Game Preview & Thread: Blazers at Knicks

What better way to get over a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks than have the NBA’s best offense, the Portland Trail Blazers come into town? The Knicks have fallen back into a pit of despair, so rather than focus on that dreary subject I brought in Dane Carbaugh of Blazers Edge and Joseph Swide of Portland Roundball Society to preview tonight’s game.


After winning six of their first eight games in January, the Blazers have cooled off a bit losing three of their last four. They scored just 90, 81 and 88 in those losses. Could teams finally be figuring out how to defend this team better? What have you seen that’s resulted in these kinds of losses?

Dane: Teams have had time to scout the Trail Blazers and are really overplaying their passing lanes. They’ve not been good during the month of January in realizing the shift in defensive strategy, and coupled with the fact that the guys are just flat out tired it’s led to a 5-5 record over the last 10 games. They got some rest between games last week, which bodes well for them as they try to find their legs under them on offense. They’re still working together to figure things out. In their loss to the Wizards on Monday the Blazers had a lot of unforced turnovers and I don’t expect that to be the case again tonight. The NBA season is a long haul of push and pull. Right now teams are pulling Portland all around the floor, they need to get back to pushing.

Joseph: Sure, I think teams have seen what the Blazers have put on tape and adjusted their approach both offensively and defensively. The Blazers’ defense has never been particularly good, but it had been pretty effective at forcing opposing ballhandlers into isolated midrange jumpers. However, lately, it seems to not be forcing midrange jumpers so much as allowing ballhandlers to get into the midrange area and do just about whatever they want. Then on offense, Nicolas Batum and Wes Matthews cooled down (which was to be expected), and LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard haven’t been able to put the team on their back(s) to save games in which the rest of the squad struggled, as the two stars managed to do earlier. Overall though, we, as fans, allowed our expectations to raise with the torrid start, whereas this “slump” has looked more like the sometimes fun/sometimes maddening .500 season that most people expected before the year.

C.J. McCollum is playing roughly a quarter a night right now. Is he close to getting a larger role on the team? Likes/dislikes about what you’ve seen thus far?

Dane: As far as his role goes, that’s tough to say. He’s really shown an ability to create off the dribble and be a valuable spot-up shooter. However, his pick-and-roll game suffers since the Blazers’ second line up front isn’t adept as LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez. We should see more wing-screen action with McCollum as the season goes on to try and balance that out. I really like his ability to work off the dribble. Portland doesn’t have a lot of penetrators and they need that now more than ever as teams start to overplay the arc.

Joseph: There is a direct correlation between Mo Williams’ seemingly increasing propensity to do stuff that makes me wonder if he is in need of sedatives or exorcism, and the amount of hopeful expectation being heaped upon you CJ McCollum. McCollum has shown his pretty shot, as well as some shot-creating ability, and his scoring will keep him on the floor. But I think that asking him to take control as the point guard of the second unit is way too much to ask. For now, I think we’re still stuck with Mo Williams and the fickle demons that live inside him.

The Blazers starting five has a net total of +160 on the floor together this season. Why has this unit been so successful? Who has been the most important piece?

Dane: Honestly, a big reason is Robin Lopez. He allows Aldridge to save some of his energy for the offensive end of the court, which in turn allows him to dominate or create such spacing issues that it opens up the arc for the Portland shooters. He rebounds, be boxes out for others, and he can catch the ball in the pick-and-roll, a huge bonus as the Blazers offense looks to adapt. He’s probably going to win Neil Olshey GM of the Year by himself.

Joseph: Reasons for offensive success has been the usual: outside shooting, unselfishness, chemistry, clearly defined roles that compliment one another, and a system that plays to their strengths. Obviously, Aldridge is the most important piece, but he gets talked about plenty. I want to talk about the silent wizard, Batum. At the 3, Batum actually might be the most natural playmaker in the starting group, even moreso than Lillard. He’s usually the second most-utilized ball handler for pick-and-rolls and his passing is regularly brilliant. Plus, he can shoot, get to the rack, and has been known to go off for random scoring explosions. He’s also the best defender on the team, and will guard everyone from Tony Parker to Kevin Durant. But his true genius is his masterful use of spacing, little cuts, passes to open up other passes, and everything else that gets overlooked but is the vanilla extract in the delicious pancake batter that is the Blazers offense.

The Blazers have the best ORtg in the league, but are just 21st in DRtg. How can the Knicks exploit this team defensively tonight?

