Knicks’ rout against Trail Blazers feels like a pointless exercise

The Knicks returned to the Garden for the first time in ¹/₂2 weeks, played their first home game in March.

They faced a group of relatively anonymous athletes dressed in white and red Blazers jerseys – against a starting unit that included Drew Eubanks (no relation to legendary game show host Bob), Trendon Watford and Brandon Williams, who have played for the Westchester Knicks this season.

The Knicks were 12½-point favorites over the beaten Blazers, though Portland is in a legitimate playoff race whether it likes it or not.

Despite a worse record than the Knicks at 26-41, Portland held just one play-in tournament game while the Knicks were five games away.

The Knicks were easy winners, took an 11-point lead after Julius Randle dunked the immortal Eubanks in the first quarter and ended up winning in a 128-98 rout.

“We’re going to keep scratching,” said Tom Thibodeau. “Who knows where it ends? »

Whatever Thibodeau says, it’s still a hollow victory. This game was more March Sadness than March Madness – two teams essentially playing for next season. RJ Barrett’s late lob against Obi Toppin for an acrobatic jam could be a staple for 2022-23.

RJ Barrett
RJ Barrett
robert sabo

Even Chauncey Billups, the Blazers’ rookie head coach and former Knicks point guard, admitted the play-in event wasn’t his No. 1 priority.

Portland is trying to revive around injured superstar point guard Damian Lillard. The Blazers sent veteran guards CJ McCollum and Norm Powell to the trade deadline to restructure the club from last season’s playoffs that went nowhere.

In fact, the Knicks and Blazers are in similar positions with their season finales less than a month away.

“I try to do both,” Billups said before the whistleblower when asked about development versus winning. “I try to win every time I’m there. Obviously we have a lot of guys to develop and we are always trying to win games. There are many lessons to be taught. But every chance I get, I try to win basketball games. ”

Billups, who played for the Knicks in 2010-11, actually interned at the club a few years ago for his old friend Scott Perry. The smart Billups envisioned a career in the front office, but the Knicks never brought Billups on board.

“I did it with Scott,” Billups said. “We have a long history since he recruited me in high school. Then we won the championship in Detroit when he was in the front office there. When I had a really strong desire to get into the front desk, he was kind enough to let me in and be a fly on the wall and watch him for three or four days. I was grateful for that.”

Billups knows there’s the mid-March fine line. Thibodeau gets agitated when he is accused of not playing enough with the youngsters. He has often said in the past two weeks that no one plays more youngsters than him. Of course, he notes that RJ Barrett is 21 – which isn’t fair.

Julius Randle
Julius Randle
robert sabo

Thibodeau has signed to active rookie center Jericho Sims since the all-star break and was plus-21 in 24 minutes on Wednesday. He has rookie combo guard Miles McBride as a permanent fixture in the rotation since the recent road trip.

Rookie shooter Quentin Grimes, their first-round pick last July, likely returned from a dislocated knee Friday against Washington and should play some big minutes.

However, Thibodeau also hurts his case when he fires Toppin with 5:50 to go to bring Randle into a blowout – as he did on Wednesday.

The season was put on life support with that collapse in Memphis on Friday and Sunday’s late loss in Brooklyn. The Barclays Center hosted the biggest game in town on Wednesday – Mavericks at Nets, decided by buzzer-beater Spencer Dinwiddie.

Back in Manhattan, the Knicks routed an injury-riddled Blazers team in what looked like a meaningless, melancholy exercise. But Barrett, God bless him, said it was still a “personal” win, beating a Blazers team that rallied in Portland last month to claim a fourth-quarter victory.

But that day, the Blazers had their young stud, Anfernee Simons, gritty center Jusuf Nurkic and veteran guard Eric Bledsoe.

“It feels good to be back home and getting a win,” Barrett said. “It doesn’t matter who they have on the pitch. Anyone who plays in the NBA is good and deserves respect.”

New York Post

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