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Zach Randolph spent his first six seasons in Portland, blossoming into the team's best player even as the Trail Blazers slipped further and further from playoff contention.

In their first season without him, the Blazers are perhaps the NBA's mostsurprising team.

Randolph returns to Portland on Friday for the first time since the Blazers traded him to New York last summer, as the Knicks visit the Rose Garden looking to snap a three-game slide.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Portland -7.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 191 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 64% of bets for this game have been placed on Portland -7.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Randolph led the Blazers in scoring and rebounding three of the last four seasons, but they sent him and guards Dan Dickau and Fred Jones to New York during the draft for forward Channing Frye and guard Steve Francis. The move allowed Portland to unload Randolph's contract and create playing time for younger big men LaMarcus Aldridge and No. 1 overall draft pick Greg Oden.

"We felt like with Zach, he's a heck of a player," Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard said the day of the trade. "... But with Oden and LaMarcus and Channing Frye we have a group of young guys we can build around. ... We felt we were going in a different direction."

If Portland (26-19) had known that Oden was going to miss the season due to a knee surgery, it might not have made the deal. But even without Oden and Randolph, the league's youngest team is just 1 1/2 games out of first place in the Northwest Division and a game out of being in position for its first playoff berth since the 2002-03 season.

The Blazers are 18-5 at home, although they'll be looking to rebound from their second loss in their last three games at the Rose Garden. They fell 84-83 to Cleveland on Wednesday, squandering a 14-point second-half lead and giving up the winning basket to LeBron James with less than a second left.

"This one hurts because we had control over it for much of the game," Blazers coach Nate McMillan told the team's official Web site. "It looked like we played that game not to lose, as opposed to continuing to attack and playing the game to win."

Portland also lost 89-79 to Houston last Friday in the opener of this six-game homestand, and has averaged just 84.3 points in the last four games - three of them losses. They're 1-2 on the homestand.

Against the Cavaliers, Brandon Roy had 16 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, while Aldridge added 16 points and nine rebounds.

Despite Portland's recent offensive struggles, Roy and Aldridge are combining to average 36.5 points - more than 10 above their combined average last season, when Randolph led the Blazers with 23.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.

Given New York's struggles this season, Randolph may wish he was still in Portland. The Knicks (14-31) appeared to have turned things around by winning four of six entering this week, but they've lost the first three games of their five-game road trip, allowing an average of 108.7 points.

In their 100-89 defeat to Utah on Wednesday, Jamal Crawford had 26 points while Randolph added 23 and eight rebounds. New York, though, couldn't overcome the loss of starters Quentin Richardson and Eddy Curry in the first quarter to flu-like symptoms.

Despite their problems on the defensive end, the Knicks have lost three road games in four days to teams in playoff position in the Western Conference by an average of only eight points.

"It's frustrating, but the one positive is I think we've played a lot better basketball the last three or four weeks," Crawford said. "A month ago, five weeks ago, these three games are games we lose by 25 or 30 points."

The Blazers and Knicks haven't met this season. They've split their season series each of the past four seasons, with New York winning 99-81 at Portland last January.

Randolph's last game in Portland on March 29 epitomized his career with the Blazers. The 6-foot-9, 260-pound power forward scored a career-high 43 points and added 17 rebounds, but the Blazers lost 96-92 to Memphis.

Randolph sat out the last 10 games of the season with a hand injury.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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