Dane: Portland’s defense is built to give up long jumpers, but is often soft when it comes to penetration, especially when Robin Lopez isn’t involved in the strong side of the play. Ray Felton and Tyson Chandler haven’t looked great together in the pick-and-roll so far this year, if I’m Mike Woodson I’m putting Carmelo and Prigs/Shump and making Aldridge and Matthews defend them. Portland also has trouble in the fastbreak, which is great news if you’re anyone but New York, who are 29th in pace and last in fastbreak points per-game. I’ve seen a few teams step up their transition game against the Blazers specifically, it will be interesting to see if the Knicks change their gameplan a bit and try to attack the Blazers weaknesses.

Joseph: Most teams that give the Blazers trouble do it with a point guard orchestrating from the midrange area, but the Knicks’ point guard is Ray Felton soooo…….Plan B: hope Mike Woodson works the lineups to get Melo (maybe even Amare too, can he still shoot?) on Aldridge (a great post defender but struggles against the stretch 4s of the world), and hope that Melo can shoot well and score a lot of points.

Who do you think wins tonight and why?

Dane: I think Portland comes out hot tonight at MSG and beats New York by 10+. They have had a day off hanging out together, getting rest and they have a tendency to show up for big games. The Knicks may not be any good but playing in front of the city of New York and on national television should have them ready to go. Blazers 115 Knicks 103.

Joseph: 111-105 Blazers. Melo scores 38. Lillard has 29. Aldridge has 24 and 9. Why? Clairvoyance.

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Chase Thomas

Chase Thomas is new to KnickerBlogger but has written about the Knicks for years now. Was in attendance for Nate Robinson's 41 point night versus the Hawks. Successfully annoyed Allan Houston's assistant for talking his ear off while sitting next to him at a Knicks game 3 years ago. Follow him on twitter:

147 thoughts to “Game Preview & Thread: Blazers at Knicks”

  1. How come we never have guys driving to the hoop for uncontested dunks?

    Oh right, other teams actually play defense

  2. Read an article today (forgot from which paper) saying the Knicks plan on firing Woodson by the All-Star break. Do the Knicks even realize the All-Star break starts in exactly 1 week??

  3. I’ll give Woodson one thing, it’s not his fault how bad Shump is at finishing on a fast break or anywhere near the rim.

  4. Amar’e with a full head of steam is still one of the best big man finishers in the league. Too bad that barely ever happens without Steve Nash.

  5. Wow give it up for JR. He is playing inspired ball. Prolly time for Woodson to bring in Felton for Prigioni…

  6. I hate when we look like a professional basketball team. It never lasts and only serves to remind what could be.

  7. Can Chandler palm the ball? Because he definitely doesn’t take advantage of this when finishing at the rim. He never goes up for a layup OR dunk with one hand and this is typically the easiest way to finish a contested shot at the rim.

  8. I remember when Tyson used to do stuff like that except he would celebrate while Tyson a youngster just simply walks like its nothing.

  9. The Knicks always leave the best shooter on the other team wide open time and time again. Uncanny really.

  10. Well I will say regardless who is in the high pnr is opening up opportunities for the knicks.

  11. I love that Felton is the one guy on our team getting calls on contact in the lane. Also yeah THJ got stuffed by Aldridge but that’s what a shooting guard is supposed to do when defended by the opposing PF. Attack the rim and make him move his feet. Tyler is more of an inside presence than the artist formerly known as Tyson Chandler.

  12. I have a bad feeling Lillard is going to end the game with a similar shot over Felton for the win.

  13. Would any other 2/3 not take advantage of being guarded by a power forward who is not a good defender? Iman “Rube Baker” Shumpert.

  14. Why is Felton guarding Lillard? Would it not make more sense for Shump to match up with Lillard and Felton to take Batum?

  15. @ 46

    No, Batum would destroy Felton. Also, he hasn’t really been guarding Lillard that much but when Hardaway and Felton are on the floor together what can you do.

  16. Yeah I was talking strictly in that end sequence but probably just an overreaction on my part to any negative thing that happens where Felton is directly or indirectly involved.

  17. Was it Thibs, who teaches his players to bypass the open wing and go to the corner? DO any other coaches do this?

  18. Remind me again why the Knicks are double teaming a player who is 1 for 10 and cant score on the man guarding him?? Every time they double him its an open 3pter for one of the best 3pt shooting teams in the league. SO STUPID.

  19. The Knicks employ the exact same defensive strategy that they try to get other teams to do so they can exploit it in exactly the same way they allow themselves to get exploited.

  20. @ yellowboy

    Yeah it’s Thibs. Remember seeing a breakdown of Bulls-Heat game where they consistently left Battier open on the wing and rotated to the corner. Not only did it have the benefit of not giving up the most efficient perimeter shot, but got Battier out of his rhythm because he’s expecting the defender to rotate to him.

