A surprise team has taken an early lead in the Western Conference’s race for the No. 1 seed so far. The 11-5 Portland Trail Blazers have done just enough to stay atop a jam-packed West so far. They will test their record with a road matchup against the 4-13 New York Knicks today (7:30 p.m. ET Tuesday on NBATV).
Portland has continued to win on the strength of its guards’ magnificent offensive performances. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are a dynamite combination in the backcourt. However, the star guards are also getting a bunch of help on both ends from guys like Jusuf Nurkic, Al-Farouq Aminu and Zach Collins.
The young Knicks are now on a five-game losing streak after starting the year 4-8. Four of those games were on the road, but New York still struggled greatly in them, getting outscored by a combined 86 points.
Can the Knicks get their swagger back as they return to Madison Square Garden? Or will the more experienced and talented Trail Blazers humble them? Let’s evaluate this matchup’s storylines and betting lines before deciding on our Portland Trail Blazers at New York Knicks predictions with picks.
Who Wins Matchup Between Two Stat-Stuffing Big Men?
Both the Knicks and Trail Blazers have an international big man who puts up big scoring and rebounding numbers. The Knicks’ Enes Kanter averages 15.8 points and 11.7 rebounds in just 26.4 minutes per game, and the Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic averages 15.4 points and 10.9 rebounds in 25.8 minutes per contest.
Why don’t both guys play more minutes? They each struggle with turnovers, defending outside the paint (especially Kanter) and often get in foul trouble
While Kanter doesn’t start and Nurkic does, you have to figure they will see plenty of time matched up against each other. The big man who can assert himself more from a physical standpoint without drawing foul calls will give his team a big advantage in this contest.
Will Knicks Get Some Worthwhile Ball Movement?
The Knicks are one of the worst passing teams in the league. They may do plenty of passing around the perimeter early in the shot clock, but a lot of possessions merely end in Tim Hardaway Jr. or Trey Burke creating something for themselves or Enes Kanter taking a shot out of a post-up situation.
Overall, the Knicks get assists on only 46 percent of their baskets, which is a far cry from the league average of 57.9 percent.
The Trail Blazers have been a solid defensive team this season, but they still aren’t a great team at defending the backcourt. New York needs to get penetration going to the rim and then leverage that into whipping the ball around for open shots.
Can Knicks Limit Damian Lillard at All?
Lillard has struggled a bit with his shot in his last eight games. In that span, the Blazers’ star point guard has shot just 39 percent from the field and 30 percent from three-point range. Even still, though, he has averaged 24 points per game in those same contests. With his high volume of shots from behind the arc and his ability to draw fouls, he always seems to get his points.
The Knicks struggle to defend skilled guards like Lillard. Last season, the three-time All-Star had efficient performances of 37 and 32 points in his two games against New York, both Blazer wins. Second-year Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina is a very good defender, but even Lillard has proven too much for him in the past.
It will be a challenge given New York’s limited amount of capable perimeter defenders, but the squad needs to stay very active and attentive to prevent Lillard from burning them for 30-plus points again.
Our Preview’s Portland Trail Blazers vs. New York Knicks Betting Picks & Predictions
I expected the Knicks to be one of the three worst teams in the NBA. After a so-so start, they’ve fallen back in the standings with some resounding losses, which shouldn’t be a surprise for a team as young as they are.
Portland should keep its position atop the Western Conference for at least one more game with a relatively easy victory at Madison Square Garden.
- The best American-serving offshore betting websites seem to think New York will hang in there on Tuesday night, but this preview does not. The line has moved from largely -7.5pts to -8pts. We suggest betting on the Trail Blazers -7.5pts @ -115 with Bookmaker.
- The Knicks have allowed at least 128 points in four of their last five games. The backcourt firepower of the Blazers could very well keep that streak intact. Place your bet on the over 220.5 @ -110, again with Bookmaker. The total is set a fraction higher with the other firms.