Trail Blazers Hold On Versus Knicks To Finish Road Trip 4-1

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

NEW YORK -- The Trail Blazers had to come back from 17 points down in the fourth quarter Saturday night in Washington, DC to get their third win in the fourth game of a five-game road trip. For whatever reason, they decided to see how that kind of fourth quarter looked from the opposite perspective a few nights later in New York.

After taking a 26-point lead at the end of the third quarter, the Trail Blazers managed to score just six points in the first 10 minutes of the fourth versus the Knicks, turning what looked like a blowout victory into a bit of a nail-biter. But in the end, Portland held on to come away with the 103-91 victory in front of a crowd of 18,409 at Madison Square Garden.

“I thought we played good basketball for three quarters and it was a really good win,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Obviously the fourth quarter wasn’t very pretty but it was good that we were able to finish it off.”

The Trail Blazers are now 13-8 overall, 6-4 on the road and 4-1 on their now-completed five-game road trip.

“Five games, whenever you can win four of them, I think it’s a quality road trip,” said CJ McCollum. “Obviously we’d like to get that Sixers game back… But overall, if you would have said he would go and win four games I would have told you ‘I’ll take it!’”

It looked like the Trail Blazers might end the trip with their most complete game of the season through three quarters. After a solid first quarter in which they shot 48 percent from the field and logged six assists on 12 made field goals, the Trail Blazers took control of the game early in the second quarter, using a 17-1 run to take a 39-23 lead after a McCollum three.

=With the offense flowing and the Knicks shooting just 27 percent from the field in the second quarter, the Trail Blazers took a 53-37 advantage into the intermission, which constituted their second-largest halftime lead this season.

But as good as Portland was on offense in the first half, they were even better in the third quarter, scoring 37 points, with 17 of those coming courtesy of Lillard, on 12-of-19 shooting from the field, 4-of-4 shooting from three and 9-of-10 shooting from the free throw line.

“I wanted to be aggressive and just keep the game in my control,” said Lillard of his play in the third. “They tried to pick up a little bit and I just started attacking downhill. When they helped, I tried to make the right plays and we was able to build the lead.”

And while the Knicks would shoot 50 percent from three in the third, the Trail Blazers outscored New York 11-5 in the final four minutes of the quarter to take their largest lead of the night at 90-64.

But as is sometimes the case when playing with a large lead, the Trail Blazers didn’t sustain the effort or execution in the fourth quarter that got them such a comfortable lead in the first place. They made just three of 15 shots from the field, turned the ball over five times and give up five offensive rebounds. If the Knicks had been able to shoot better than 39 percent in the fourth, perhaps the game would have had a different result, but luckily for Portland, that would not be the case.

“They just tried to junk the game up,” said Lillard of the Knicks in the fourth quarter. “They picked up the energy, they started trapping, picked up full court just to give themselves a chance. That’s how it goes. They hadn’t had a big run the entire game and I think that was when they kind of went after it. We started to stumble in our execution, shots didn’t go in, they got aggressive so the whistles started going their way a little bit more, saw a few shots go in. They cut the lead, we could have done much better but we kept them at a pretty good distance for the kind of momentum they were building.”

Portland was led by Lillard, who went 10-of-20 from the field and a perfect 11-of-11 from the free throw line for 32 points to go with five assists, a rebound and a steal in 38 minutes.

Pat Connaughton, who got his third start of the season, went for 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 shooting from three while also tallying two assists and two rebounds in 39 minutes.

“This is who (Connaughton) is,” said Lillard. “He’s going to go out there, he’s going to take the right shots, you know he’s going to be in the the right spots defensively, he’s going to be a great teammate. He’s going to do what the team needs him to do. We’ve got a lot of confidence in him, from our coaches to everybody on our team. We just know what we’re going to get from him and I think the more time he’s out there, the more you guys are going to see how capable he is.”

Jusuf Nurkić came one rebound short of a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds while also handing out a game-high six assists in 30 minutes. McCollum went 4-of-15 from the field for 12 points and Noah Vonleh added eight points and 12 rebounds before fouling out in 31 minutes.

Evan Turner added 10 points off the bench.

Kristaps Prozingis led the Knicks with 22 points and seven rebounds in 33 minutes.

Next up, the Trail Blazers return to Portland for a four-game homestand starting Thursday versus the Milwaukee Bucks at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 pm.