Coming off of a heartbreaking loss on Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets, the Knicks looked to get back in the win column against a Portland Trail Blazers team that came into the game 3-7 in their last 10 games. Of course, this game could easily have been a trap game as the Knicks have struggled to capitalize against beatable opponents. It was just about a month ago that the Knicks lost against them in Portland.
The Knicks must have gotten the memo, because they came out firing on all cylinders offensively in the first quarter, cruising to 37 points. While they finished the quarter up eight, the game did start out as a back-and-forth throughout the first seven minutes. Portland relied on Josh Hart (who has scored a combined 75 points in the last two games) early on as he connected from both outside and inside to propel his team.
Meanwhile, New York was led by RJ Barrett, who did a great job of matching Hart to keep the game close. As the Knicks led 20-18 at the 4:57 mark, it looked like it was going to be a tight game, but New York apparently had other plans as they went on a 15-7 run. Hart, along with the rest of the Trail Blazers offense slowed down a bit but Barrett and the Knicks kept their foot on the pedal. Barrett, who caught fire from downtown, finished the period with 14 points while Alec Burks chipped in seven points of his own.
The Knicks offense came back down to earth a little bit in the second quarter but they were were still pretty effective overall. They were also able to get key stops against a Trail Blazers team that is missing a lot of their top players. To the fans’ delight, much of the second quarter was dominated by the younger players on the team, as Immanuel Quickley scored six points and dished out a few assists, and Mitchell Robinson and Obi Toppin scored five and four points respectively. Barrett, on his way to a game-high 31 points (his ninth 30-point game of the season), got to the rim effectively in the period and added another seven points in the quarter to get him to 21 in the first half. It was the sixth time he had 20 or more points in the first half.
The Knicks took a 66-55 lead into halftime, which felt pretty good considering the recent rough stretch, especially at home. But players and fans alike couldn’t get too comfortable because we have seen this Knicks team be good enough to get leads against the best teams in the league but also be bad enough to blow it against the worst teams in the league. With the amount of heartbreaking losses this team has had, we’ve all come to know that no lead is safe.
The Knicks seemed to have gotten the memo as they came out of half time with a bang. Evan Fournier knocked down a pair of three-pointers in the first three minutes and Barrett got two points of his own leading to a very quick 8-2 run. Portland did their best to manage the run and punch back with a balanced effort with guys like Brandon Williams, Drew Eubanks, Ben McLemore, and Trendon Watford all chipping in. After a CJ Elleby basket, the Trail Blazers were able to cut the lead to just eight and Tom Thibodeau had to call a timeout. This was starting to feel very eerie and fans probably couldn’t help but be reminded of the awful ways that this team has proved it can lose games.
But as this team had done all night, it showed up when it needed to. Fournier got an and-one layup to go right out of the timeout and Barrett, Burks, Quickley, and Julius Randle who had an off shooting night, all had key baskets during a 16-4 run to extend the lead back to 20 as the quarter came to a close.
Much of the final period was again, led by the youth. Quickley, who finished with an efficient 18 points on 4-5 shooting in 25 minutes, accounted for eight points in the fourth. Toppin added another nine points. McBride chipped in two points from the free-throw line and showcased more of his signature high intensity defense as well. Overall, the game never really got close as Portland struggled to get baskets (finished with just 98 points for the game) or stops (gave up 128 to the Knicks) and it ended up being a pretty comfortable quarter for New York on their to a key win back at home.
It was a rare feel-good win for the Knicks. As P&T’er Walt Clyde Phraser alluded to, the young guys played big minutes and played well. Barrett and Quickley both had very efficient offensive games. They shot well, got to the free-throw line a lot, and had five and six assists respectively. Randle was effective even without his shots going down. This was huge since there had been so many times this season when Randle’s shot isn’t falling and he forces it on offense, turns the ball over a lot and has a less than ideal performance on defense as well. Randle trusted the rest of the team to do it’s thing and didn’t force too much throughout most of the game. He finished the game with the highest plus/minus at +24 and only had two turnovers while recording seven assists and nine rebounds. Three, the team won comfortably and four, fans watching on MSG even got to hear about Mike Breen’s background and history as an analyst at Marist University. Oh and we can’t forget that we got to see a doozy of a step back 3 (his second basket as a Knick) from Ryan Arcidiacono!