NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 29: Mitchell Robinson #23 of the New York Knicks smiles as the game ends against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden on February 29, 2020 in New York City.The New York Knicks defeated the Chicago Bulls 125-115.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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After an ugly loss in Sacramento, the New York Knicks looked for improved performance in a date with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The New York Knicks hoped to have a Sunday Funday in Portland after striking out in Sacramento on Friday night,

But they didn’t have orange absinthe pancakes with maple cognac butter for breakfast. A trip to Voodoo Doughnut for a Grape Ape and a Guava Colada was not on the itinerary. Taking a walk in Cathedral Park with Fred Armisen and discussing the shaving habits of Tibetan monks didn’t happen.

No, the Knicks spent their time in the Rose City focused on Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers. Beating them would be a tall order, but could this young and tough New York defense finish the job?

Gifs, take it away!


1st quarter: Blazin’ Blazers

Maybe it’s a cold streak, maybe it was the miso cauliflower tacos the team had for dinner. Either way, the New York Knicks were no match for Portland to start the game. The Blazers shot an astounding 68.4% from the floor and turned the first quarter into real-life NBA Jams.

Portland neutralized the Knicks with zone defense, and the Knicks’ usually stout D was no match for Damian Lillard. The Blazers’ start point guard had 15 points and was a perfect 4/4 from the field. The home team was on fire, whereas the Knicks were ice cold once again.



Halftime report: Ain’t no stoppin’ the Blaze

The New York Knicks’ defense was nonexistent in the first half. The team trailed Portland 70-50 at the break, with the Blazers shooting 58.1% from the field and 57.1% from three. New York continued to struggle with the zone defense, so badly that the starters did not check back in until there were about three minutes left in the half.

Similarly, Portland also relied heavily on its bench in the second quarter. Things might have cooled off for a minute or two, but make no mistake. The Blazers were more on fire than two nights of The Black Keys at the Garden.



 3rd quarter: It’s Alec-tric

It wasn’t a pretty third quarter for the New York Knicks, but they at least made it a game. Portland’s hot shooting went cold as New York outscored the Blazers 27-19 in the third quarter.

But it wasn’t RJ Barrett who keyed the rally, nor Julius Randle or Mitchell Robinson. Tonight’s catalyst was first-year Knick Alec Burks, who drilled a trio of triples in the third and had 12 points in the quarter.

Barrett soon found his stroke as the Knicks found their groove, but none fit the moment as well as Burks. Just call him an IPA at Wayfinder, because he was smooth.



4th quarter: Moral victories matter

The New York Knicks had absolutely no business winning this game. The first half defense put Swiss cheese to shame. The offense had no rhythm at all.

That still didn’t stop the Knicks from shifting gears in the second half and coming within four points of the Trail Blazers in the 4th quarter. New York played great basketball, but the shots just didn’t fall when they needed to down the line.

In another strange twist, RJ Barrett barely played in the fourth quarter. Why did Thibodeau bench a star player in a close game?

A loss is a loss, but this 116-113 wasn’t without a great fight.



Player of the game: Immanuel Quickley

While the rest of the team struggled, the rookie Immanuel Quickley proved once again to be a steal of his draft class. He scored a career-high 31 points on 18 shots and sunk five three-pointers. It shouldn’t be a matter of if he’ll ever crack the starting lineup, but when.


Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.