The Portland Trail Blazers broke a four-game road losing streak Wednesday night in New York with a 94-90 victory against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
With the win, the Trail Blazers move to 35-14 on the season and are 16-9 away from the Moda Center this season.
It looked as though the Trail Blazers might pull away late in the game thanks to holding the Knicks to 28 percent shooting in the fourth quarter, but back-to-back three-pointers by J.R. Smith and Tim Hardaway Jr. cut Portland’s lead to 89-87 with 50 seconds to play.
On the ensuing possession, LaMarcus Aldridge hit a turnaround jumper over Tyson Chandler to give the Portland a 91-87 lead. Though he struggled mightily from the field for most of the night, Aldridge said after the game that he never doubted his shot-making ability with the game on the line.
“I had just made like one or two (shots) before that,” said Aldridge. “I knew it. I had the whole game to miss shots so I felt like I was due some makes. Law of averages have to catch up sooner or later, so I just felt like I had made one easy one and one tough one so I felt like I was going to make it.”
“The shot he hit, he’s been doing that all year,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “But it’s a tough shot and Tyson Chandler contested it. He’s been doing that for us all season and that’s why we went to him.”
As he backpedaled after making the shot, Aldridge stared down Madison Square Garden courtside mainstay Spike Lee after the famous director and long time Knicks season ticket holder had been riding him for his five of 17 night from the field.
“He messed with me all night because I hadn’t scored,” said Aldridge. “He was just talking about Tyson Chandler guarding me. And he said … ‘Keep locking him up.’ I made the one shot, I kind of laughed at him. I made the big shot, I just starred at him and he was like, ‘My bad. My bad.’”
Aldridge said that the back and forth with the director of “Do The Right Thing” and “Oldboy” was just an ancillary benefit of playing in the most famous arena in the world.
“Part of being here in The Garden,” said Aldridge, who finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and a block. “Definitely that was fun for me.”
While Aldridge would hit the shot that gave the Trail Blazers the cushion they would need to come away with the victory, it was stout team defense that would put Portland in a position to sweep the season series.
“I thought our defense all game was pretty good,” said Stotts. “For us to win a game shooting 38 percent is not an easy thing to do. Carmelo (Anthony) didn’t score in the fourth quarter, Wes (Matthews) I thought did a nice job, (Aldridge) was guarding a perimeter guy most of the night and he was chasing Hardaway off the screens. (Robin Lopez) was protecting the basket and changing shots at the rim. I thought except for a couple of times, we did a good job on their pick-and-rolls.”
The Trail Blazers held the Knicks to 40 percent shooting for the night and 28 percent in the fourth quarter, which was necessary considering Portland made just four of their 17 shots in the final 12 minutes.
“We got the job done on defense and we have to give credit to Wes who did a great job on Carmelo,” said Nicolas Batum. “He didn’t score in the last quarter and got bad percentage shots. It was team defense too, but when you struggle like that, you have to stick together and play together.”
Batum provided much of Portland’s offense with 20 points on nine of 15 shooting while also pulling down ten rebounds to finish the night with a double-double.
“I have to be more aggressive,” said Batum. “The last two weeks I didn’t really score the ball really well, so we try to change that the last three or four games. If we want to win games we have to be aggressive, so I try to do it.”
“I thought Nic played a good all-around game,” said Stotts. “I thought he was a facilitator, he took opportunities when they were there, he took the ball to the basket, took shots that were there. He made a big play for us in a pick and roll play out of a timeout that was a big basket for us.”
Wesley Matthews hit three of his six three-pointers and finished with 18 points and seven rebounds in 36 minutes. Damian Lillard added 12 points and four assists in the winning effort.
Portland was also buoyed by the performance of their bench, which scored 20 combined points one game after being held to just six points in Monday night’s loss to the Wizards. Stotts has tinkered with his rotation infrequently this season, but against the Knicks, he opted to insert Dorell Wright and Meyers Leonard, players who had seen little time over the last month, in place of CJ McCollum and Thomas Robinson.
The Knicks were lead by Carmelo Anthony, who scored a game-high 26 points on 28 shots. J.R. Smith finished with 18 points of the bench while Amar’e Stoudemire and Hardaway Jr. added 15 and 12 points, respectively.
The Trail Blazers now head west to start the second half of the four-game trip in Indianapolis against the Pacers on Friday. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 PM Pacific.