Instant Analysis: Damian Lillard plays through pain in Trail Blazers' loss to Knicks

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Jamie Hudson
·4 min read
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Instant Analysis: Damian Lillard plays through pain in Trail Blazers' loss to Knicks originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest

After the Tail Blazers started the game in a 6-0 hole against the Knicks, the three-pointers started falling at a high clip.

The three-ball just wasn't there when they needed it most.  

There was also good news on the Trail Blazers’ injury front Saturday morning ahead of tip-off.

The team announced that both Damian Lillard (abdominal strain) and Derrick Jones Jr. (left foot sprain) were available.  Jones Jr. missed the previous four games. The 24-year-old came off the bench with Rodney Hood starting at the three.

And it was all about Portland’s backcourt Saturday.

Lillard notched 13 points in the first quarter to help his team take a 31-26 lead after the first 12 minutes. The Blazers hit 7-of-14 from three in the first quarter.

But, between Julius Randle and RJ Barretts efficient shooting and Elfrid Paytons third quarter boost, the Knicks took an eight-point lead heading in the final period on their way to a 110-99 victory.

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The Knicks, who play at the slowest pace in the league, started to look like they were going to take control of the tempo late in the second quarter as they took a 57-51 lead at halftime.

New York pounded the ball inside from the jump. New York outscored the Blazers 28-8 in the paint in the first half.

Early in the fourth quarter, Anfernee Simons took it upon himself to get the Blazers going offensively while Lillard was on the bench. He dropped a quick nine points. 

The three-point shot was the difference in helping the Blazers keep the game close. However, Portland missed wide open looks from behind the arc in the final minutes and weren't able to complete the comeback. 

FINAL BOX SCORE: Knicks 110, Trail Blazers 99

The Good: 

Portlands All-Star Damian Lillard rose to the occasion after returning to play while still playing through pain. Lillard scored 16 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the first half.

He missed Thursday's contest against the Sixers with an abdominal strain that he has been dealing with for the past few weeks. 

When he found daylight he rose up, but he also made sure to get his teammates involved as he does. Lillard recorded 29 points and nine assists. 

With Lillard drawing two defenders that made way for Robert Covington and Gary Trent Jr. to knock down open looks. The two stepped up on both ends.

Trent Jr. found success with his active hands, especially in the third quarter, and then on the other end, he showed off his quick release and why he has become a go-to knockdown shooter. 

The Bad: 

Lillard limped to the bench at the end of the first quarter and was seen getting treatment on his left hip. He returned to the game, but it was apparent he was playing through pain.  

Portland was also still without Nassir Little (left knee sprain), CJ McCollum (left midfoot fracture), Jusuf Nurkic (right wrist fracture), and Zach Collins (left ankle stress fracture).

As a team, the Blazers struggled to rotate on defense when they doubled Julius Randle or when the Blazers blitzed Knicks on the perimeter.

Randle and Payton turned it up on the offensive end in the second half finding success at the rim and on the perimeter. Portland's defense was not on the same page throughout the entire game, but especially to start the fourth, allowing the Knicks open looks and an open lane as New York went on a 14-4 run. 

The Highlight:

It was a Logo Lillard type of morning.

The Stat: 

In an uncharacteristic day for the Blazers from the free throw line, Portland finished 8-of-16 from the charity stripe.

Next up: The Trail Blazers will now return to Portland for a three-game homestand. Tuesday, the Blazers and Magic are slated to tip-off at 7:00p.m. PST on NBCSNW.