Anthony Gets First Denver Win At 'A Great Time To Make It Happen'
DENVER -- Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony entered the first round series versus the Denver Nuggets, the team he started his career with some 18 years ago, saying he didn’t have anything to prove. But he went ahead and proved something anyway.
The 6-8 forward in his 18th season out of Syracuse put up 12 points in under five minutes in the first quarter to help the six-seed Trail Blazers best the three-seed Nuggets 123-109 in Game 1 at Ball Arena Saturday night in Denver. The win not only flipped home court advantage into the Trail Blazers’ favor, it also gave Anthony his first victory versus the Nuggets, the team that selected him with the third overall pick of the 2003 Draft, in Denver since the three-team trade that sent the future Hall of Famer to the New York Knicks back in 2011.
“I didn’t even know that this was first win since I was gone, since I got traded,” said Anthony, who finished the game with 18 points on 50 percent shooting from both the field and from three. “Not even something that I ever even though about to be honest with y’all. Somebody told me that when I was in the locker room after the game. But I’ll take it. I’ll take my first win being Game 1 of the Western Conference Playoffs.”
While Anthony might not have known he was 0-for-10 in Denver prior to Game 1, one got the sense from the reaction he received from the fans at Ball Arena that they were well aware of the record. Despite it being more than a decade since Anthony requested a trade to New York, the fans in Denver still had a little something extra for the former Nugget, booing him from when he entered the game midway through the first quarter and for much of the night thereafter.
“The boos? It’s cool man, I love them too,” said Anthony. “I love those guys too. It’s been what, almost 10 years now since I’ve been here. The love is there man. They love me, they hate me, I can’t do nothing about that. Just go out there and smile and enjoy myself and have fun and play basketball. Whatever they have to say, let ‘em say it. It’s not my concern.”
Anthony might not have an issue with the boos, but they sure seemed to be somewhat motivating for the veteran forward. With a cascade of boos emanating from the stands every time he touched the ball, Anthony responded by going 4-of-5 from the field and 3-of-3 from three in his first shift. Anthony and Anfernee Simons, who checked in at the same time, would finish the first quarter by outscoring the Nuggets 18-6 to turn what was a three-point deficit into a five-point lead before the start of the second quarter.
“(Anthony) was huge,” said Damian Lillard, who also didn’t know Anthony had never won in Denver until after Game 1. “I think to win playoff games on the road, you need guys to step up and come up big. His presence on our team has always been that. You know what he’s capable of, he’s a Hall of Famer. These moments in the playoffs, you need people to come in with that experience and that real confidence, just sure of themselves and know who they are. In that first half, I think that was very evident.”
Anthony would finish the game with 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field and 4-of-8 shooting from three, three rebounds, an assist and a steal in 21 minutes. And while the boos didn’t exactly stop, as the game went on, one got the feel that perhaps the fans realized the jeers were doing more harm than good to their team’s chances.
“I gave my all here for seven and a half, eight years,” said Anthony. “I’ve never said anything bad about Denver, about the fans, about the organization, players, never complained, took everything on the chin. Even when it wasn’t my fault, I raised my hand and said ‘Okay, I’ll take the blame for it.’ It’s like I was birthed here in Denver with the Denver Nuggets. I started my career here so this will always be a special place for me, regardless of the boos. It is what it is. Those who know, know. Those who don’t, it’s not my concern.”
What was Anthony’s concern Saturday night was getting a playoff win. It wasn’t about getting his first win in Denver nor delivering a performance which would drive his former fans to curse his name. He did both in the process, but he has put those worries behind him, even if the folks in Denver haven’t.
“It’s a great time to make it happen,” said Anthony of the win. “It was a great time to get that first win here in Denver. Now we see what happens next.”