PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Knicks left Los Angeles on Saturday night with a loss, but still feeling like they accomplished something against the two-time defending champion Lakers. Despite an awful shooting night, they played tough, physical defense and it was a style that fit them well.It was a style that they used Tuesday night at the Rose Garden en route to a gritty 100-86 win over the Trail Blazers.
"It's great to see we can win defensively," said Amar'e Stoudemire, who led the offense with 21 points.
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And it was Ronny Turiaf, who started the game at center after being left on the bench in the second half against the Lakers' big front line, who provided tough defense against Portland's top scorer, LaMarcus Aldridge (19 points, 10 rebounds, six turnovers), while also pouring in 19 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots.
"He's such a big part of what they do," "Now that Brandon Roy is out , they go to the low post a lot. If we made life difficult, the game would be a little bit easier for us . . . Those are guys you can't really stop, so you just have to make their lives difficult. That's what we tried to do."
Raymond Felton also helped set a tough, defensive tone in the game and had 17 points and 14 assists without a turnover, which tied a franchise record for most assists in a game without recording a turnover. The feat has been accomplished by Mark Jackson (twice), Doc Rivers and Jim Cleamons.
Felton also played most of the second half with a high ankle sprain, which he said was "sore" after the game, but he didn't think it would cause him to miss Wednesday's game in Utah, the last game on this four-game trip. "I'll be ready," he said about the matchup against Deron Williams and the Jazz.
The Knicks (22-15), who are 12-8 on the road this season and 10-6 against the Western Conference, will be looking for their third win in this four-game jaunt.
Marcus Camby, who is on the Knicks' wish list for big men -- though it does not appear Portland is willing to trade him -- scored just one point but had 16 rebounds and six blocked shots. Rudy Fernandez, whom the Knicks had interest in before the season (and before rookie Landry Fields emerged as a quality starter) had 18 points for the Trail Blazers (20-19). The Knicks held the Trail Blazers to 34.9 percent shooting from the field and recorded 10 steals.
Stoudemire struggled to get any flow going offensively, but the defensive attention around him left opportunities for Turiaf, who started the game at center, and others. After the Trail Blazers held a 59-58 lead with 7:09 left, a Wilson Chandler three-pointer sparked a 15-3 run by the Knicks, who ended the quarter outscoring Portland 17-7 to take a 75-66 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Knicks then put the game away with an explosive 13-2 run late in the fourth quarter, which saw Turiaf stop Aldridge on three of four possessions with a block and two steals. At the other end, the Knicks finished three breaks with two alley-oop dunks by Wilson Chandler and an emphatic slam by Stoudemire.
"Ronny came up huge against Aldrigde," Mike D'Antoni said. "And the other guys were playing as hard as they can play."
And with that effort, comes emotion. But in today's NBA, too much emotion is against the rules. Stoudemire in the first quarter was hit with his league-leading 11th technical foul of the season. Stoudemire slapped his hands together and following a rebound battle that led to a put-back by Shawne Williams with 2:37 left in the first quarter.
The 11 ties him with Dwight Howard for the league lead. He's now four away from a one-game suspension with 45 games left in the season. After the NBA rescinded a technical from the Dec. 30 game in Orlando, Stoudemire talked with NBA executive vice president of basketball operations Stu Jackson about being more aware of the league's new regulations and Stoudemire promised he would. And hHe picked up his 10th technical against the Spurs on Jan. 4.
It's not as much complaining by Stoudemire than it is bravado. He has brought a toughness to the Knicks that has been lacking for years. But things a player would have usually gotten away with in the past is now illegal.
"Playing basketball is such an emotional game, it's such a competitive sport," Stoudemire said on Monday. "It's hard to control your emotions sometimes. It's like you're in a cage and trying to get out."
A few more technicals and he'll be caged for an entire game.