Trail Blazers-Knicks Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 31, 2012
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Once the most dominant team in the league on their home court, the New York Knicks have stumbled there lately. Having a pair of All-Star forwards back in the lineup might help them get back on track at Madison Square Garden. Carmelo Anthony, who missed the last two games with a hyperextended left knee, hopes to return on Tuesday night when New York opens 2013 at home against the Portland Trail Blazers. Amar'e Stoudemire could also make his season debut, depending on how his knee responds following workouts on Monday. Stoudemire has been inactive all season after averaging 17.5 points and 7.8 rebounds in 2011-12. "It would be great if I could go January 1st but again, I can't determine how I feel," Stoudemire said on Sunday. "If I can continue to improve then that will be a great day to start back playing." Anthony, one of the top scorers in the NBA at 28.5 points per game, has played in seven of the team's last 13 contests because of three different injuries. The Knicks are 18-6 with Anthony in the lineup, but 3-3 without him. New York (21-9) is home after capping a 1-2 road trip with a 106-105 loss at Sacramento on Friday night when James Johnson made a 3-pointer at the buzzer. The Knicks also struggled without Anthony in a 99-97 win at Phoenix two days earlier. While they opened the season with 10 straight wins on their home floor, the Knicks have split their last four games there. New York slipped defensively in those defeats, allowing season-high point totals at home to Houston (109) and Chicago (110). Jason Kidd and J.R. Smith, however, have stepped up with point guard Raymond Felton sidelined for at least a month with a fractured finger. Kidd has averaged 19.5 points and 7.5 assists while shooting 9 of 19 from the 3-point line in the two games Felton has missed. Smith has contributed season highs with 27 and 28 points, respectively, in those two contests. The Knicks, though, hope Anthony can provide a boost for an offense that has averaged 99.0 points in their last four home games after scoring 106.2 per game in the first 10. It might not come easy against a Portland team that limited opponents to 92.4 points in winning seven of its last nine games. The Trail Blazers (15-14) have won seven straight at home to climb above .500, but haven't been able to carry that success to the road. Portland, which opens a four-game trip, suffered both losses during this nine-game stretch away from home. "We won a few games, had a win streak," guard Damian Lillard told the team's official website. "We have more confidence going into this one." Lillard will try to shake off his recent road struggles, totaling 26 points on 10-of-31 shooting (32.3 percent) in his last two away from home. The rookie of the year candidate is averaging 18.3 points on the season after scoring 20 in Portland's 89-85 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night. J.J. Hickson, who looks for his 11th double-double in 12 games, has averaged 15.1 points and 13.2 rebounds over his last 11. Although the Knicks' poor perimeter defense gave up a season-high 15 3-point field goals against Sacramento, the Trail Blazers aren't likely to cash in with the NBA's worst 3-point shooting percentage (30.4) in December. Portland, though, could have guard Wesley Matthews - shooting a team-best 39.5 percent from beyond the arc - after he missed the last four games with a strained hip. The Knicks will try for their third straight win against the Trail Blazers after beating them 121-79 in New York last March.
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