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Trail Blazers coast to victory over Knicks

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PORTLAND, Ore. — It was another day at the office for the Portland Trail Blazers.

“We took care of business,” guard Damian Lillard said after Portland methodically beat the depleted New York Knicks 101-79 Sunday at Moda Center.

Wesley Matthews, Lillard’s backcourt mate, led all scorers with 28 points. He made 6 of 15 3-point attempts as Portland sank 44.4 percent (16 of 36) from beyond the arc.

The Blazers never trailed, led by as many as 27 points and coasted in the fourth quarter, emptying their bench.

New York was down to eight players after halftime, when forward Carmelo Anthony went to the sideline for good with a sore knee. He scored 13 points in 19 minutes.

“Not much to say,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said with a shrug after the victory. “Obviously, they were undermanned, but it was a game we needed to win.”

The Knicks shot 33.3 percent from the field in falling to 5-28.

“Guys are fighting and showing some grit and some toughness. We have to combine that with high performance,” New York coach Derek Fisher said. “We can’t have one or the other.”

Matthews matched his season high for points. He made five 3s in the first half, but said the key to Portland’s 25-7 season — it’s the most wins of any team in the NBA — has been at the other end of the court.

“We’re defending,” Matthews said. “That’s our calling card. We’re playing with an edge and a hunger.”

Portland has won six in a row in its series with New York, all under Stotts. He hasn’t lost to the Knicks since taking over as Blazers coach.

“We played with focus at both ends,” Stotts said of Sunday’s effort. “Defensively, we were really locked in on what we needed to do.”

It was Portland’s second game in a row with 16 or more baskets from behind the 3-point line; the Blazers hit 18 of 43 Friday night in a homecourt win against Philadelphia.

Portland was 11 of 21 from long distance in the first half against a New York team that ranked last in the NBA in 3-point defense (allowing 39.3 percent) coming into the game. The first-half spree helped give the Blazers a 55-41 halftime edge.

“It was nice to see the 3s go in,” Stotts said. “We shared the ball really well on offense. That got us into a rhythm on our shots.”

The Blazers, who have won three games in a row, improved to 14-2 at home, where they are 8-0 against Eastern Conference teams. Portland is 14-1 overall against the East.

The Blazers also are 12-3 in December going into a Tuesday home game against East-leading Toronto, after posting a 12-3 record in November.

“The ball is moving, flying around, and we’re getting rhythm shots,” Matthews said.

Against New York, the Blazers were without forward LaMarcus Aldridge (upper respiratory illness). Forward Nicolas Batum and centers Joel Freeland and Chris Kaman helped pick up the slack.

Batum scored a season-high 17 points, making 5 of 7 shots from 3-point range.

“I think that bodes well for us,” Stotts said.

Batum hadn’t done a lot on offense lately, and his previous season best of 16 points came Oct. 29 against Oklahoma City.

“I got in a rhythm tonight. Why? I don’t know,” Batum said.

Freeland, who started, had 10 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes.

“Joel has been solid,” Stotts said. “He does what he does well. He plays very hard. He goes after balls. He gives a great effort defensively.”

Kaman, returning after a one-game absence for the birth of a child, had 13 points and nine rebounds in 20 minutes.

With all 13 Blazers seeing action, it was the proverbial team effort. And none of those who played Sunday for Portland was three-time NBA All-Star Aldridge.

“I just want to get L.A. healthy,” Stotts said. “I’m glad we’re getting wins and people are getting a chance to contribute, but we need him. We’ve got some tough games coming up. Getting him healthy is paramount.”

The Knicks also need to get healthy. Center Cole Aldrich had 12 points and 19 rebounds, and guard Tim Hardaway Jr., finished with 17 points, but when Anthony went to the bench for good, New York’s firepower took another huge hit. Anthony was 5 of 14 from the field before the Knicks made a precautionary move with him.

Anthony was “just a little bit sore,” Fisher said. “Not necessarily more than last night (at Sacramento), but considering where we were at the half, and that he was experiencing some soreness and some fatigue, we just decided to have him sit out the second half.”

Anthony said his knee began to hurt more in the second quarter, “the more I was running and jumping. I was trying to get offensive rebounds and trying to run back, and I looked at coach and told him, ‘Come get me, some get me,’ but then there weren’t any timeouts, no fouls, no ball stops, so I just played the rest of the quarter, I came in (the locker room), and the coaches and staff told me to sit out the second half.”

New York’s next game is Wednesday at the Los Angeles Clippers. “That’s enough time to get the proper rest and rehab that I need,” Anthony said. “Any other time I’ve had three days to rest, I’ve come back and felt great.”

NOTES: New father and Blazers C Chris Kaman returned after missing Thursday night’s win over Philadelphia. His wife, Emilie, gave birth a few hours after that game to a boy, Barrett Christopher Kaman, 22 inches, 8 pounds, 2 ounces. … Portland F LaMarcus Aldridge (upper respiratory illness) was out for the third time in the last four games. … New York coach Derek Fisher was down to nine healthy bodies, as C Samuel Dalembert (ankle), F Amar’e Stoudemire (knee) and G J.R. Smith (plantar fasciitis) were ruled out. The Knicks’ starters were the same as in Saturday night’s 135-129 OT loss at Sacramento: F Carmelo Anthony, F Cole Aldrich, C Jason Smith, G Jose Calderon and G Tim Hardaway Jr. … Portland entered the game sixth in the NBA scoring (104.1 points per game). “A great offensive team,” Fisher said. But Stotts said the Blazers offense “frankly hasn’t been as good as it can be … we haven’t broken out like we did at the beginning of last season.”

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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