Knicks vs. Blazers – Madison Square Garden
When: Friday | 7:30 PM
Where to Watch: MSG Networks
Where to Listen: ESPN 98.7 FM
New York: The Knicks have enjoyed two days at MSG Training Center for rare practice sessions and the chance to rest and recover from a three-game west coast road trip last week. Carmelo Anthony practiced one of the two days in New York but did not participate in all of the drills on Monday afternoon. Head coach Mike Woodson said the MVP candidate is day-to-day and Anthony added that he will most likely make a decision close to game time on Tuesday night. Amar’e Stoudemire officially practiced with the team for the first time on Sunday and Monday. The big man is questionable for tonight’s contest but there is optimism surrounding his return to the floor and he could suit up for the contest against Portland. Tyson Chandler and Jason Kidd received recovery days after the two players’ logged major minutes during the road trip. Raymond Felton is out 4-6 weeks due to a fractured right pinky finger. At 21-9, the Knicks are a half game behind the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference standings and 5.5 games over the Nets for the Atlantic Division lead.
Portland: The Blazers entered the 2012-13 season with a new general manager and head coach. Additionally, Portland drafted one of the elite players in the NBA Draft by selecting Damian Lillard out of Weber State. Lillard joins a young nucleus that has aspirations of reaching the postseason after a 28-38 finish last year. This season, the Blazers have been up and down until a recent surge of five wins in seven games leading up to the matchup against the Knicks. Portland is now 15-14 overall and the contest in New York will kick off a four-game road trip.
Last Time Out
New York: Despite an incredible rally, down 27 points, the Knicks suffered a 106-105 defeat when James Johnson sunk a buzz-beater in Sacramento.
Portland: The Blazers topped Philadelphia at home in an 89-85 victory, led by J.J. Hickson’s 13 boards.
The Numbers Game
The Knicks are 12-2 at MSG, scoring 104.1 points per game, shooting 45 percent from the floor, and 39 percent behind the arc.
Match-up to Watch
Jason Kidd vs. Damian Lillard
Lillard is part of the growing crop of sensational point guards in the NBA. This season, the first-year standout is averaging 18.3 points, 6.3 assists, and a steal per game to top the list as the early favorite for Rookie of the Year honors. Lillard is calm under pressure and seems unaffected by the big stage. His skill set is reminiscent of a young Chauncey Billups with his ability to shoot from deep range and the free throw line along with an overall feel for the game. With Felton sidelined, Jason Kidd will face the challenge of defending a player that is 17 years younger. Kidd has proven that he can produce on both sides of the floor throughout the course of the season and two recovery days should help him prepare for this specific matchup.
What to Look For
Portland is a middle of the road team in terms of statistical rankings. The northwest squad ranks 14th in points per game, gives up 99 points per game, and it allows opposing teams to shoot 46.5 percent from the floor this year. However, there is one key area the Blazers excel at that could decide the outcome of tonight’s game. New York’s challenge will occur at the 3-point line, considering this team utilizes the long ball as an offensive weapon. The Blazers only allow opposing teams to shoot 34.2 percent from downtown due to their extremely long wing defenders. If the Knicks find success at the arc, they should find a spot back in the win column after a crushing defeat in Sacramento three days ago.