NBA Basketball

Blazers can't afford to slip vs. Knicks

(TSX / STATS) -- PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Portland Trail Blazers are very much in the race for the NBA playoffs. The New York Knicks are very much not.

The teams will be of different mindsets when they collide Thursday night at Moda Center.

Portland (32-38) is chasing Denver (34-37) for the Western Conference's eighth and final postseason berth. New York (27-44), which has lost six of its last seven games, is out of the playoff chase in the East and playing out the schedule.

The Trail Blazers will try to turn things around after losing a tight 93-90 decision to the visiting Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night. Portland rallied from a 15-point, third-quarter deficit to take an 88-85 lead late in the game, but the Blazers missed their final seven shots and didn't score in the last 3:12.

"It was a game we needed for our playoff run," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "We're disappointed to lose it. Other than (Damian Lillard), we struggled offensively for a good part of the night. We made a good comeback, but it wasn't enough."

Lillard scored 31 points, topping the 25-point mark for the sixth consecutive game. However, he got too little scoring helping from his teammates, especially those on the bench. Portland reserves combined for only 13 points on 4-of-21 shooting.

The Blazers traditionally own one of the NBA's best home-court advantages thanks to one of the league's most rabid fan bases. Portland is only 17-15 at home this season, though, a marked contrast from the past few seasons (28-13 in 2015-16, 32-9 in 2014-15, 31-10 in 2013-14).

"It's good to be at home, but we know it doesn't guarantee anything," Stotts said. "We have to play with the same energy we did during the last three games on (a recently completed) road trip. It's going to be a grind. It's not going to be easy."

Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic said, "We need to play with an edge for 48 minutes. We're going to get back to work and get back to winning."

The Knicks have told veteran forwards Carmelo Anthony his minutes will decrease over the final weeks of the season. Coach Jeff Hornacek will take a closer look at the team's five rookies -- centers Willy Hernangomez and Marshall Plumlee, forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas and guards Chasson Randle and Ron Baker.

"Coach (Hornacek) mentioned he's going to start shortening my minutes," Anthony said. "I understand."

It could be the final weeks for Anthony, 33, as a Knick. He has another year on his contract at $26.2 million, but New York likely will attempt to trade him during the offseason.

"My role won't change as far as helping guys out," Anthony said. "When I'm out there, I'll play. When I'm not, I'll help everyone else. I'll still come in here and get my work done.

"It's an opportunity to get all the young guys that game experience against top-level opponents instead of getting practice experience. It's best to take advantage of that, and for me to help them. I've come to peace with that. I'm not happy about it. I'm not sad about it. I'm at peace with it."

Updated March 23, 2017

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