Trail Blazers-Knicks Preview
Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has gone for at least 30 points in seven of his last eight games with an average of 33.3 in that span.
He's never had a 30-point game against the New York Knicks and had never lost to them until earlier this season.
The Knicks have allowed only four guards to score at least that many in a game, although they could be hard-pressed to slow down Lillard and end the Trail Blazers' season-high five-game road win streak Tuesday night.
Lillard is the league's fifth-best scorer with 25.4 points per game. Portland (32-28) is 7-1 in his red-hot stretch in which the guard is shooting 41.6 percent on 3-pointers.
He could be at least halfway to the 30-point plateau if he turns in a first quarter like he has in the last two games. Lillard scored 15 in that period and finished with 31 in Saturday's 103-95 win at Chicago before he scored 20 of his 33 points through 12 minutes the next night in a 111-102 victory over Indiana.
''I've been just trying to come out and be in attack mode and set the tone from the start of games," he said.
The Trail Blazers have won 17 of their last 21 overall with consecutive victories to start this six-game trip. They have taken eight of 10 on the road after starting 5-14 there.
"It's a challenge for a good team to go on the road and get a win, let alone a young team like us," Lillard said. "But I think we've been able to do it because we haven't looked at out opponent."
The only guards to score at least 30 against New York (25-36) are Boston's Isaiah Thomas, Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, Golden State's Klay Thompson and Charlotte's Kemba Walker. Westbrook has done it twice.
Lillard is averaging 20.3 points in seven games against the Knicks, with his highest effort of 29 coming in a 112-110 defeat Dec. 12. The Blazers blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead, as Carmelo Anthony led New York with 37 points.
The Knicks actually had a better record than the Blazers after that victory and these teams are headed in opposite directions now. Portland is tied with Dallas for the Western Conference's sixth-best record while New York looks certain to miss the playoffs for a third straight season.
Starting Knicks center Robin Lopez, who played his previous two seasons with Portland, believes his club can learn from the Blazers.
"I think they've got a group of guys, they're playing together, they've got each other's backs," Lopez said. "It's something we can do, we should do more consistently, I think."
New York has lost 14 of 17 after falling 98-81 at home to Miami on Sunday. Only nine players took part since starting guard Arron Afflalo was out with swelling on his knee with his status in doubt Tuesday.
Interim coach Kurt Rambis let the players do individual work at Monday's practice since Anthony and rookie Kristaps Porzingis are also banged up. Porzingis will try to make amends for his first performance against Portland - the only game in which he failed to score by missing all six shots.