Trail Blazers-Knicks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 14, 2012
Just last month, the New York Knicks were the NBA's feel-good story as Jeremy Lin burst onto the scene to reinvigorate a slumping team that had seemingly lost its way. Now they look to be a far bigger mess than they were before. Hours after coach Mike D'Antoni's stunning resignation, New York tries to avoid its first seven-game slide in more than two seasons Wednesday night when they host the Portland Trail Blazers. The Knicks lost 11 of 13 from Jan. 12-Feb. 3 before Lin spearheaded a seven-game winning streak and 10 victories in 13 games, but the good feelings coming from Madison Square Garden have quickly dissipated. New York (18-24) has dropped six straight after Monday's 104-99 loss in Chicago, after which reports surfaced that Carmelo Anthony was so disgruntled he preferred to be traded. Anthony denied those whispers after Wednesday morning's shootaround, also refuting talk he was upset with D'Antoni while stating he supports the coach "100 percent." He no longer has to. D'Antoni resigned shortly after the shootaround, leaving assistant and former Atlanta head coach Mike Woodson to rescue the slumping Knicks. New York is tied for the Eastern Conference's eighth spot with Milwaukee, which pulled off a blockbuster deal Tuesday by acquiring Monta Ellis, forward Ekpe Udoh and center Kwame Brown from Golden State. Even if the Knicks can regroup under Woodson, the odds are against them doing much damage. Only one team in the past 36 years - Indiana in 2005 - has won a playoff series after having two losing streaks of six games or longer during the regular season. New York lost six straight three times last season, but hasn't dropped seven in a row since Feb. 5-23, 2010. "We've been in this situation before, early in the season. We've come together, fought through it,'' Anthony said after the loss to the Bulls. "Right now times are tough, so I'm not going to get through it by myself. Nobody is going to get through it by themselves. We need everybody.'' So far, Anthony has failed to mesh with Lin. Anthony's average of 21.3 points is his lowest since his second season, and his 40 percent shooting is by far the worst mark of his nine-year career. Perhaps because of that, New York is just 2-11 when the five-time All-Star attempts 20 or more shots. Last season, the Knicks were 11-3 when Anthony took 25 or more. Portland (20-22) likely has little sympathy for New York's situation after trailing by as many as 29 points in Tuesday's 92-75 loss at Indiana that dropped it into last place in the Northwest Division. The Trail Blazers have made the playoffs the last three seasons but are now 11th in the West. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 17 points for the Blazers, who shot a season-low 31.3 percent from the field and made a season-worst 20 field goals. Portland's five assists were the fewest by an NBA team this season. "The missing shots definitely hurt us," guard Nolan Smith said. "We obviously shot badly, and we let that affect our defense. As a team, you never let offense affect defense. But we did, and it just snowballed from there.'' Portland is 6-15 on the road, where several Blazers seem to be entirely different players. Gerald Wallace averages 17.1 points at home compared to 9.2 on the road and Wesley Matthews is at 14.7 at home and 9.3 away. The Blazers will get their first look this season at Lin, who turned in one of his two double-digit efforts last season with Golden State when he had 12 points versus Portland on April 13, 2011. Lin is shooting 39.1 percent and averaging 16.2 points during the Knicks' slide. He missed 20 of 29 total shots in defeats Sunday to Philadelphia and Monday in Chicago. This is the lone matchup of 2011-12 between New York and Portland after they split two last season.
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