  21. STAT-Melo is not a tenable defensive combination. STAT needs to play at the 4 or revert to 10-11 form to be a viable option at the 5.

  22. Blazer offense has our defense running around with heads cut off… Gonna be hard pressed to close this gap when our only hope is they miss open shots… I’ve never seen a defense with more guys a step behind or out of position.

  23. It’s fairly obvious that Tyler should be the backup center and play with STAT. We’re giving up boards, but those 2 together have been a net positive tonight.

  24. On top of their lack of fundamental boxing out, they’re out of position and blazers are crashing boards… We’re desperate for boards, melo gonna have work on the glass now… Hopefully he doesn’t run outta gas

  25. 3 straight misses on open shots. Make that 4 since we were within 1. Make that 6 straight. And now a T

  26. Seriously this officiating is just fucking clown status. Also making wide open threes would help

  27. Some of these calls are just downright ridiculous…it’s so blatantly in favor of POR down the stretch here

  28. It’s funny and I’m not complaining that we got the call but Roy Hibbert is the only player in the league that is allowed to foul a player w his body so long as his hands are up. It’s pretty genius for the Pacers and I credit Vogel for selling it

  29. Our defensive and offensive plays are so desperate and demonstrative that we’re getting slapped with foul after foul… Whether they’re for real or not… I love the enthusiasm !

  30. Are we playing at home? Like what the hell are these calls? The loose ball foul on Melo was garbage. That last foul on Tyson was imagined. Even the one Matthews got on Hardaway in the post was borderline at best. There’s a lot of things I hate about our Knicks, but I’m not sure why they also have to play against the refs tonight.

  31. We can blame refs if it makes us feel better, but the Knicks insist on doubling everybody all the time and leaving good 3pt shooters alone, are failing to box out and giving up o boards, are missing wide open shots, and just generally looking very tired. It’s not like the calls are snatching victory away from us by any stretch of the imagination.

    This loss is on us, not the refs.

  32. Don’t think I ever said the refs are the reason we’re down, but if you think that the whistle wasn’t a heavy Portland lean not sure what to say. Missing open threes influences the outcome of games. Refs awarding free throws for mysterious and non-existent fouls also influence the outcome of the game. Neither one necessarily need be the sole reason we win or lose a game.

  33. Batum for Melo who says no?

    I do. 4th quarter gassing aside, he’s been the only halfway decent and consistent Knick this entire season. Batum for Melo gets us some cap space I suppose, but still leaves us with an even worse team and a still fairly bleak future.

  34. Well at least Felton hasn’t played a minute in the 4th quarter. Woodson coaching for his job

  35. Woodson is just slamming his head against the wall. Every. Fucking. Time. Everybody in the world knows it’s going to Melo. How about, I dunno, using him as a decoy? Nope. Same fucking shit.

    I hate this team. I hate this coach. This has been the worst season I’ve seen in 23 years of watching the Knicks.

  36. For some reason during the 3rd qtr they went away from the high PnR that was working at will.

  37. Melo has had a great year and been a warrior and all that. But man he does suck in the 4th q. Maybe it’s the fatigue from the minutes. I can buy that. But you’d think once or twice during the year that instead of missing 4 straight when the Knicks were within 1 or 3 that he’d make 4 straight and just close it out. He has not done that in a very long time.

  38. The “Melo sucks in the clutch” narrative drives me crazy. Just watch the friggin’ games. He is CONSTANTLY double and triple-teamed with everyone else gawking at him on offense. Woodson doesn’t coach them up to do anything else. Lebron James isn’t doing jack shit if he’s doubled or tripled in those situations, except passing to a wide open guy who can be trusted to hit a shot because the Heat offense, y’know, MOVES. And has, y’know, PLAYS.

  39. Al, you are really banking on the success of the yankees. i dont know if thats a safe bet either

  40. my two cents…. we just are a shitty team. think about it. deep down we were kind of surprised we kept it close at home against an average playoff team. i want to blow it up, and i understand that we wont. but for the love of God, can we play some of the young guys a little to see if we may have something. i know amare played well tonight for the most part, but ive seen enough. tyler should get 15-20 minutes at this point. toure should get 10

  41. I wonder what Woodson has on Dolan that he can keep his job even though he fucking sucks at it in every imaginable way. It must be incredibly easy to defend the Knicks in a close game down the stretch because all we will do is isolate Melo on one side of the floor and have everybody else stand around on the other side of the floor without even pretending they might move. Is it too much to ask for somebody to be on the same side of the floor or to draw an actual play with picks and off ball movement designed to get a quick shot. If Popovich is at the edge of innovation and creativity, Woodson is still with James Naismith shooting into empty peach baskets. At least Naismith created the game I have no fucking idea what Woodson has ever contributed to the sport of basketball other than an impeccably groomed goatee.

