The New York Knicks ventured out West to build their most successful road trip in more than eight years.
But the tests against teams from the opposite coast will continue during the Knicks’ brief stop home.
The Knicks will begin a two-game homestand Friday night when they host the Portland Trail Blazers in the first meeting this season between the teams.
The Knicks have been off since Monday, when they concluded a five-game road trip by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 129-119. The Trail Blazers’ slump continued Wednesday, when they fell to the host Cleveland Cavaliers 114-96.
The win over the Thunder gave the Knicks a 3-2 record on their Western Conference trek. It was the most successful road trip of five games or longer for New York since it went 3-2 on a West Coast swing in March of 2014.
The victory provided a double dose of redemption for the Knicks, who were still steaming from a 145-135 loss to the Thunder at home on Nov. 13. The 145 points were the most surrendered by the Knicks under head coach Tom Thibodeau.
“What I was thinking about was they kind of punked us last time,” said Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, who scored a season-high 34 points in Monday’s win.
And while the Thunder finished with the fourth-worst record in the NBA last year and weren’t expected to contend this season, the Knicks’ wins earlier in the road trip over the Utah Jazz and Denver Nuggets proved they can compete against the better teams in the league.
The Knicks are 4-7 this season against teams that made the playoffs last season and will conclude the homestand Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies, who edged New York 115-112 in overtime in the season opener on Oct. 19.
“The thing is it’s like the games keep coming,” Thibodeau said. “We knew it would be a challenge and sometimes going on the road is good for you.”
The Trail Blazers are hoping to derive some benefits from the back end of a four-game Eastern Conference road trip. Portland opened the season 9-3 but has lost four straight and five of six.
The Trail Blazers’ first four losses in this current stretch were by a combined 20 points before Wednesday’s lopsided loss, when the Cavaliers took the lead for good in the final minute of the first quarter and expanded their advantage to 20 points in the fourth quarter.
“These are times you learn (the) most about your guys — when you’re losing, when you’re having a tough stretch,” Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups said. “As opposed to when you’re winning — it’s always fun and easy when you’re winning. So this is when you learn about your guys. I like where we’re at. We’re scrapping, we’re positive and we’ll keep at it.”
The Trail Blazers, who are slated to conclude their road trip by visiting the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday afternoon, will play a third consecutive game Friday without Damian Lillard. The star point guard is expected to be out until at least the end of November due to a right calf strain.