NEW YORK — Jerami Grant should have finished Saturday night’s game with 50 points, but he’ll just have to settle for a new career-high and a streak-ending victory.
Grant posted a career-best 44 points, thanks in large part to setting a new franchise record for both free throws attempted and made, to lead the Trail Blazers to a 132-129 victory versus the New York Knicks in front of a sellout crowd of 19,812 Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
“I am really disappointed in Jerami, really disappointed,” joked Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups. “He had a chance to get 50 in the Garden and missed all those free throws. I teased him afterwards, but we hopped on his back, man. He and Ant (Simons), they really had it going. But Jerami the whole night was aggressive.”
The Trail Blazers are now 11-8 overall and 7-4 on the road this season, though more importantly, the win ends a four-game losing streak.
“That was a must-win for us,” said Grant. “We was talking about it in the locker room, we knew we had to show up and be extremely aggressive.”
The Trail Blazers cleaned up many of the issues that had plagued them during their now-ended losing streak, specifically in regard to unforced errors. But while they managed to keep their turnovers to a minimum, at least relative to their most recent performances, the Knicks were still able to get separation in the first half.
Jerami Grant Highlights (CAREER-HIGH 44 points) | Trail Blazers vs Knicks | Nov. 25
A 16-5 New York run gave the home team their largest lead of the game at 14 midway through the second quarter, and with the Trail Blazers as shorthanded as they were — Drew Eubanks (back spasms) joined Damian Lillard, Gary Payton II and Keon Johnson as out for Friday’s contest — a comeback would require an uncommon effort.
But while they couldn’t get their three-pointers to go — they converted on just five of their 17 attempts from three in the first half — they did manage to get into the bonus with more than eight minutes to play in the second quarter. And Grant would take full advantage, going 10-of-12 from the line in the second quarter alone, to lead a 20-5 run that turned the Knicks’ 14-point advantage into a one-point Trail Blazers’ lead going into the intermission.
“We wanted to be aggressive and attack, and any time we can get in the bonus, especially on the road, it’s advantageous for us because you can stop runs,” said Billups. “You attack, get on the free throw line, it’s tough to make runs when you’re taking it out from a free throw. We did a really good job of controlling the tempo with that.”
Neither team was able to shake the other in the second half — the teams swapped the lead 11 times and were tied 10 times in the final 24 minutes of regulation — though after a bit of a slow start, Anfernee Simons would heat up, giving Portland a chance to potentially pull away. And if Grant, who went 21-of-28 from the free throw line, both of which constitute new franchise bests for a single game, had made a few more of those free throws, he might have gone for 50 and allowed the Trail Blazers to avoid overtime.
“I’m disappointed in myself as well,” said Grant. “We knew we had to be aggressive. They’re an aggressive team on defense, so we knew we could draw a lot of fouls, so that’s what we got into.”
Back-to-back layups by Grant and Jusuf Nurkic gave Portland a three-point lead with just over a minute to play, but the Knicks would score the next five points to claim a 116-114 advantage with 13.7 seconds to play. However, Simons would earn two free throws with 9.6 seconds to play, both of which he would covert, to tie the game. And when Jalen Brunson’s floater missed the mark, the game went to overtime tied at 116-116.
Portland actually matched their largest lead of the game in overtime thanks to Simons and Jusuf Nurkic going on an 8-0 run to take a 127-119 lead with just over a minute to play, though Brunson would respond with five-straight to cut the lead to four. And a few trips to the line that again saw Grant go one-of-two would keep the door slightly ajar for New York, though he made his 27th and 28th free throws, his last of the game, to secure the victory.
Anfernee Simons Highlights (38 points) | Trail Blazers vs Knicks | Nov. 25
“Knew it would be a physical game, that’s just the way that they play, that’s the way they make you play,” said Billups. “We made a concerted effort to like, don’t match their intensity, exceed it, it’s the only chance we’re going to have. And our guys did that.”
Grant would go 10-of-20 from the field, 3-of-7 from three and 21-of-28 from the line to finish with 44 points, the most ever scored by a Trail Blazer at Madison Square Garden, to go with two assists, a rebound and a block in 40 minutes. But Simons held up his end as well, going 13-of-25 from the field for 38 points, five assists, four rebounds and a steal in nearly 47 minutes.
“Ant really got going,” said Billups. “I knew that he was tired there for a minute. I had to play those guys so many minutes to do whatever we could to try to get the win, try to stop the bleeding from the losing streak. Ant really got going, he started to see something he liked in the pick and rolls, we kept him aggressive.”
Nurkic added 20 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two blocks in 37 minutes. And Josh Hart grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds to go with 10 points, four assists and two steals before fouling out in 41 minutes.
“They’re a team that prides themselves on being tough and that’s something that I do,” said Hart. “It was just like, battle of tough (basketball players) and I wanted to be the one to come out, most importantly, with a win.”
Justise Winslow once again started and finished with seven points, 11 rebounds and four assists. Trendon Watford, who was the first big off the bench with Eubanks sidelined, posted eight points in 21 minutes.
Brunson led the Knicks with 32 points in 41 minutes. Julius Randle had 23 and Immanuel Quickley had 18 off the bench.
With their losing streak now over, the Trail Blazers have a day off before finishing up a four-game trip by facing the Nets in Brooklyn in the second and final contest between the two teams this season. Tipoff is scheduled for Sunday at noon.
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