  42. Yankees can “suck” like last season and they still win 85 games. The Yankees sucking still means an above .500 season. Knicks sucking is the crap we have had to watch this season.

    Plus Im really looking forward to watching Tanaka pitch, should be pretty fascinating to watch. Also all the new players too makes it fun to look forward to. Jeter being healthy would really be great too.

    Also the baseball season is a constant, every team plays 6 or 7 games a week. Always has been my favorite regular season to watch/follow. Losses dont hurt as bad because they are right back at it the next day. Also shit no comparing the 2 franchises, its still great being a Yankee fan. I never find myself questioning why Im a Yankee fan like I am constantly doing as a Knicks fan lol.

  43. @125 I wasn’t talking about the last play. With 5 mins to go Knicks had cut it to 1 and Melo missed 3 or 4 straight that were wide open mid range shots in the flow and killed the momentum. Not blaming him. Also ps he’s shooting 38% in the 4th this season.

  44. Hey, what is this game the Heat and Clippers are playing? It vaguely resembles a Knicks game, but somehow different.

  45. Literally, down four, give it to Melo on the block, under 30 seconds. Best case scenario he scores 2 and we are down two to the best free throw shooting team in the league with 25 seconds left.

    And there was no chance Melo was passing the ball there. Straight clear-out…..

  46. Us: 4-21 from 3
    Them: 8-21 from 3

    that’s the game there. Frustrating, because we did a nice job on Lillard and “superstar” LaMarcus Aldridge (really, we did well against everyone but Batum-for whom I would deal Melo). Oh well.

  47. @130 I also wasn’t simply referring to the last possession, though that scenario happens often enough that I’m sure the sum total has dragged down his 4th quarter shooting percentage all season. In general, in the last few minutes of a comeback bid, the Knicks offense grinds to a screeching halt as they stand around, gawking at Melo trying to out-jump or out-juke three guys.

  48. Melo played 40 minutes tonight. Hey coach, gee I wonder if he gets tired in the 4th quarter? Nah, he’s our guy. Tell everyone else to stand around and dump it to Melo.

  49. Trading Melo for Batum wont make this team better. Trading for Batum and keeping Melo definitely would.

  50. I can think of several instances where he’s made very nice passes at the end of games actually. He just hasn’t made shots. Guarded or not. He just hasn’t. Don’t think it has anything to do with clutch. But def has something to do w the fact that a lot are coming out of ISO.

    Speaking of that don’t you think Melo has enough clout to tell Woody to run some action instead of the ISO so he can get a better shot? I mean Melo has to know at this point that these sets are bad and not working. Right?

  51. @ Owen

    Exactly. I’d be ripping Melo if we were spreading the floor out and every time he missed a shot after the defense collapsed on him there were guys wide open waiting for a catch and shoot three, but we aren’t even giving him that option. It’s just a straight up iso with 4 guys standing on the weak side making it incredibly easy to collapse on Melo, but very difficult for him to find an option to pass.

    Most teams have an easy time scoring 2 in this situation if they spread it out because nobody wants to foul and would rather play the odds at the free throw line. Woodson makes it as difficult for us as possible to even have a shot to steal the game in these spots by making it as difficult as possible for us to succeed.

  52. Not blaming Melo. I just can’t fathom why the $#%@ there was no spot up available.

    It’s like Woodson said, “Son, lower your horns and go to the rim.”

    i don’t get it. It doesn’t make any sense. Especially down 4. It’s kind of insane.

  53. Sorry Owen. Didn’t mean to make it sound like you were ripping Melo. I agree with what you said completely.

  54. The Knicks suck so bad, I’m actually looking forward to baseball season. And I’m a Mets fan.

    At least I have the Syracuse Orange, who are a lot of fun this year. Tyler Ennis is fast becoming my favorite Cuse player of all time.

  55. The thing with Woody is not that he has anything on Dolan, it’s just that Dolan said that he was safe and unless Melo tells him to get rid of Woody, he’s not going to go back on what he said. And Melo is never going to throw Woody under the bus. So we will have to wait until the offseason to get a Woody replacement and it’ll likely be some big name (hopefully at least a good one).

  56. I also like to point out that Shump seemed to have some momentum killing shots and decisions on offense.

  57. The Cavs lost to a 5 man Lakers team playing with a guy who should have fouled out. What a pathetic franchise

  58. How many Western Conference non-playoff teams would be playoff teams if they were in the East? Definitely Memphis, Denver and Minnesota, but what about New Orleans? I think that the other three teams (the Lakers, Utah and Sacramento) would still be in the lottery in the East.

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