Knicks-Trail Blazers Preview

Carmelo Anthony’s return to Denver didn’t go as planned and

neither has the start of his team’s road trip.

Now the Knicks will have to try to get back on track without

their All-Star forward.

With Anthony headed back to New York, the Knicks will try for

their first win on a five-game trip Thursday night when they face

the Portland Trail Blazers.

Anthony, making his first appearance in Denver since being

traded to the Knicks more than two years ago, hobbled into the

locker room with nine minutes left in the third quarter on

Wednesday and did not return in a 117-94 loss.

The team’s leading scorer is returning to New York to have his

ailing right knee drained and there is no timetable for his return.

The Knicks are 5-5 without Anthony this season.

“I’m going to go get it drained, get the fluid out. Get to the

bottom of it quick, so I can get back on the court,” he said.

Anthony returned to the lineup for the start of their road

swing, but has struggled after a three-game absence due to the

injury. He scored 14 on 4-of-15 shooting in a 29-point loss at

Golden State on Monday before finishing with nine on 3 of 12 from

the field against the Nuggets.

New York is already missing Amar’e Stoudemire (knee surgery) and

Rasheed Wallace (foot) in the frontcourt, but All-Star center Tyson

Chandler is expected to play on Thursday after going down with a

bruised left knee in the first half against the Nuggets.

J.R. Smith, the team’s top scoring option in Anthony’s absence,

has struggled with 24 points on 8-of-23 shooting on this trip. He

had 28 points and 11 rebounds in a 105-100 loss to the Trail

Blazers on Jan. 1.

Iman Shumpert will also try to provide a spark after finishing

with a season-high 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting on Wednesday.

After outrebounding the Knicks by a 47-37 margin in the first

meeting, Portland may be able to take advantage of a banged-up New

York interior that has been outrebounded by a 112-75 margin in its

last two games.

Following back-to-back losses and three in four games overall,

the Knicks (38-24) have fallen one game behind Indiana for second

place in the Eastern Conference. They’re also nursing a 1 1/2-game

edge over Brooklyn atop the Atlantic Division.

Portland (29-34), meanwhile, looks to breathe some life into its

fading playoff hopes as it trails the Los Angeles Lakers by 3 1/2

games for the final playoff spot in the West.

“Definitely that door is closing,” LaMarcus Aldridge said.

“We’re going to have to string together some wins fast or that door

is going to close on us.”

The Trail Blazers, losers of 11 of 15 overall, have won seven of

10 at the Rose Garden and those three losses were by a combined 11

points.

Aldridge had 28 points and 10 boards and Damian Lillard scored

27 in a 102-97 home loss to Memphis on Tuesday.

Nicolas Batum led the way with 26 points and hit 6 of 12 from

3-point range in the earlier win at New York, but has averaged 5.7

on 4-of-18 shooting in his last three games.

The Trail Blazers have averaged 103.9 points – 5.9 above their

season average – in their last 10 home games.

Portland has won nine of 11 at home in this series.