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NBA Preview: New York Knicks (38-27) at Portland Trail Blazers (19-46)

Portland Trail Blazers center Deandre Ayton is making major in-roads on shedding his label as an underperformer.

Ayton will chase his seventh consecutive double-double on Thursday night when the Trail Blazers host the stingy New York Knicks.

Ayton is in his first season with Portland after five campaigns with the Phoenix Suns.

He was the No. 1 overall pick by the Suns in the 2018 NBA Draft — two picks before superstar Luka Doncic — but was unable to be the difference-maker the franchise expected.

Still just 25, Ayton has delivered like a top-flight big man during his double-double streak.

Ayton is averaging 24.2 points on 64.2 percent shooting from the field and collecting 15.3 boards during the stretch. He has three 19-rebound games and two 30-point outings during the stretch, including a season-high 33 points on 15-of-20 shooting in Wednesday night’s 106-102 win over the visiting Atlanta Hawks.

Ayton thanked the “haters” for fueling his recent run and agreed with Billups’ “unlocked” opinion.

Anfernee Simons also fueled the win over the Hawks with 36 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.

The Trail Blazers are 2-3 entering the finale of a six-game homestand, while the Knicks are beginning a four-game road trip.

New York has allowed an average of just 77.3 points a game while holding three straight teams under 80 points.

It is the first time the Knicks have done that in three consecutive games since November 2000, when current coach Tom Thibodeau was an assistant under Jeff Van Gundy.

The Knicks lost one of those games, totaling the fewest points in the NBA this season during a 79-73 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday.

But New York bounced back Tuesday to trounce the 76ers 106-79 in the finale of the two-game set at Madison Square Garden.

OG Anunoby (elbow surgery) returned from an 18-game absence and had 14 points in 29 minutes.

Josh Hart had a mammoth game with 20 points, a career-high-tying 19 rebounds and 10 assists for his fourth triple-double of the season.

Jalen Brunson also scored 20 points as New York won for just the sixth time in its past 16 games.

In the first meeting of the season, the Knicks routed the visiting Trail Blazers 112-84 on Jan. 9. Anunoby led New York with 23 points.

Fantasy Guru - Baseball

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