Blazers win 8th straight with 111-87 victory over the Knicks
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek said it may be time to get Damian Lillard into the Most Valuable Player conversation.
“The guy is playing fantastic. He might be one of those guys you’ve got to start talking about that MVP too with the way he’s playing,” New York’s coach said after Lillard scored 37 points in a 111-87 victory over the Knicks on Tuesday night.
Lillard made eight 3-pointers, one off his career high, in the Blazers’ eighth straight win.
CJ McCollum added 19 points for the Blazers, on their longest winning streak since winning nine in a row in 2014. They have moved into third place in the Western Conference standings.
Even the fans have lofty expectations for Lillard, chanting “MVP! MVP!” at times when he got to the line.
“I said after I won Rookie of the Year, I said I think I can be MVP in this league,” he said. “Being in the discussion, it’s an honor to be mentioned, but I don’t look at that and think ‘Oh they mentioned me in the MVP discussion.’ I feel that’s the level of player I can be.”
Lillard added that he believes this has been his best season. He’s averaging 26.8 points, but he’s been particularly effective over the streak.
The Blazers hit a season-high 20 3-pointers in 33 attempts (60 percent).
Enes Kanter had 18 points and 11 rebounds for the Knicks, who lost their fifth straight. It was Kanter’s 32nd double-double this season, a career high. Tim Hardaway Jr. finished with 19 points.
New York has won just one of its last 14 games. The Knicks trailed by as many as 22 points.
The game in Portland was the third of a four-game road trip for the Knicks and comes off a 102-99 loss to the Kings on Sunday. Sacramento’s Skal Labissiere had a 3-pointer with 1.6 seconds left to win it.
The Knicks lost top scorer Kristaps Porzingis last month to a season-ending ACL tear injury that required surgery, and they’ve since gone 1-8.
Against the Blazers, the Knicks were without Courtney Lee because of personal reasons. Rookie Frank Ntilikina got his first NBA start in his place. Lance Thomas also got the start for New York, with Michael Beasley coming off the bench.
Portland remained without forward Maurice Harkless for the third straight game because of a knee injury. Evan Turner started in his place.
Lillard had 16 points in the first quarter alone and the Blazers led 34-28 after the period. Pat Connaughton hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer for Portland.
Lillard went to the bench to start the second quarter and was briefly looked at by trainers. Portland led by as many as 15 points in the quarter but the Knicks closed the gap to 57-52 at halftime.
Portland stretched the lead to as many as 27 points in the second half.
The Blazers were coming off a 108-103 victory the night before against the Lakers in Los Angeles. Lillard scored 19 of his 39 points in the final quarter in the come-from-behind victory.
Knicks: Hardaway and Kanter both had 14 points at the half. ... The Knicks have lost three straight overall to the Blazers. ... Beasley had 16 points off the bench. “Mike has been struggling a little bit, so it’s good to see him get going,” Hornacek said.
Trail Blazers: There were reports that Portland had signed center Georgios Papagiannis to a 10-day contract, but no official word from the team. ... Lillard passed Clifford Robinson for fourth on Portland’s career points list.
Lillard said the shot has been coming open for him, and from distance.
“I think late in the season, teams make adjustments, teams try to do a lot of things where they’re taking looks away if I try to toe the line,” he said. “Sometimes I’m getting right up to the line but if I come off a screen and the big is back and I get a look, I’m really comfortable a few steps behind the line so I’m going to take that shot.”
Knicks: Continue their road trip at Milwaukee.
Trail Blazers: Host Golden State on Friday.
“It’ll be a good test,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “That win (against the Warriors) going into the All-Star break kind of kick-started everything for us.”