PORTLAND -- Carmelo Anthony has been doing this for too long to let one bad half deter him.
After starting Monday’s game by going 1-of-7 from the field, the 6-7 forward in his 18th season out of Syracuse scored 13 points in the fourth quarter to help lift the Trail Blazers to 112-111 victory versus the Toronto Raptors at the Moda Center.
“I’ve been doing this for 18 years,” said Anthony. “Shooters shoot, at the end of the day. I’m a rhythm guy, I’m a rhythm-type of guy. When you don’t have rhythm you’ve got to figure out ways how to find a rhythm and tonight it was just me getting involved in other ways in the basketball game to find my rhythm.”
The Trail Blazers are now 6-4 overall and 3-2 at home this season. They have now won three games in a row for the first time this season.
Though it sure didn’t look like it was going to go that way in the first half. Despite playing with a rest advantage -- the Raptors fell to the Warriors Sunday night in San Francisco -- Portland struggled right out of the gate, missing their first five shots from the field. And even after they managed to get their feet under them and tie the game at 8-8, the Raptors went on a 16-3 run to take their first double-digit lead of the game at 24-11 with just over three minutes to play in the first quarter.
By the time the first 12 minutes of play had expired, no Trail Blazer had scored more than five points and Portland trailed by 11, a deficit that would increase to 17 by the middle of the second quarter.
Had Portland not finished out the first half on a 12-2 run of their own, with half of those points coming from the free throw line, to cut Toronto’s lead to 60-55 by the intermission, the fourth-quarter heroics from Anthony and CJ McCollum very likely would not have been enough.
And it almost wasn’t enough, even after getting the halftime deficit down to five. The Raptors went 4-of-10 from three and got 10 points from Fred VanVleet in the third while Portland went 1-of-10 and were out-rebounded 14-5, resulting in a 10-point Toronto lead going into the fourth.
That lead would get as large as 14, and considering the way the game had played out thus far, it was hard to figure how the Trail Blazers, a team shooting 25 percent from three through the first three quarters, would mount a comeback.
But Anthony, along with McCollum and Damian Lillard, would eventually figure it out.
Despite shooting poorly through the first three quarters, Anthony never hesitated when the ball swung his way in the fourth quarter. On numerous occasions, McCollum and Lillard found Anthony open on the perimeter after drawing in the defense, and nearly every time, he delivered.
“In the first half, my shot just felt a little strong,” said Anthony. “I felt it on my release, I felt it as I was catching the ball, as I was shooting. I just needed to dial back a little bit and adjust that. In the second half I was relaxed, shot felt good. I was able to get to my spot, raise over the defender. And then when they double teamed Dame, double teamed CJ, those guys found me.”
Anthony, McCollum and Lillard combined to go on a 17-3 run to turn what was a 101-92 deficit into a 107-104 advantage. Anthony, who also played stout defense in the fourth quarter as a part of a small lineup, scored ten of those points during the run, though he’d also add a 25-foot three with 1:48 to play that gave the Blazers a 111-106 lead.
“(Anthony) stayed with it,” said McCollum. “Not only did he rebound well, he communicated well. Small ball game, no real big men in the game, Nurk goes down, so he knew he had to rebound, communicate, obviously spread the floor. He hit some big threes, he hit a big three that I passed to him off the pumpfake, hit a big turnaround jumper late in the game. Just his presence out there, him being able to communicate and the shot recognition. People respect him, they recognize him and he gives us a lot more space and creativity.”
But while Anthony carried the bulk of the scoring load in the fourth, it would be McCollum’s shooting and Robert Covington’s defense that would stamp the victory.
After the Raptors responded to Anthony’s three by scoring five straight to take a 111-110 lead, McCollum brought the ball down the floor, spun around VanVleet, got back to the elbow and raised up for the pullup, which found the bottom of the net with 9.9 seconds to play.
“I feel like I can get whatever I want, it’s just make or miss,” said McCollum. “So I knew I was going to be able to get to a spot and as I came down I was thinking like ‘Do I want a three?’ and I was like ‘Nah, get to the middy’ and that’s when I spun, because I was about to hesi and pullup. But I was like ‘Nah, get to the midrange, it’s an easier shot, it’s comfortable.’”
The Raptors had a chance to win the game on the final possession, but Covington managed to drape himself around Pascal Siakam, forcing a tough, off-balanced shot that rimmed off as time expired.
“I really thought the last five minutes of the first half and last five minutes of the second half were the difference in the game for us,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “We got down 17 in the first half and the way we got back into the game at the end of the first half, we showed some grit, we showed some toughness, we were a little pissed off, we got it to a five-point deficit at halftime. Basically it was the same thing at the end of the second half, at the end of the game. I thought the last five minutes were tough, hard-played minutes. We made some good plays defensively -- obviously you’ve got to make shots as well. But I really liked our demeanor when we were down 14 in the fourth quarter.”
McCollum led the Blazers with 30 points, six rebounds, five assists and a steal in 39 minutes. It was his 10th game with at least 20 points this season, tied for the most in the NBA.
Lillard shot 50 percent from both the field and three to finish with 23 points whole also adding seven rebounds and five assists in 40 minutes. Between his and McCollum’s play, the duo became just the fourth pair of teammates over the last 20 seasons to each score 250-plus points in their team’s first 10 games of the season.
Anthony finished with 20 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks in 35 minutes. Enes Kanter, who filled in much of the night for Jusuf Nurkic after he left the game in the first quarter with a quad injury, added 14 points on 7-of-8 shooting to go with six rebounds in 15 minutes.
Six Raptors finished in double figures led by 22 points from Siakam, who also logged 10 assists and 13 rebounds to complete the first triple-double of his career, albeit in the losing effort.
Next up, the Trail Blazers head back to Sacramento to face the Kings after defeating the same team at the same arena Sunday night. Tipoff is scheduled for Wednesday at 7 p.m.