The New York Knicks hope to have star forward Kristaps Porzingis back in action when they try to bounce back from an 0-2 road trip with a home matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday. Porzingis, who has already had elbow and ankle issues this season, sat out Saturday’s 117-102 loss at Houston due to a back injury.
He was joined on the sidelines by center Enes Kanter (back), leaving New York without its leading scorer (Porzingis) and rebounder (Kanter) against the top team in the Western Conference. “They can score in bunches, and we knew that we’d to have to play -- especially, without two of our starters -- almost a perfect game,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek told the media. “I thought our guys played hard and good for a huge portion of the game, but that’s a good team, and they know how to get those 3s off.” The Trail Blazers don’t shoot nearly as many 3-pointers as the Rockets but they are among the more accurate teams in the league and a late triple by CJ McCollum sparked a game-ending 10-0 run in a 108-105 victory at Washington on Saturday. Portland is 3-1 on its five-game road trip.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN Northwest (Portland), MSG (New York)
ABOUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS (12-8): Portland’s comeback from 17 points down in the fourth quarter put the team a season-best four games above .500 and should be a rallying point going forward. “Anytime you win a game like this, it’s definitely a momentum-shifter,” forward Moe Harkless told The Oregonian. “And to come in here and do what we did (Saturday) on the road is especially, I think, big time. I think we can take this energy and carry it over.” Damian Lillard scored 29 points and is averaging 31 on the road trip.
ABOUT THE KNICKS (10-9): Porzingis may have needed a day off anyway, as his absence comes after a six-game stretch in which the 7-3 Latvian averaged 21.7 points - nearly six below his season average - while shooting 37.5 percent. Veteran reserve Michael Beasley (season highs of 30 points and eight rebounds) and backup center Kyle O‘Quinn (season highs of 20 points and 15 boards) did well to fill in for Porzingis and Kanter, but New York didn’t have the bodies to withstand Houston’s charge in the third quarter. “We have a gritty team and a young team that has to learn how to put it together for two halves,” Beasley told reporters. “It’s not the first time we’ve blown a big lead, but we are just learning, and I‘m definitely proud of my fellas.”
1. McCollum scored 26 points in back-to-back games after a season-low five on 1-of-14 shooting at Philadelphia on Wednesday.
2. New York owns an NBA-leading nine home wins while averaging 109.4 points, compared to 96.6 on the road (1-6).
3. Porzingis averaged 24.5 points and nine rebounds while Lillard had 26 points and 5.5 assists as the teams split two meetings last season.
PREDICTION: Blazers 110, Knicks 107