The Knick-Killer Club, Pt. 1: Portland Trail Blazers

Elsa

A look back at the teams the Knicks couldn't beat in '12-'13, starting in the Northwest

Word on the street is that the Knicks will be playing some basketball games next season. Coming off their best regular season in over a decade, the 'Bockers will be hard-pressed to find extra wins on this year's schedule. One place they could start, however, is with the four teams they failed to beat in 2013-13 - the Trailblazers, Clippers, Rockets and Bulls.

Of those four, let's start with Portland - the lone non-playoff team in the Knick-Killer Club. No team better demonstrates the inconsistencies involved in true Knick-killing; whereas Greg Oden's new team - the World Champion Miami Heat - finished a sad 1-3 against New York last season, his old team whipped the Knicks pretty soundly in both meetings.

(An aside: Greg Oden is a genius. Cursed by the basketball gods, he had two choices: he could endure, like some modern-day Job with a fondness for taking dick pics, or he could make a deal with the basketball Mephistopheles, Pat Riley. Trust me on this one, Riles will use his black magic to ensure Oden plays a full season. I just can't decide whether Oden will win Most Improved Player, Sixth Man of the Year or Defensive Player of the Year. Hell, put me down for all three. I hate you, Pat Riley)

So how did the Blazers handle the Knicks in '12-'13? Let's break it down:

2012-13 Results:

Jan. 1, 2013 (in New York): Blazers 105, Knicks 100

The Knicks waste both Amar'e Stoudemire's debut and a brilliant 45-point effort from Carmelo Anthony by falling behind big in the first half.

Mar. 14, 2013 (in Portland): Blazers 105, Knicks 90

The Melo-less Knicks keep the game close...for one quarter. After that, they are blitzed by the Blazers and hazed mercilessly by a Rose Garden crowd out for the blood of one Ray Felton. I don't remember a more hostile crowd last year than the one that greeted Ray in Portland. Apparently Ray Felton is the most vile, despicable ex-Blazer in franchise history. Seriously, Portland fans? You do remember this guy, don't you?

What went wrong:

Well, for starters, the Knicks kept giving up 105 points! When it comes to these brief, two-game East-West series, a great deal of the result relies on timing and luck. In the Blazers' case, they caught the Knicks at both the front and tail ends of their mid-season swoon. In particular, that second Blazer win came smack-dab in the middle of the infamous "everyone is injured, PLEASE SAVE US KURT THOMAS" West Coast swing.

But make no mistake, both of these wins were well-earned. The Blazers beat the Knicks with quality scoring depth and ball-movement - in New York, four Blazers starters scored at least 18 points, and in Portland, all five starters scored at least twelve.

As a team, the '12-'13 Blazers rated very high in what I call the Three Factors of Knicks Domination (TFKD). Those factors:

  1. Does the team have a guard who can break down the Knicks' terrible perimeter D?
  2. Does the team have any former Knicks?
  3. Does the team have any players drafted with picks acquired from the Knicks in the Eddy Curry trade?

As this series progresses, you'll notice that all of the teams in the Knick-Killer Club had many of these factors in common. The Blazers could answer a resounding "yes" on all fronts. Eventual Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard torched the Knicks with an average of 23.5 points and 8 assists per game. Former Curry-deal draftee LaMarcus Aldridge continued to haunt Knicks fans' nightmares with an average of 20.5 points and 12 rebounds. And most importantly, the Blazers employed Jared Jeffries - a.k.a. the Willis Reed of those late-aught Knicks teams.That, my friends, is a recipe for disaster.

What to expect next season:

Mon., Nov. 25, 2013 - Knicks @ Portland

Wed., Feb. 3, 2014 - Portland @ Knicks

Nothing about the schedule jumps out here - no back-to-backs, no Friday night games. I always prefer the Knicks get a tough match-up out of the way early in the season, before everyone gets hurt. As for the Blazers roster, they've lost one of the starting five which gave the Knicks so much trouble last year. J.J. Hickson - who averaged 15 points and 12.5 rebounds against New York - is off to Denver. Up front, the Blazers have brought in Robin Lopez and hope to develop 2012 fifth-overall pick Thomas Robinson. In the backcourt they have brought in Mo Williams for depth. More importantly, they drafted shooting guard Allen Crabbe - one of the wing players linked to the Knicks prior to draft night. Crabbe was still available when the Knicks took Tim Hardway, Jr., so if he goes off next season - burying a whole heap of open looks from Lillard - get ready for a blizzard of "Why didn't we draft this guy???" Fanposts. I am really, really not looking forward to that...really. On the plus side, the Blazers have no ex-Knicks on the roster at the moment.

While nobody is quite sure what to make of next year's Knicks squad, they have more than enough talent to beat the Blazers at least once. But if Portland GM Neil Olshey should happen to sign Jared Jeffries to a ten-day contract just before each match-up, then all bets are off.

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