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Playoff-hungry Blazers pound Knicks

PORTLAND — Damian Lillard scored 30 points and the Portland Trail Blazers never trailed in a 110-95 victory over the New York Knicks on Thursday night.

Lillard had 15 in the first quarter as Portland opened a 14-point lead. The Blazers led by as much as 23 and moved within a game of the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Kristaps Porzingis scored 18 points for the Knicks, who played without Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose.

Lillard entered Thursday's game averaging 31.2 points since the All-Star break and didn't cool off. He has scored 25 or more in eight straight games, a career-best streak.

Reserves Allen Crabbe, Al-Farouq Aminu and Meyers Leonard all connected from 3-point range in the second quarter, helping the Blazers extend their lead to 21 at halftime. Portland went 11 for 21 (52 percent) from behind the arc.


Knicks: Anthony (knee), Rose (ankle) and Lance Thomas (hip) were all held out. Rose and Thomas were injured in the loss to Utah on Wednesday, while coach Jeff Hornacek said Anthony was held out with knee soreness after playing the previous night.

"(Rose) came out this morning and the thought was that he could play," Hornacek said. "(Rose) came out and couldn't put weight on it. So he decided he was out. Carmelo, with the constant flaring of his knee on back-to-backs, we'll hold him out." In their place, the Knicks started rookies Ron Baker, Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Willy Hernangomez. The rookies scored 17 of New York's 23 first-quarter points.

Trail Blazers: Since acquiring center Jusuf Nurkic from Denver, the Blazers have gone 9-6 while playing some of their best basketball. The 7-foot, 280-pound Bosnian has given the Blazers a presence in the post and also been one of the league's best passing big men since his arrival, averaging 3.5 assists, which ranks fourth among all centers since the All-Star break. "He's a talented guy," Hornacek said. "Big, strong and knows how to play. He can set up in the post and he can also pass the ball. When Lillard and (CJ) McCollum are cutting, they may be open and that puts pressure on Nurkic and he can make those passes." Nurkic finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.


Knicks: The Knicks travel to San Antonio to take on Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs on Saturday.

Blazers: Portland will host the slumping Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday.

Portland Trail Blazers forward Meyers Leonard celebrates after making a 3-point basket against the New York Knicks during the first half on Thursday in Portland. [THE ASSOCIATED PRESS]