Knicks Return to Madison Square Garden to Host Blazers
1. Despite missing their leading scorer and rebounder, the Knicks dominated the first quarter of action on Saturday night in Houston. New York launched a 29-7 run to begin the contest while Michael Beasley and Courtney Lee combined to score 32 of the Knicks 39 first period points. James Harden and company bounced back in a major way by answering with a 13-2 run to start the third quarter and a 37-19 lopsided stanza in the Rockets favor. Behind Harden’s 37 points and Chris Paul’s 13 assists, Houston staved off any comeback attempt from the road team in the 117-102 victory. New York completed the two-game road trip and back-to-back set on Saturday night.
2. As mentioned above, the Knicks were forced into action without their leading man in the lineup. Kristaps Porzingis was a late scratch due to lower back tightness that occurred on the morning of the game in Houston. The loss of Porzingis for the contest was significant, considering the 7-3 rising star is the team’s leading scorer (27.3 PPG) and shot blocker (2.3 BPG). Porzingis should be available for the matchup against the Blazers at MSG tonight.
3. Enes Kanter missed both games on the road trip as he deals with back spasms. Following the game on Saturday night, Kanter expressed his desire to return to action immediately but he’s currently listed as questionable for tonight’s contest. Kanter is the Knicks leading rebounder (10.2 RPG) and a key cog in their attack on the offensive glass. The big man ranks No. 5 in the league in offensive boards per game and has helped New York earn the No. 2 spot in the NBA in second chance points.
4. Beasley stepped into the starting lineup on Saturday night and put on an offensive show from the opening tip. The 28-year old racked up 17 of his season-high 30 points in the first quarter. He was also extremely efficient by connecting on 14-of-23 shots from the floor to go along eight rebounds. Saturday night marked the first time Beasley received 30-plus minutes in a regular season game this season.
5. After a 41-41 finish last year, the Blazers returned with a fairly similar group to start the 2017-18 campaign. Portland did add some depth by drafting big men Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan. Through 20 games, the Blazers own a 12-8 record and 5-4 on the road heading into tonight’s tilt. The road team is led by one of the best backcourts in the league featuring Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Both players have combined to average 47.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 8.7 assists per game. Powered by the backcourt, Portland ranks No. 4 in 3-point percentage and its frontcourt has been solid by ranking No. 3 in rebounding and No. 4 in blocks. The Blazers have won three of their last four road games but face a dangerous Knicks team at Madison Square Garden. New York boasts a 9-3 mark at the Mecca with averages of 109.4 points per game on 47.9 percent shooting from the floor.