Game details: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY. 4:30pm TV: CSN Radio: 95.5 FM (KXTG)
Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6′2″, Utah), SG Brandon Roy (#7, 6′6″, Washington), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6′8″, France), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6′11″, Texas), C Marcus Camby (#23, 6′11″, UMass)
Projected New York Starting Lineup: PG Raymond Felton (#2, 6’1″, North Carolina), SG Landry Fields (#6, 6’7″, Stanford), SF Danilo Gallinari (#8, 6’10”, Milan, Italy), PF Amar’e Stoudemire (#1, 6’10”, Cypress Creek- Orlando, Florida), C Timofey Mozgov (#25, 7’1″, St. Petersburg, Russia)
When Portland takes the floor at Madison Square Garden, they will be looking to build on their second win of the season, along with looking to close out an undefeated month of October. Of course the month of October has only featured two games, but there are plenty of things worse than a 2-0 start. In order to turn that 2-0 to a 3-0, and ensure no worse than a .500 record on the team’s first road trip, the Blazers will have to first go through one of the NBA’s many new look teams. The Knicks were one of the teams not located in Miami that got the cold shoulder from LeBron James and “the Decision.” Unlike a few other teams, the Clippers and the Nets, the Knicks did walk away from the summer’s free agent free-for-all with a pretty solid pickup.
Amar’e Stoudemire was a perennial All-Star during his eight seasons with the Phoenix Suns, and has been First Team All-NBA, an Olympic Bronze Medalist, and on the short list of top power forwards in the Western Conference and the whole Association at least since the 2004-05 season. Although the authenticity of Stoudemire’s Hebraic ancestry may be questionable, what isn’t in question, and hasn’t ever been in question, is his ability to dominate the Portland Trail Blazers. Stoudemire has made a business out of destroying Portland inside, and has long been the primary point of emphasis for the argument against LaMarcus Aldridge. The argument goes: How can LA be one of the most dominant power forwards in the west when he always, always gets flat out worked by Amar’e? It’s a good question, and one LA hopes to answer Saturday at MSG.
New York has split its opening two games of the season, falling to the Celtics 105-101 on Friday night in Boston, and beating the hapless Raptors 98-95 at their home opener Wednesday in Toronto. Stoudemire finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds in the win at Toronto and with 27 points and 8 rebounds in the loss to Boston. Amar’e isn’t the only Knick that can fill up the stat sheet. Danilo Gallinari is a gunner from outside the three point line. In 2009-10, Gallinari launched 488 bombs, hitting 186. Gallinari was second only to Houston’s Aaron Brooks in both threes attempted and made. New York also has Wilson Chandler coming off the bench providing instant offense. Chandler scored 22 points in 29 minutes against Toronto.
Portland lost at MSG their last time there, at the beginning of the road trip that even Nata McMillan missed due to injury, but last year’s stats from that game are basically meaningless because not a single Knick from last season’s starting lineup is in this season’s starting lineup. David Lee is at Golden State, Chris Duhon is in Orlando, Al Harrington is in Denver, and Jared Jefferies is in Houston, leaving Wilson Chandler as the only Knick starter from 2009-10 even on the 2010-11 roster.
The Blazers will find their biggest advantage against New York in their depth. Stoudimire will get his, Raymond Felton is a competent but not great point guard who doesn’t make a ton of mistakes, I’ve already spoken about Gallo and Chandler. Beyond those four players New York brings very little to the table. The Knicks start two rookies, Landry Fields and Russian import Timofey Mozgov, and after Chandler the most potent Knick off the bench has been Tony Douglas. Douglas scored 12 points in the loss to Boston and 10 points in the win in Toronto. Portland can, and will play 10 men, that should give them a serious advantage.
If the Blazers can keep Amar’e from having a crazy scoring and rebounding night, he can have one or the other but not both, and they keep the Knicks from hitting wide open threes, in last season’s loss the discrepancy of made threes was 13-to-1 in favor of the home team, Portland should have a good chance at running away with a win on Saturday.
Portland got to play spoiler in Blake Griffin’s professional debut. Although Saturday won’t be Amar’e’s pro debut, it will be his first home game in Madison Square Garden. Of course that will give him and the Knicks all the more reason to get up for the win, this is after all a team that fancies themselves an Eastern Conference contender, but outside of Stoudemire, New York doesn’t win any individual position. The Blazer’s have yet to put together a full game that has looked fluid from start to finish. Saturday would be a great time to start.