'Milestone Melo' Becomes 'Top 10 Melo' Thanks To 'Fourth Quarter Melo'

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

Monday night in Atlanta, “Milestone Melo” became “Top 10 Melo.”

With 14 points in a 123-114 loss to the Hawks in the fifth game of a six-game road trip, Carmelo Anthony moved passed Elvin Hayes to move into 10th in NBA history in scoring. Anthony started his second season with the Blazers and his 18th in the NBA in 15th in scoring in league history and has proceeded to pass Tim Duncan, Dominique Wilkins, Oscar Robertson, Hakeem Olajuwon and now Hayes to enter the Top 10.

“Top 10 in anything of all-time is a special moment, so I don’t want to take this moment for granted,” said Anthony. “I understand how big this moment is. It don’t seem real because I’m actually still in it, I’m still doing this... I don’t want to downplay it, I’m excited about it, I’m blessed to be able to accomplish this in year 18. I think that’s what people should look at, the fact that I’m in my 18th season. I’ve been doing this damn near 20 years, still enjoying the game, still loving the game, still approaching the game the same way.”

When Portland signed Anthony as a free agent in November of 2019, they did so almost entirely because injuries had decimated their forward rotation. Anthony eventually helped Portland earn a playoff spot in the COVID-shortened season, proving that after a year away, he could still contribute on a good team.

But rather than signing elsewhere after rehabilitating his image, he returned to Portland despite having other options. And while there have been bumps along the way -- which could be said of any NBA season -- Anthony’s presence both on and off the court has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Him being removed from the league for a year and then coming back and being with us for two more years and proving that he can play at that level and then actually reach the Top 10 makes it even more special,” said Damian Lillard of Anthony. “It’s been a pleasure just to have him in the locker room. I think, obviously on the floor, he’s shown that he can make a difference for our team, but just getting to know him as a person, for him to be Carmelo Anthony, the Hall of Famer, just how down to earth he is, how easy going he is. I appreciate him more as a friend than I do as a teammate. And I really appreciate him as a teammate, but I think that really speaks to the kind of person he is.”

And while Anthony’s role has changed this season -- after starting in all but eight of his 1,122 appearances through his first 17 seasons, Anthony has come off the bench in 61 of his 64 games in 2020-21 --- his ability to come through in clutch situations has not. The Trail Blazers aren’t at a lack for closers with both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum on the floor, but having a player like Anthony, who has seen just about everything through the course of nearly two decades, still comes in handy.

“I always say he’s a Hall of Fame player and every game we’re giving him a ball for passing somebody on the charts,” said Lillard. “He’s done it for so long and he knows that at that time of the game the best players rise to the occasion. I think it’s a mental thing where you know how good you are, you know what you’re capable of. It’s the opportunity to rise and to come through and to show why you are the level of player that you are. That’s what’s frightening for other teams, when they up against a guy like that. I think a player of his caliber, when those times come, he’s trying to prove that ‘These are the moments when players like me step up.’”

This season in the fourth quarter, Anthony has indeed stepped up. "Fourth Quarter Melo" is shooting more than three percentage points better from the field in the fourth than his average overall, has scored the second-most points on the team in the fourth and is tied for second in both steals (13) and blocks (11) in the fourth.

But most impressive is Anthony’s long-range shooting in the fourth. This season, Anthony is shooting 50 percent from three in the fourth, the best such percentage on the team by a wide margin, on 1.7 attempts per game, a full 10 percentage points higher than his game average. And thus, his effective field goal percentage is nearly eight points better in the fourth that overall and is second on the team only to Enes Kanter. And his 270 fourth-quarter points this season ranks second on the team only behind Lillard, which would be impressive on its own but is even more so considering how many close games the Blazers have played and won this season.

“I’m just doing what I do best,” said Anthony of his fourth-quarter play this season. “In those moments, it calls to me to step up and make shots or make plays as a whole. That’s what I’m doing, that’s what I love to do. I embrace those moments, late-game moments or fourth-quarter moments, something that I’ve been very comfortable with my whole career. That just doesn’t stop now because the roles change. It doesn’t stop. That same mentality will always be there.”

That mentality helped Portland qualify for the postseason last year while in the bubble. It helped keep them afloat when they lost CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic to injury for large portions of the season. And now, that mentality has helped move Anthony into the Top 10 in scoring in NBA history, something that seemed incredibly unlikely after he sat out almost the entirety of the 2018-19 season.

“They wanted me to get out the game, they wanted me to retire, you hear all that stuff,” said Anthony. “I’ve never lost confidence in myself, I’ve given this game too much to lose any type of confidence out there. I believe in myself if nobody else believes in me and that’s key. That’s the main thing is believing in yourself.”


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