It’s been a little while since the Portland Trail Blazers appeared on the hardwood. The team hasn’t played since Monday after the Memphis Grizzlies’ games were postponed due to contact tracing.
This means that the Portland Trail Blazers have had nearly a week to sit and think about what went wrong against the San Antonio Spurs last week. While the Spurs are a playoff team (as of this moment) they certainly weren’t expected to be so to lose, especially so convincingly, is a major disappointment.
The New York Knicks are another team like the Spurs who are playing above preseason predictions. Damian Lillard and company must be ready to fight and not play down to the Knicks reputation.
The Portland Trail Blazers return to action tonight against the surprisingly competent New York Knicks. What does the team need to do to avoid another disappointing loss?
With that said, there are a couple of keys for the Portland Trail Blazers in tonight’s game.
Somebody Stop Barrett
The Knicks have played well this season considering the preseason predictions of many. RJ Barrett in particular seems to have taken another step in his career. Especially recently, Barrett has been on a bit of a run averaging 22/6/4 while shooting 51/39/87 in the last 5 games.
On paper, the Blazers have the personnel to slow down a player like Barrett. From Robert Covington to Derrick Jones Jr., and even Rodney Hood, there are plenty of wing defenders on the roster, at least, on paper.
Both Covington and Hood have been severe disappointments this season. It’s too early to just simply give up on them but more has to come from them both. Robert Covington has been one of the better wing defenders in the entire NBA in recent years. Meanwhile, Rodney Hood has both the size and athleticism to keep up with spry players like Barrett.
Hopefully, the two can contain the young star, otherwise Terry Stotts may have to turn to the Carmelo Anthony. If that happens we’re talking about Barrett possibly going for 30.
While Julius Randle is the Knicks’ leading scorer, Barrett is the hot hand as of late and should be the primary focus.
Find Dame Some Help
There’s never a reason to doubt Damian Lillard’s scoring ability. The five-time All-Star has proven that and then some. The question though is, can the rest of the team keep up?
With CJ McCollum out for the next month plus, The Blazers will need to find some extra offense to support Dame, especially against the Knicks.
Ready for a stat to blow your mind?
The New York Knicks have the number one defense in the NBA in terms of opponents’ points per game (102.8). It’s only gotten better recently as well allowing only 97 points per game over the past three games.
Gary Trent Jr. and Carmelo Anthony will be called upon and must deliver for the Blazers to win this game. Other than Dame and CJ, no Blazers is averaging more than 13 points per game this season. That won’t work against a team like New York.
This is a sink or swim moment for the offense. Nothing good comes easy and that’s exactly what the Blazers will see in tonight’s game.
Dame Time Game Time
The game was originally scheduled for 6:00 PM PT but with the new COVID-19 protocols the NBA has added, the game has been moved back to allow extra time for testing.
Tip-off is now scheduled for 7:00 PM PT. You can watch the game on NBC Sports Northwest or NBA League Pass.
It’s been a while since anyone has said this but this game against the New York Knicks will be a real test for Portland.