The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the New York Knicks 105-100 at Madison Square Garden tonight. Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 45, but it wasn't enough in Amar'e Stoudemire's return.
Let's look and see why the Blazers were able to come away with the win.
1. Great poise
Portland led by as much as 19 in the second quarter, but the Knicks inched their way back into the game and got the lead down to three in the third period. The Trail Blazers never panicked. Led by their unflappable rookie point guard Damian Lillard, Portland led from wire-to-wire and answered every New York run with a run of their own.
The Blazers killed the Knicks on the glass tonight, outrebounding them 47-37 and corralling 13 offensive boards. LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 14 rebounds, seven of them coming on the offensive end. He also had a huge putback to put Portland up six points late. The Trail Blazers controlled the glass from the get-go, hauling in eight offensive boards in the first quarter. They never let up, either. Rebounding has been an issue for New York all year, and it reared its ugly head again tonight.
3. Great leadership from Lillard
What else is there to say about the rookie at this point? He has been hitting big shots all year and did so again tonight, nailing a cold-blooded stepback three to put his team up 103-97 with 35 seconds left. He finished with 21 points, six assists, and five rebounds. Yet another fine all-around performance from the Weber State product. This kid is going to be in the conversation for the best point guard in the league very soon.
4. Points in the paint
The Blazers had a 48-36 edge in points in the paint tonight, outscoring the Knicks 32-12 in that category in the first half. J.J. Hickson was the biggest catalyst early on, as he poured in 18 first half points off 9-of-10 shooting (he finished with 18 points off 9-of-11). He got into some foul trouble in the second half, though, leaving it to Aldridge to patrol the inside. Aldridge tallied 19 points.
5. Hot shooting from Nicolas Batum
Nicolas Batum shot 6-of-12 from behind the arc tonight, finishing with 26 points. The Blazers should be thanking him dearly, as the rest of the ballclub hit on only five of their other 21 attempts from long range.
6. Forcing the Knicks to shoot perimeter jumpers
New York shot 10-of-37 from three-point range and 43 percent from the floor overall. Credit Portland's tough, physical defense for that.