New York Knicks: Who Stepped Up Against The Portland Trail Blazers?

The New York Knicks pulled out an incredible 107-103 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers at Madison Square Garden. Which players stepped up at home?


Nov 22, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Brandon Jennings (3) reacts during the first half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks are in the midst of a turnaround that’s beginning to gain traction. After starting the season at 3-6, the Knicks went on to win three of their next four games to reach a more respectable record of 6-7.

The Knicks got back to .500 with an emotional and inspiring 107-103 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, November 22 at Madison Square Garden.

New York had the unenviable task of going up against the dynamic backcourt combination of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Both players are averaging upwards of 20 points per game and each have intriguing accolades on their respective resumes.

They gave the Knicks everything they could handle, but the Knicks held them to a combined 38 points on 14-of-35 shooting.

With a chance to pull back to an even .500, the Knicks stepped up with a powerful performance in the fourth quarter. With the victory, New York has now won five straight home games, four of five overall, and owns a 7-7 record.

The question is: which members of the New York Knicks stepped up and provided their team with vital performances against Portland?

Nov 22, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) react during the second half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Carmelo Anthony

It may seem odd for Carmelo Anthony to be included on this list, but his impact was much bigger than statistics. The criticism has been fair and just on occasion, but Anthony was a true team player against the Portland Trail Blazers.

On a night when his jump shot simply wasn’t falling, Anthony embraced the need to defend at a high level and do the dirty work—yes, the dirty work.

Anthony recorded a quality 17 points in 36 minutes, but he did so on 7-of-22 shooting from the field. He added three 3-point field goals, but the statistics that truly matter were his six rebounds, two offensive boards, one block, and one steal.

Even bigger than the numbers was the fact that Anthony was banging bodies for loose balls and had a vital tap-out late in the fourth quarter to set up the victory-securing shot.

Anthony being willing to do the dirty work is a sign of just how far he’s come as a leader. He’s long been known as a scorer who shoots his way out of slumps, but in 2016-17, he’s been willing to play off-ball and has worked on defense.

Anthony is leading by example with his defensive intensity, timely shooting, and physicality down low. The Knicks are winning because of it.

Nov 22, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks center Willy Hernangomez (14) drives to the basket past Portland Trail Blazers forward Meyers Leonard (11) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Willy Hernangomez

It seems as though Willy Hernangomez flashes his starting-caliber potential every other game for the New York Knicks. He’s still learning how to pace himself through an NBA game, but the flashes of brilliance have been exactly that: brilliant.

Though he struggled early against the Portland Trail Blazers, Hernangomez proved to be resilient in the face of adversity.

Hernangomez posted a strong stat line with nine points and four rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench. He shot 4-of-5 from the field, made a free throw, had a +/- of +9, and displayed great chemistry with both Brandon Jennings and Derrick Rose.

It was far from a perfect performance, but the fact that Hernangomez feels comfortable with both point guards is an encouraging sign.

Hernangomez overcame a number of early turnovers to bounce back and provide the Knicks with massive production in the second half. He worked with and without the ball, operating through the pick and roll and finishing at the rim.

If Hernangomez can continue to play with this level of energy and aggressiveness, the Knicks will have a consistent backup option at center in 2016-17.

Nov 20, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Justin Holiday (8) reacts after scoring a three point basket during the fourth quarter against the Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden. New York Knicks won 104-94. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Holiday

Whenever Justin Holiday takes the floor, the New York Knicks are guaranteed one critical benefit. His shot may not always fall and his facilitating touch may not always be present, but every time Holiday plays, he’ll give an all-out effort.

Holiday gave the Knicks a bit of everything on Tuesday in yet another display of why Jeff Hornacek has consistently turned to him in 2016-17.

Holiday came in off the bench and provided seven points, five rebounds, and four assists in 19 minutes. He shot 3-of-4 from the field and 1-of-1 from beyond the arc, including a beautiful corner 3 and an excellent off-ball baseline cut.

Holiday even threw caution to the wind and sacrificed for the team by drawing an offensive foul on Mason Plumlee during the fourth quarter.

Offensively, Holiday has done an outstanding job of moving without the ball and putting himself in a position to receive open looks. Defensively, he refuses to give up against dynamic playmakers and utilizes his length to disrupt scoring opportunities.

Though it’s early, Holiday is looking like far more than a throw-in from the well-documented Derrick Rose trade.

