Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 1/1/13
NEW YORK -- Nicolas Batum scored 26 points and rookie Damian Lillard continued to turn heads as the Portland Trail Blazers ruined the season debut of New York Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire on Tuesday night. Four players hit double figures for Portland, which topped the Knicks 105-100 in a New Year's Day game at Madison Square Garden. Lillard starred in his Garden debut, scoring seven of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, including a key three late. LaMarcus Aldridge added 19 points and 14 rebounds, and J.J. Hickson scored 18 for Portland. Carmelo Anthony scored 45 points for the Knicks, and J.R. Smith added 28 points and 11 rebounds, but Stoudemire looked rusty in his first game back after knee surgery. The Knicks also watched Jason Kidd and 3-point specialist Steve Novak get held scoreless. Stoudemire scored six points and grabbed one rebound in 17 minutes, missing his first five shots from the field. The Blazers' 18-4 run to start the fourth quarter gave them a 96-81 lead with 4:34 left. Lillard and Aldridge each scored four points during that stretch. New York countered with a 13-2 spurt to pull within 98-94 with 1:26 left on a leaping putback by Smith. The Knicks cut the lead to three on Anthony's 3-pointer with 57.1 seconds left, but Lillard answered with a 3-pointer to put Portland up 103-97 with 35.2 seconds remaining. Anthony, as he often has in the fourth quarter this year, persisted, hitting a layup and foul shot to make it 103-100 with 29.3 seconds left. Anthony missed an off-balance 3-point shot that would have tied the game on the Knicks' next possession, and Portland guard Wesley Matthews hit two free throws to seal the game. Portland took a 78-71 lead into the fourth quarter after Batum nearly singlehandedly held off the charging Knicks in the third by scoring 13 points. New York used a 9-3 run to close within 65-62 on Smith's 3-pointer with 4:40 left in the third, but Batum hit back-to-back 3s to push the lead back to seven. When New York cut it back to four, Batum scored four of his team's next six points to push the lead back to seven. In between, Stoudemire finally got on the board for New York, sparking a loud ovation with a one-handed dunk off an assist from Smith, who had tiptoed along the line to stay in bounds before racing up court. However, former Knick Jared Jeffries immediately countered with a layup for a 76-69 Portland lead. Stoudemire entered the game with 3:31 left in the first quarter, prompting a long, loud standing ovation, when he subbed for center Tyson Chandler. He paired with Anthony for less than a minute before the Knicks' MVP candidate exited. Stoudemire said before the game he would need to get his legs back under him and find his touch, and he struggled to do both early. He missed some close-range shots while playing on and off in 9 1/2 minutes in the first half. The Blazers stole the Knicks' spotlight in the first half, leading by as many as 19 points thanks largely to Hickson's 18 points in the first half, along with 12 from Lillard and 11 from Batum. The Knicks cut the deficit to 58-47 at halftime as they finished the second quarter on an 11-4 run. Anthony, who scored New York's first 10 points, scored seven right before the break, including an eyebrow-raising 3-pointer with one-tenth of a second left as he frantically grabbed a loose ball and heaved in his shot from well behind the 3-point arc. NOTES: Stoudemire said before the game he wasn't "100 percent," but said he was "so ready to go." He said a run of games this month that will include several off-days for the Knicks will help him work his knee slowly back into action and agreed with coach Mike Woodson's plan to limit his minutes as he works his way back. "I'm ready to provide whatever my team needs for us to improve," he said. ... Anthony returned after missing two games with a hyperextended left knee. ... Knicks forward Rasheed Wallace (left foot) was out for the ninth consecutive game. ... Matthews had been considered questionable, but returned for the Blazers after missing four straight games with a left hip injury. ... Blazers backup center Meyers Leonard was out because of a sprained right ankle, an injury he sustained Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers.
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