Blazers beat Knicks 102-91 for 11th straight win
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)
Sure, he knew Portland would be improved this season, but he didn't necessarily see this coming.
''''We're playing hard and we're playing together and it just feels like we're playing the right way,'' Matthews said. ''When you do that, the ball seems to find you. It's that kind of vibe right now and we're just rolling with it. `'
Portland's 11th straight victory came on Monday night when the Blazers beat the slumping New York Knicks 102-91. It is Portland's longest winning streak since it won 13 in a row in December 2007.
The Blazers improved to 13-2, their best start since opening the 1999-2000 season with the same record.
''This level of success is usually not very easy. But we've stayed consistent and we've stayed focused,'' said center Robin Lopez, acquired from New Orleans in a three-team trade last summer. ''I think we've earned it. We've gotten the wins we've needed to get.''
Like on a recent 4-0 road trip that included wins over Boston, Toronto, Brooklyn and Milwaukee, and in nail-biters at home against Chicago and Phoenix.
Two-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge had 18 points and 14 rebounds against the Knicks for his seventh double-double this season. Earlier in the day he was selected Western Conference player of the week.
Aldridge averaged 22.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, two steals and 1.75 blocked shots in wins last week against Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Chicago and Golden State.
''I think this team is jelling together better than any other team I've been on,'' he proclaimed.
Nicolas Batum had 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists for Portland. Damian Lillard, last season's Rookie of the Year, finished with 23 points.
The Knicks, headed in the opposite direction with six straight losses, were paced by Carmelo Anthony with 34 points and 15 rebounds.
New York trailed by as many as 22 but pulled to 81-74 on Andrea Bargnani's 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter. Batum responded with a dunk and Matthews added a 3 to extend the lead again.
Again the Knicks narrowed it, closing to 98-91 after Anthony's jumper and a free throw with 1:47 to go. Lillard made consecutive jumpers for Portland and that was as close as New York got.
''We're winning ugly and pretty games, like tonight,'' Aldridge said. ''We didn't shoot it great but I thought we made plays down the stretch offensively and defensively. We're just winning different ways right now.''
The Blazers were without guard Mo Williams, who was serving a one-game suspension without pay for his role in a scuffle during Saturday night's 113-101 victory at Golden State.
The brawl was touched off by Andrew Bogut's elbow to Joel Freeland's jaw. Williams, Matthews and Warriors reserve Draymond Green were ejected from the game. The NBA fined Aldridge $45,000 on Monday, while Matthews and Green were both fined $20,000.
Bogut was also suspended without pay for a game and will sit out Golden State's game against New Orleans on Tuesday.
The Knicks (3-10) were without starting guard Raymond Felton, a former Blazer, for a fourth game because of a sore lower back and left hip. And center Tyson Chandler remains out of New York's lineup with a broken leg.
The Blazers took off on a 12-0 run to take a 22-12 lead with just under 5 minutes left in the first quarter, capped by Matthews' layup. Batum hit a 3-pointer to end the period and give the Blazers a 34-18 lead.
Matthews hit a 3 to give the Blazers a 44-22 lead midway through the second quarter after a 17-4 run, and Portland led 56-39 at halftime.
''One of the things we've been concerned about was how we've started games, especially defensively. I was really pleased with the way we set the tone in the first quarter, particularly on the defensive end, and we maintained that throughout the first half,'' Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. ''We're a little disappointed we let them get back in it, but New York has a lot of talented scorers and 3-point shooters and we made a few mistakes.''