That doesn't mean they showed up with no hope.
Larry Hughes scored 21 points, David Lee had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and the Knicks refused to take the injury-depleted Trail Blazers lightly, winning 93-84 on Monday night for their season-high third straight victory.
"I don't care how many injuries Portland has, as long as they still have [Brandon] Roy and [LaMarcus] Aldridge, they're going to be a tough team," Lee said. "Remember, they were a playoff team in the West so we had a tough task in front of us tonight."
Not as tough as the Trail Blazers did, because Portland's injuries start at the center spot and extend right through the coach's seat.
Greg Oden had season-ending surgery Sunday after breaking his left kneecap in a victory over Houston. Rudy Fernandez (sciatic pain) also was out, joining Travis Outlaw (broken left foot) and Nicolas Batum (right shoulder surgery).
And coach Nate McMillan wasn't around either after having surgery Monday in Vancouver, Wash. McMillan ruptured his right Achilles' tendon during practice Friday after taking the floor with a team missing so many bodies.
"It's not normal," acting head coach Dean Demopoulos said. "But life throws you curveballs sometimes and if you can't hit a curveball, you don't belong here. We're lacking some really fine basketball players that are injured right now."
Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler each added 14 points as the Knicks won for the fourth time in five games, continuing to play better basketball after coach Mike D'Antoni shortened his rotation and found a group willing to defend.
"Once you start playing and winning and having hope, a lot of this is psychological," D'Antoni said. "They just have a better feeling about themselves and more confidence, and I think too as we go forward we should be able to get better."
Roy scored 27 points and Aldridge had 19 points and 13 rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who will be run by Demopoulos on their four-game road trip. He had only nine players and surely could've used the defense of Oden, who is second in the NBA in blocked shots and fourth in field-goal percentage.
Anybody would have helped in the third quarter, when the Knicks closed the period with an 18-4 spurt to open a 78-55 bulge on Hughes' 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds left. New York outscored Portland 60-37 across the middle two quarters and was 13 of 26 from 3-point range for the game to snap a five-game losing streak in the series.
Portland tried to muster a rally, pulling within nine midway through the fourth after consecutive baskets by Jerryd Bayless. Gallinari ended the run with a 3-pointer, then fed Hughes for a three-point play that quickly made it 86-71 with 5:40 remaining.
"It's tough, but we're not going to make excuses," Roy said. "It took us about a half to get it going. I think we played a good fourth quarter, so hopefully we can carry that over to the next game."
The Blazers are accustomed to playing without the injury-prone Oden, but the No. 1 pick in the 2007 draft had been playing his best basketball this season. And perhaps the shock of seeing him go down again Saturday, coupled with the absence of McMillan, was too much to overcome.
"It's been tough, but most of all I think we have guys who can play," Aldridge said. "Once we get everyone comfortable, we'll be OK."
New York shot 37 percent but held Portland to 30 percent in the first quarter, which ended in an 18-all tie. The shooting was better in the second, but the Knicks still made plenty of key plays defensively to open a comfortable lead.
Jared Jeffries twice stepped in to draw charges. Chris Duhon dived on the floor to come up with a loose ball, starting a play that ended with Gallinari finding Al Harrington alone under the basket for a dunk.
The Knicks shot 61 percent and led by as much as 12 before taking a 49-38 advantage into halftime.
- The Blazers said McMillan is expected to return when they host Sacramento on Dec. 15.
- The Knicks had been 0-5 in the second game when playing on back-to-back days. They beat New Jersey 106-97 on Sunday.
- Knicks center Eddy Curry was back in uniform but didn't play after he was inactive for the last seven games because of a sore left knee. He wasn't expected to suit up again until the Knicks visit New Orleans on Friday so he could get some practice time first.