Originally posted on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 3/14/13
Where does this team stand? The Portland Trail Blazers‘ playoff hopes are quickly sliding away with each loss they encounter. The lottery is the most-likely destination for this team come June, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to quit at any point this season. Matchup: Portland (29-34) vs. New York Knicks (38-23) Venue: Rose Garden Arena Time: 7:00 PM PT Date: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 The New York Knicks are coming to town, where they’ll be taking on Portland for the second time this year. The game will be on TNT, which means the Blazers will be playing for pride if nothing else come Thursday. Damian Lillard heroics helped Portland defeat New York early in the year. (Photo: AP) Game Notes/How They Match Up The Blazers and the Knicks have faced off once already this season, and that matchup proved to be one of the most surprising contests of the year. Portland entered that game as major underdogs. New York was 21-9 before falling to the Blazers, and it was looking like one of the most improved teams following 2011-12. But the Blazers stormed into Madison Square Garden with a purpose, and took down one of the best teams in the East in a high-scoring battle. This time around, the Knicks are in a dead sprint with the Indiana Pacers for the No. 2 spot in the playoffs. They’ll be tough to take down if they remain motivated, as they’re looking to win every winnable game the rest of the year. What to Watch: Portland When any team plays the Knicks, a high field-goal percentage becomes a must. New York has become a very good two-way team, as they’re top-10 in both points scored and points allowed. Shooting well is going to be especially important for Portland, as it has yet to prove it can win ugly on a consistent basis. In the first matchup between these two squads, the Blazers shot better than 50 percent from the floor. If the team can get that number near that mark again, it’s going to be a huge step in the right direction. A 40-percent showing won’t get it done against the Knicks, and Portland has to take advantage of any easy looks it gets. What to Watch: New York The Knicks began the 2012-13 season on fire from behind the three-point line. They proved that having a deep-ball threat and a good defense are no longer mutually exclusive, and when it came down to it, they were torching teams on a regular basis. Then the Blazers came to town, and the Knicks’ three-point attack shot just 27 percent on the night. Raymond Felton and Carmelo Anthony will look to do some damage against PDX. (Photo: Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images) If the Blazers want to sweep the season series against New York, they have to defend the three-point line. Portland is the fifth-best team in the league when it comes to stopping the long-range shots, and that trend will have to continue Thursday. Key Matchup The most crucial matchup of this contest is going to be between Nicolas Batum and Carmelo Anthony. Both players have emerged as leaders—although Anthony is a clear step ahead—and both are less than 100 percent healthy. The battle between the two will be fun to watch, but when it comes down to it, that’s not the one fans are looking forward to Thursday night. The Trail Blazers have officially replaced Raymond Felton with Damian Lillard, and the Portland faithful couldn’t be more pleased. The New York Knicks’ point guard is set to make his return to the Rose Garden, and needless to say, he’ll be welcomed with boos all game long. This game is on national T.V., and while the broadcasters are bound to hit on the spoiled relationship between Felton and Rip City, nobody on the outside looking in will realize just how ugly it got. Felton recognizes that there’s bad blood between the two parties (via Al Iannazzone’s Twitter account), so it will be interesting to see how much revenge he’s able to exact. Raymond Felton said when returns to Portland tomorrow: “there are certain people there I don’t want to see and better not come near me.” — Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) March 13, 2013 Nothing would make fans happier than seeing Damian Lillard light up Felton. Look for both players to have a great game, but keep an eye out for Felton to have an extra boost of energy from start to finish. Injury Report Portland: DAY-TO-DAY—Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard, Victor Claver, LaMarcus Aldridge New York : OUT —Amar’e Stoudemire, DAY-TO-DAY—Carmelo Anthony Prediction The Blazers have shown heart as of late despite back-to-back losses. Don’t expect this game to be easy, but in front of a national television audience, the Rose Garden crowd might be enough to will this team to victory. Blazers 98 – New York 97 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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