PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers didn’t need much effort or All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge to make quick work of the struggling New York Knicks.
Wesley Matthews tied a season-high with 28 points and Nicolas Batum scored a season-high 17 points in a 101-79 rout of the Knicks, who came in with only nine active players.
By game’s end the Knicks only had eight active bodies. Carmelo Anthony, who led the team with 13 points in the first half, left the game with a sore left knee and did not return.
Matthews and Batum combined to make 11 of Portland’s 16 3-pointers.
But only one Blazer left the game to a standing ovation.
Joel Freeland, who has started the last six games in place of Robin Lopez, recorded his first career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds after grabbing a career-high 17 rebounds Friday.
When asked if he had any reaction to his first double-double, Freeland’s reply was true to form.
“Not really,” he said.
But the fans in attendance weren’t the only ones enamored with Freeland’s play Sunday.
A late dunk in the fourth quarter caused Damian Lillard to get up off his seat and jump out to near the scorers table. Freeland had another highlight moment only a few possessions before when he spiked a shot from New York’s Cole Aldrich into the courtside seats.
“It’s fun to watch, seeing all these guys’ work pay off at a time that we’ve needed them,” Lillard said of the success of Freeland and others as the team fights through injury and illness. “They look comfortable, they’ve played well. They’ve been a big part of why we’ve been successful.”
Three of Portland’s last four wins have been by 20 points or more including their last two against teams they were expected to beat. For Lillard, the Blazers are showing growth in their performances against lesser opponents.
“My first two years here we had teams that you should probably beat and we would let them come in here and really make a game out of it,” he said. “This season we’ve been able to jump on teams and we’ve been mature enough to keep them down.”
According to Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal, Matthews and Batum were the 19th and 20th players to go for a season-high against the Knicks this season.
Matthews made five of his six 3’s in the first half, which opened the door for a little post-game humor from his coach about his new 3-point celebration.
“I thought he ran out of arrows in the second half,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.
The 3-point line hasn’t caused nearly as much celebration from Batum, whose was shooting 23 percent from the 3-point line coming into Sunday.
“It was good to see him make 3’s,” Stotts said. “I think that bodes well for us going down the line.”
Portland’s extra passes were the wrecking ball that demolished an already crumbling Knicks defense, fresh off a heartbreaking overtime loss in Sacramento 24 hours earlier.
The Blazers hit 11 3’s at before halftime and kept it going into the second half.
The Blazers only needed a little bit of a push to put the game out of reach in the second half with the Knicks being so short-handed.
Stotts was asked whether the team’s play in Aldridge’s absence makes it easier for him to let him rest.
“I just want LA to get healthy,” he said. “I’m glad we’re getting wins and people are getting a chance to contribute but I want him to get healthy. We need him.”
Despite their sterling 14-1 record against the Eastern Conference, they very well might need his services when they play the team’s with the conference’s best record in Toronto and Atlanta.