterday's practice with a migraine headache, but coach Terry Stotts does not expect him to miss tonight's game because of it.
Last Time Out
New York: The Knicks shot 43 percent from the field -- up from 27 the game before -- but were unable to stop the Nuggets in transition and lost, 117-94.
Portland: Despite 55 points combined from Aldridge and Damian Lillard, they lost to Memphis, 102-97, on Tuesday.
The Numbers Game
Portland's bench accounts for just 17.3 points per game. Not only is it the worst in the league, but it's almost nine points less than the 2nd-worst team, the Pacers. The Knicks get the 2nd-most points from their bench, 40.6 per game.
Matchup to Watch
Raymond Felton vs. Damian Lillard
In a season that was expected to be a struggle, perhaps the biggest reason it took so long to be so has been the play of the precocious rookie, Lillard. Out of Weber State, he has surpassed all but the most optimistic projections in his first season, averaging 19 points and 6.4 assists per game. He still has work to do on the defensive end, but with the ball in his hands he has already joined the class of elite offensive point guards. It will be up to Felton to force him into long 2-point jumpers, while putting pressure on him when the Knicks have the ball.
What to Look For
In some ways, Melo's decision to return to New York to treat his knee is a blessing in disguise for the Knicks. While a healthy Melo is obviously the best option, having him out there while he's not 100 percent clearly does more to hurt the team than help. Tonight, they can focus on ball movement and working together to create shots, similar to what they did when they blew out Utah last week. Fortunately for the Knicks, their lack of depth due to injury comes against the least-deep team in the league. (Shallowest? Thinnest? Hmm...) One more note: While Aldridge is the All-Star and Lillard is the one with the bright future, you could argue that the best value has come from J.J. Hickson, who is averaging 13.3 points and 10.6 rebounds on a minimum deal and leads the team with a PER just over 20.