The Blazers (16-14) moved to a season-high two games above .500, staying one-half game ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves (14-13) for eighth place in the Western Conference.
Portland had been searching for a signature road victory as it entered the game just 4-10 away from the Rose Garden. Behind more clutch play from rookie Damian Lillard and stellar play up front from LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and J.J. Hickson, the Blazers got arguably their biggest win this season.
Portland hadn't won on the road against a team above .500 since Houston in the third game of the year on Nov. 3.
Here are the grades, breakdown and analysis of another Blazers victory.
Player of the Game
Damian Lillard: 21 points, six assists, five rebounds, 9-19 FG
Lillard was sensational, proving his worth on probably the biggest stage in the NBA in New York.
The Blazers' starting point guard scored seven points in the fourth quarter to help hold off a surging Knicks team down the stretch.
Key Moment of the Game
The Knicks cut a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter to 100-97 with 57 seconds remaining, and the Garden rocking after Carmelo Anthony's three-pointer.
Then came Lillard.
Lillard squared Pablo Prigioni up top and juked his way to his signature move—a step-back jumper from anywhere on the floor. The rookie swished a three-pointer with 35 seconds to go for a 103-97 lead.
Anthony had a chance to tie the game 20 seconds later, but missed his three-point attempt. Wesley Matthews sealed the win with two free throws for the Blazers.
To do what Lillard did on a platform like MSG against one of the Eastern Conference's best teams speaks volumes.
Lillard is quietly getting better known around the league at each stop he makes. The Rookie of the Year favorite continues to make highlights reminiscent of former Blazer Brandon Roy.
Tweets of the Night
Good way to start the road trip. Keep it going. #RipCity
— LaMarcus Aldridge (@aldridge_12) January 1, 2013
3 more! #ripcity
— Wesley Matthews (@wessywes2) January 1, 2013
Wow what a shot by my fellow rookie ace @Dame_Lillard !! Lets finish it! #IceInTheVeins
— Meyers Leonard (@MeyersLeonard11) January 1, 2013
What They Said
"When we came last year, that was the biggest loss of my career. Down 42, that was real embarrassing," Batum said. "The only thing on my mind when I came in was just put (down) the stat sheet from last year. That was my motivation for tonight." (via ESPN.com)
“We’re getting there,” Aldridge said. “We had some growth tonight. Until we can get to the point where we get teams down 15 and then we push it to 20 or 30, that’s when you really become a mentally tough team. But we’re growing and that’s big.” (via Joe Freeman of The Oregonian)
"You can't keep spotting teams 20-plus leads and think you're going to win," Mike Woodson said. "The last few games have been a disaster in terms of how we're starting games." (via Al Iannazzone of Newsday)
Final Grade: A
For the Blazers, this year's meeting and last year's meeting in New York were night and day.
Last season, their matchup against the Knicks proved to be former coach Nate McMillan's final game with Portland, which lost by 42 points.
This year, the Blazers were resilient, carried early on by Hickson and kept afloat by Aldridge and Batum before Lillard closed it out.
While playoff talk is premature right now, it is certainly incredible that this team is currently above .500 30 games into this season.