Knicks-Trail Blazers Preview
Despite some slow starts of late, the Portland Trail Blazers continue to enjoy their best winning streak in nearly six years.
Their success appears likely to continue Monday night as they host the struggling New York Knicks, who are trying to avoid a sixth straight defeat.
The Trail Blazers (12-2) have won 10 games in a row, their longest winning streak since a 13-game run from Dec. 3-Dec. 30, 2007. They're shooting nearly as well from 3-point range (43.0 percent) during streak as they are from the field (45.6 percent).
But while the offense has played efficiently, Portland has also been outscored in the first half of three of the last four contests. The Trail Blazers erased a deficit as large as 21 points in Friday's win over Chicago, then came back for a 113-101 win at Golden State on Saturday.
Three players were ejected following a third-quarter scuffle, including Wesley Matthews and Mo Williams. Portland trailed by 14 at that point before putting forth a rally seemingly fueled by the altercation.
"That inspired us," said Matthews, who scored 23 points in 26 minutes before watching the remainder of the game from the locker room. "We got better from it, we got stronger from it. Mo and I were continuing to cheer. They couldn't hear us, but we were continuing to cheer."
LaMarcus Aldridge was strong again, finishing with 30 points and 21 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season, all of which have come during the win streak.
Matthews is averaging 22.5 points over his last four contests while shooting 62.5 percent, including 54.8 percent from 3-point range. He had averaged 15.2 points in his first 10 games.
The Knicks (3-9) come in as losers of five straight after not losing more than four consecutive games in 2012-13. They're shooting just 40.9 percent during the skid and are averaging 90.3 points in the last three games as they've been without point guard Raymond Felton due to a sore back.
Felton is still considered day-to-day.
"We'll see where he is tomorrow when he wakes up and comes to shootaround," coach Mike Woodson said at Sunday's practice.
Felton's absence was felt in a 98-89 loss at Washington on Saturday as opposing point guard John Wall had 31 points. Now they'll face Damian Lillard, one of the NBA's best scoring point men with 19.9 points per game.
New York's offense has been lethargic at times all season, averaging a league-low 8.7 fast-break points per game. That average has fallen to 3.7 points during Felton's absence, having an effect even Wall noticed.
"We know it's a different team without Raymond, because Raymond does a great job of penetrating and getting shots for those guys," Wall said.
Carmelo Anthony recorded his sixth double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds and is averaging a career-best 9.8 rebounds. But his field goal percentage of 42.0 is a career-low.
"It's a very tough time," Anthony said. "This is a time where you could easily put your head down and mope around, but I can't do that."
J.R. Smith is averaging 28.0 points over his last three matchups with Portland.
The Trail Blazers have won 10 of the last 12 meetings at home and nine of 12 in the series overall.