Nov 22, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Brandon Jennings (3) reacts during the first half against the Portland Trail Blazers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Jennings

Brandon Jennings is the perfect example of why one must look beyond the box score and watch the actual games. He doesn’t always look great statistically, but his energy, aggressiveness, and leadership have been instrumental in the New York Knicks’ turnaround.

Against the Portland Trail Blazers, Jennings took over in the first half both as a playmaker and as an agitating force on the defensive end of the floor.

In 22 minutes, Jennings finished with four points, 11 assists, three rebounds, two steals, and a technical foul that was easy to forgive. He brought Madison Square Garden to its feet and sent a message to Portland: this won’t be a fun trip to New York City.

To round out his statistics, Jennings shot 2-of-6 from the field and recorded a telling +/- of +11 in a four-point win.

Jennings provides an invaluable energy to the Knicks on both ends of the floor. He pressures the ball, gambles in the passing lanes, defends inbound passes, and threads the needle with beautiful passes to create offense for others.

The numbers may not always be in Jennings’ favor, but what he brings to the table is bigger than statistics. He’s the heart and soul of this team right now.

Nov 22, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas (91) and forward Carmelo Anthony (7) react against the Portland Trail Blazers during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Mindaugas Kuzminskas

In what was one of the most shocking decisions of the game, Jeff Hornacek trusted Mindaugas Kuzminskas to close out against the Portland Trail Blazers. That decision paid dividends, as Kuzminskas made critical plays late in the fourth quarter.

In what was his first true test against a high-caliber opponent, Kuzminskas stepped up and helped the Knicks get a vital win.

Kuzminskas stepped up with a career-high 10 points in 21 minutes on 4-of-6 shooting from the field and 2-of-3 shooting from 3-point range. He added three rebounds, one assist, and a steal in what was an invigorating showing.

Against one of the deepest teams in the NBA, Kuzminskas gave the Knicks reason to believe he can provide New York with depth of its own.

Kuzminskas hit an incredible clutch 3 during the closing minutes of the fourth quarter. He also took his man off the bounce and proved capable of finishing both off-balance and in traffic against Portland’s defense.

All in all, it was a sensational performance by Kuzminskas. He proved what was skeptically believed: he can handle crunch-time basketball.

Nov 22, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) slam dunks the ball against the Portland Trail Blazers during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Kristaps Porzingis

With the Portland Trail Blazers pouring in points and the New York Knicks in need of offense, Kristaps Porzingis took over. He made shots off the bounce, in transition, off the catch, and in the paint for a healthy display of his incredible offensive arsenal.

Porzingis still has areas in which he must improve, but his performance against Portland firmly solidified his status as a rising star.

Porzingis tallied marks of 31 points, nine rebounds, three offensive boards, one assist, and a block in 40 minutes of play. He shot 13-of-23 from the field, went 3-of-8 from beyond the arc, and converted both of his free throw attempts.

From a statistical perspective and a pure basketball point of view, it was yet another All-Star level performance by a player who’s generating legitimate buzz in his second season.

Porzingis has now scored at least 20 points in eight of his first 14 appearances and at least 30 points in two. That’s a promising trend for the Knicks, which improved to 6-2 when Porzingis scores at least 20 points and 1-5 when he fails to reach that plateau.

Porzingis dominated the Trail Blazers with a versatile skill set that’s coalescing early in the 2016-17 NBA regular season.

Nov 22, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (25) drives to the basket past Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless (4) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Derrick Rose

For all that’s been said about his supposed decline, Derrick Rose remains one of the best slashers in the NBA. He can create penetration against even the best of defenders, as he’s proven throughout 2016-17.

Against the Portland Trail Blazers, Rose overcame a number of questionable foul calls by coming out firing during the fourth quarter.

Rose recorded 18 points, five assists, four rebounds, two offensive boards, two steals, and a block in 28 minutes. He shot 8-of-15 from the field, went 2-of-2 at the free throw line, and legitimately took over in the fourth quarter.

Rose scored eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, including six in the final 3:40, as he proved the Knicks can win when he’s aggressive as a scorer.

Rose wasn’t just willing to step up when his number was called in the fourth quarter; he read the situation perfectly. He was a willing facilitator when that’s what was called for and took over as a scorer when his teammates looked gassed.

Rose closed this win out and deserves every ounce of the credit being sent his way for a sensational performance.

Your New York Knicks are back at .500, ladies and gentlemen.

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