It’s supposed to be an easy night when a team with a 10-29 record drops into Moda Center.
But the New York Knicks are not your normal get-down-by-15-points-and-quit NBA team.
The Knicks play hard, no matter the score and they never surrendered when the Blazers put double-figure deficits on them in the second half. They played it physical and tough.
But the Trail Blazers took care of business and hiked their record to 24-17 at the halfway mark of their schedule with a 111-101 win.
“A lot of traps, hard hedges and stuff like that,” said CJ McCollum, who scored 17 points. “They play hard, they have a lot of talented guys and they continue to get better. Obviously, when they get (Kristaps) Porzingis back they’ll be a better team.
“They compete to the end of the game. Obviously, Noah (Vonleh) and those guys are hungry and they’re trying to prove themselves. They have guys in contract years trying to show they can play.”
THE BENCH STAYS READY
The Trail Blazers spread the playing time around Monday, with none of the five bench players who reached the court getting fewer than 21 minutes. Jusuf Nurkic led the way with 20 points and Lillard matched McCollum’s 17.
Jake Layman came off the bench in relief of Maurice Harkless, who played only 8:39 due to soreness in his left knee, and chalked up the first double-double of his career with 10 points and 10 rebounds, along with a career-high four assists.
“I just stay ready,” Layman said. “And stay aggressive.”
The continued solid play from Layman is going to be important for this Trail Blazer team who continues tweak lineups and rotations as Harkless deals with his knee injury.
LONG PRACTICES PAYING OFF FOR NURK
The Blazers led by only one point at halftime but took control in the third quarter.
“You know, it’s easier said than done just to stop either one of those guys (Lillard or McCollum),” said New York Coach David Fizdale. “But it’s not like the rest of those guys are slouches out there.
“They’ve done a good job of developing their players. You know, their big fellow is a beast. He’s one of those skilled bigs who can do all of those things and so you know when you do get it out of one of their hands, it’s going to a capable guy.”
The "big fellow," Nurkic, suffered early foul trouble but hit seven of his nine shots. He’s becoming more skilled at the post by the game, having added a reliable left-handed finish to his already impressive repertoire.
“I would say I trust (the left hand) more,” Nurkic said. “Long practices.”
Coach Terry Stotts said, “He’s on a roll. He’s finishing around the paint. He’s making his free throws. And that’s not to mention what he’s been giving us at the defensive end.”
Portland is back in action Wednesday night in Moda Center against the Chicago Bulls.