This is a win. Has to be. No, it’s not a disaster if it becomes a loss, but at this stage of the season, with playoff implications, at the Rose Garden, you hope the Blazers can take care of business from the word “Go”.
Because really, the Knicks aren’t as bad as you think. 18th in Offensive Efficiency, 24th in Defensive Efficiency. Still bad, mind you, but not as awful as when you watch them for a quarter or two and can’t help but to think why they aren’t playing in the D-League. They don’t rebound, don’t get to the foul line, do turn the ball over and have no discernible advantages other than the threat of drawing you into the volume-shooting game and simply getting hot for longer.
Heck, they only shoot 34 percent from three, and they take the second most in the league.
But every so often, Danilo Gallinari will start drawing contact and score 78 points in three games while getting to the free-throw line 33 times over the same stretch. This happened a week ago, culminating in the Knicks almost stealing a game from Houston and then actually stealing a game from Denver. Sure, both those games were in New York, and the Knicks are 10-25 on the road, but they have the ability.
Maybe slightly less ability without Wilson Chandler and (ahem) Eddy Curry, but ability.
We don’t really need to say more, do we? As long as Nic Batum doesn’t fall asleep on Gallinari and LaMarcus Aldridge doesn’t let David Lee sneak in behind for putbacks, Portland should be fine. But right now, are you OK with fine? Shouldn’t a playoff team blow them out, in some capacity, and hold a fourth-quarter lead? Probably. So watch the ball movement, the help defense, even the body language in the first six minutes to see if Portland comes ready to be better, or if they look happy enough to pocket a win.