It wasn’t as easy as they would have liked, but the Trail Blazers took care of business Thursday against short-handed New York with a 110-95 win in which they never trailed.
Playing a woeful Knicks team that was without injured starters Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose, the Blazers bolted to a 15-point lead in the first quarter and a 21-point lead at halftime. The Knicks got as close as 98-88 with four minutes left in the fourth quarter before Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum shut the door and locked Portland’s ninth win in the last 12 games.
The Blazers (33-38), who moved within one game of Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot with 11 games remaining. Denver (34-37) next plays at Indiana (36-35) on Friday.
Lillard had 30 points, the eighth consecutive game he has scored 25 or more, tying him for the third longest streak in franchise history with Geoff Petrie (1970-1971) and McCollum (this season). He scored seven points in a two minute span to lead a 10-0 Blazers run after New York cut the lead to 10. It was the ninth time in 15 games since the All-Star Break that Lillard has scored 30 or more points.
McCollum added 20 points, Jusuf Nurkic 16 points and 10 rebounds and Noah Vonleh grabbed 11 rebounds.
"I thought we played a really good first half on both ends of the floor,'' Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "I was disappointed with the fact that New York cut it to 10. Some of that is obviously New York playing better ... but they outworked us. We finished it off, so that was a positive.''
The Knicks (27-45) started three rookies – Willy Hernangomez, Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Ron Baker – and they were overmatched in every facet of the game as they trailed by as many as 23 in the second half.
If Nurkic wasn’t powering over Hernangomez for dunks, Lillard was blowing past Baker for layins. New York’s lone remaining star – Kristaps Porzingis –finished with 18 points and nine rebounds on 8-of-21 shooting.
The rout started early as Portland jumped to a 37-23 lead in the first quarter behind 15 points from Lillard and some dreadful play by the Knicks. New York shot 28.6 percent in the quarter while Portland made 14-of-23 shots (60.9 percent). Lillard scored 15 in the first quarter.
"I thought the way Damian got off in the first quarter really set the tone for the rest of the first half,'' Stotts said.
The Knicks, who beat Portland earlier in the season, lost for the fourth consecutive time and seventh time in eight games.
Evan Turner, who tried his third protective apparatus on his right hand, had his best game since returning from his broken third metacarpal, recording 10 points and six rebounds on 3-of-5 shooting.
"Evan looked much more comfortable out there,'' Stotts said.
Next up: Minnesota at Blazers, 7 p.m. Saturday (CSN).