The New York Knicks (38-24) are traveling to take on the Portland Trail Blazers (29-34) in a battle between two teams that direly need to pick up a win.
It’s been an especially rough stretch for the Knickerbockers since their long West Coast road trip began on Monday. They lost by 29 points to the Golden State Warriors that night and followed it up with a 117-94 loss to the Nuggets in Carmelo Anthony’s “triumphant” return to Denver.
Speaking of ‘Melo, the superstar suffered a knee injury, according to Ben Golliver of SI.com, and will be traveling back to New York for treatment instead of appearing in this contest.
Will the Blazers be able to capitalize? Or will they make it three straight losses by falling to the slumping Knicks?
Keep reading to find out our prediction on the outcome, plus the latest injury report, some players to watch and much more in our game preview.
When: Thursday, March 14, at 10:30 p.m. ET
Where: Rose Garden, Portland, Ore.
Live Stream: TNT Overtime
Knicks Injury Report (via USA Today)
C Tyson Chandler, Doubtful, Knee
F Carmelo Anthony, Out, Knee
F Amar’e Stoudemire, Out, Knee
F Rasheed Wallace, Out, Foot
Trail Blazers Injury Report (via USA Today)
F Nicolas Batum, Probable, Wrist
F LaMarcus Aldridge, Prob, Head
G Aleksandar Pavlovic, Questionable, Quadricep
F Victor Claver, Doubtful, Ankle
G Elliot Williams, Out, Achilles
Key Storyline: Rebounding
With the Knicks missing Stoudemire, Anthony, Wallace and possibly Chandler, it’s going to be tough for this team to pull down boards.
New York’s frontcourt rotation will heavily involve 38-year-old Marcus Camby, 35-year-old Kenyon Martin (who is still playing on his second 10-day contract) and 40-year-old Kurt Thomas.
Swingmen Chris Copeland and James “Flight” White can also be counted on to contribute some minutes at the 4.
Coach Mike Woodson has his work cut out for him in trying to find a suitable lineup to stymie the Blazers bigs. The only way we see him finding success is employing an ultra-small lineup, or risk playing his lumbering veterans for extended minutes.
When these opponents met on New Year's Day, Portland managed a five-point road victory by out-rebounding the Knicks, 47-37. That was with Chandler healthy, and things could get much uglier in this one.
LaMarcus Aldridge was the star in that game, scoring 19 points and pulling down 14 boards while helping hold Chandler to just seven total rebounds.
Keep an eye out for J.J. Hickson as well, because the center is averaging a double-double in 2012-13 and could be primed for a big-time showing on Thursday evening.
Key Matchup: J.R. Smith vs. Nicolas Batum
While the play in the paint will be somewhat interesting to watch—even though we predict Portland will absolutely dominate—the only hope the Knicks have to win is if one of their perimeter scorers starts shooting the lights out.
With ‘Melo sidelined, the only player we foresee pulling off such a feat is the one and only J.R. Smith.
Smith is one of the league’s most intriguing players, as he’s a fantastic scorer with absolutely no conscience. He took 29 shots off the bench a week ago, scoring 36 points and nearly leading his team past the vaunted Oklahoma City Thunder.
He’s also prone to chucking up some duds, including a recent 7-of-22 outing in a fortunate win over the lowly Detroit Pistons.
Nicolas Batum is likely going to be charged with stopping Smith, especially if he starts heating up from the perimeter. If the Blazers forward is able to use his length and athleticism to match Smith’s, he should be able to coerce the streaky shooter into a bad night.
This one isn’t even going to be close.
Without ‘Melo, STAT, ‘Sheed and potentially Chandler, there’s just no way the Knickerbockers have the size or skill to get past Portland.
Which team will win?
The Blazers present a tough matchup as is to many size-starved opponents, making this showdown with New York a cinch on paper.
Expect Portland coach Terry Stotts to instruct rookie point guard Damian Lillard to keep dumping it down low to Aldridge and Hickson, as these big men should be able to dominate the lesser competition.
We predict coach Woodson will utilize various different small-ball looks but ultimately resort to playing his aging vets for big minutes to no avail.
Trail Blazers 100 – Knicks 78