The New York Knicks will look to get back to .500 with a home game against the Portland Trail Blazers. What must New York do to secure a win?
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Dec 12, 2015; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) defends New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) at Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Knicks will face a second consecutive postseason-caliber test at home on Tuesday, November 22. Fresh off of earning a momentum-building win over the Atlanta Hawks, New York will square off against the Portland Trail Blazers.
The task at hand will be a challenge, but if the Knicks adhere to the five most critical points of emphasis, victory will be within reach.
New York has won three of its past four games, including the aforementioned 104-94 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. That’s positive momentum, but it’s also in the wake of New York losing six of its first nine games.
Portland will pose an entirely new challenge, however, with the star power and depth to give the Knicks fits on defense.
Portland has lost three of its past four games, but it’s currently 8-7 and coming off of a victory. Perhaps most importantly, it won’t have much of a road game on its hands when one considers the fact it played the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday.
The question is: what must the Knicks do in order to secure a massive home victory over the Trail Blazers and pull back to .500?
Nov 20, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) dunks during the first quarter against the Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
5. The Rebounding Battle
The New York Knicks succeeded in defeating the Atlanta Hawks on the strength of the defense. One of the additional reasons New York was able to defeat the Hawks was the performance on the boards.
Atlanta rebounded quite well itself, but the Knicks were a powerful force on the boards during the clash with Atlanta.
Kristaps Porzingis recorded a season-high 11 rebounds, Kyle O’Quinn and Willy Hernangomez had eight each, and Carmelo Anthony recorded five. Overall, the Knicks recorded 50 total rebounds and 11 offensive boards.
The Knicks will be without leading rebounder Joakim Noah once again, which places the burden back on the backups.
Hernangomez and O’Quinn played well against Atlanta, and Marshall Plumlee provided quality energy in his five minutes. They’ll need to step up once again, as well as Porzingis, who has been rather up-and-down on the boards.
For what it’s what worth, the Knicks are 5-3 when they win the rebounding battle and 1-4 when they lose it.
Nov 20, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis (6) shoots on a technical during the second quarter against the Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
4. Stay Out Of Foul Trouble
The New York Knicks expect to play without Joakim Noah and Lance Thomas on Tuesday. Noah is battling an illness and Thomas is battling an ankle injury, which means two of its most important frontcourt players will be absent.
Now more than ever, the Knicks can’t afford to fall a man down due to the foul trouble that’s been plaguing them throughout 2016-17.
Update: Joakim Noah (illness) & Lance Thomas (feet/ankle) are doubtful for Portland game. Kyle O'Quinn will likely start in Noah's place.
The Knicks are sending opponents to the free throw line for an average of 25.6 attempts per game. Only six teams are allowing more free throw attempts per game than the Knicks, which is a telling sign of what’s hurt the defense the most.
New York is giving up 19.8 points via free throws per game, which is a higher number than all but seven teams.
Portland is known for its ability to space the floor, but it has a number of gifted slashers who can draw contact and get to the line. Portland is No. 13 in the NBA in free throw attempts per game and Damian Lillard is averaging 8.7 per game by himself—No. 8 in the NBA.
With Noah out and the Knicks down to their backup centers, New York must avoid foul trouble and defend with both physicality and responsibility.
Nov 20, 2016; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (25) drives past Atlanta Hawks guard Dennis Schroder (17) during the third quarter at Madison Square Garden. New York Knicks won 104-94. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
3. Ball Movement
At times this season, the New York Knicks have looked like an unstoppable offensive machine. The ball movement has been beautiful, as has the manner in which the Knicks have been moving in off-ball scenarios.
The Knicks have also spent half the season falling into isolation tendencies that have stunted the development of team chemistry on offense.
Through 13 games, the Knicks are 5-1 when they dish out at least 20 assists. The one loss was to the Washington Wizards, when a vast majority of the Knicks’ offense was achieved once the game was out of hand.
New York has been atrocious when it’s struggled to create ball movement, with a 1-6 record when it’s failed to reach 20 assists.
Numbers are occasionally arbitrary, but this is a prime example of how important the 20-assist plateau is for the Knicks. 20 assists all but guarantees that the Knicks will have assisted a respectable percentage of their made field goals.
Against a team as offensively proficient as the Portland Trail Blazers, creating consistent ball movement will be crucial to team success.
Nov 15, 2016; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) shoots over Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) and guard Jerian Grant (2) during the third quarter at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports
2. Contain Damian Lillard
C.J. McCollum is solidifying his star status, but the Portland Trail Blazers live and die by the presence of Damian Lillard. Thus far in 2016-17, Portland is 6-1 when Lillard scores at least 30 points and 2-6 when he scores less than 30.
Considering Lillard has scored at least 30 points in 46.7 percent of Portland’s games, it’s a fair bet that he’ll be a threat to do so against the New York Knicks.
Lillard is currently averaging 28.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 2.5 3-point field goals made in 35.4 minutes per game. He’s doing so on an efficient slash line of .460/.349/.893 and is committing just 2.9 turnovers per game.
For those who believe those numbers to be unsustainable, Lillard averaged 25.1 points, 6.1 assists, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.1 3-point field goals made per game in 2015-16.
Derrick Rose and Brandon Jennings are far from elite defenders, but they’re both capable of disrupting Lillard’s game. Rose can still be a quality defender when focused and Jennings is averaging 1.3 steals in 22.2 minutes per game—2.1 per 36 minutes.
If Jennings and Rose play hard, and Justin Holiday and Courtney Lee rotate adequately to pick up the slack, the Knicks can contain Lillard.
Nov 2, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Allen Crabbe (23) shoots the ball in front of Phoenix Suns forward P.J. Tucker (17) during the second half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Suns defeated the Trail Blazers 118-115 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
1. Defend The 3-Point Shot
The New York Knicks have been one of the worst teams in the NBA at defending the 3-point field goal. Whether it’s contesting shots or running players off the line, New York has been somewhere in between lackadaisical and dreadful.
Against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Knicks will be run out of their own building if they don’t play with passion and intensity on defense.
Portland is currently making 11.1 3-point field goals per game, which is good for No. 5 in the NBA. It’s converting those 11.1 3-point field goals at an efficient clip of 36.1 percent, which ranks No. 8 in the NBA.
Most impressive of all is the fact that seven different players are averaging at least 1.0 3-point field goal made per game for the Trail Blazers.
Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are elite marksmen who can catch fire and pour in a 3-point barrage at any given moment. Allen Crabbe and Maurice Harkless are dangerous themselves, and the likes of Al-Farouq Aminu and Meyers Leonard are proven and capable shooters.
If the Knicks fall asleep on defense, the Trail Blazers’ 3-point shooters will make them pay for that egregious offense.