Team Effort, 'Vintage Melo' Secures Series Sweep Versus 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers entered Thursday night’s game versus the Trail Blazers at the Moda Center with a 13-0 record in games in which they held the lead going into the fourth quarter.

They’re now 13-1 in those situations.

Thanks to a total team effort, punctuated by Carmelo Anthony’s shooting, the Trail Blazers outscored the 76ers by eight points in the fourth quarter to earn a 118-114 victory Thursday night at the Moda Center.

“We played nine guys and every one of them made a substantial contribution to the game,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “It’s one of those games, from a coaching standpoint, it’s easy to point go every guy on the floor, every guy who played and what they were able to contribute.”

The Trail Blazers are now 14-10 overall and 7-5 at home this season. With the win, the Trail Blazers sweep the season series versus the 76ers 2-0 and have won three-straight against the Eastern Conference-leading squad.

While the Trail Blazers pulled off a surprise victory a week ago in Philadelphia, the notion seemed to be that with their full compliment of players -- Ben Simmons sat out the last contest -- and motivated by the recent loss that the 76ers, currently sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings, would have their way Thursday night.

Though that was never really the case. Portland jumped out to an early lead, though their hot shooting from three -- six of their first seven attempts were made three-pointers -- would eventually cool. The lead would eventually change 12 times in the first half, though thanks largely to a 20-11 free throw advantage, the 76ers managed to take a three-point lead into the intermission.

The Sixers held the lead throughout almost the entire third quarter and ever-so-slightly added to their lead going into the fourth. And while four points is hardly an insurmountable lead going to the final quarter, Philadelphia’s ability to hold the lead in the fourth seemed to put Portland’s chance in jeopardy.

But Philly’s fourth-quarter lead wouldn’t last for long thanks to Anthony. The 6-8 forward in his 18th season out of Syracuse made his first attempt of the fourth a little over a minute into the quarter. A minute later, he made his first three of the fourth. And then another. And another.

“(Anthony) carried us in the fourth,” said Stotts. “He really got on a roll, he was ‘Vintage Melo.’ Hitting threes, hitting some off balance shots. He was just in a real rhythm and he provided points when we needed them.”

Behind 11 points from Anthony in the first three and a half minutes of the fourth, Portland took a 102-97 advantage, and with another Anthony mid-range shot a few minutes later, would take their largest lead of the fourth at 108-101 with just over six minutes to play.

But the 76ers would never let Portland pull away. Philly responded by scoring the next six points to cut the lead to one, and would tie the game at 109-109 after a pair of Tobias Harris free throws with 2:41 to play.

Gary Trent Jr. and Damian Lillard scored the next five points, which was countered by Joel Embiid and Seth Curry combining for five of their own on the next two possessions to tie the game at 114-114 with 22.1 seconds to play. Lillard would burn clock on the ensuing possessions, with the Sixers committing their last foul-to-five with five seconds left on the clock.

And once again, Anthony would be the difference for the Blazers. After some difficulty with the inbound, Anthony ended up with the ball in his hands with the final seconds of the game winding down. But he was tripped up on his drive to the rim, earning two free throws, both of which he would make with 3.1 seconds left in regulation.

“That fourth quarter, I got hot in the fourth quarter, made some shots,” said Anthony. “Got into a great rhythm in the fourth quarter, gave our team a different spark, some momentum, some energy. We knew how important this game was for us though, going up against a top team in the East.”

But the game wasn’t won until Robert Covington managed to poke away the ensuing inbound after the 76ers called time to advance the ball to halfcourt. Lillard came away with the loose ball, got fouled and made a pair of free throws with 1.3 seconds left to finish off the series sweep and one of Portland’s most impressive wins of the season.

“It was the definition of a team effort,” said Lillard. “Each guy on the floor was scratching and clawing, just trying to find a way... It was just a collective effort, each guy just buckled down and contributed.”

Lillard led the Trail Blazers with 30 points to go with seven assists, two rebounds and two steals in just under 36 minutes. The 6-3 guard was the only Trail Blazer to shoot more than two free throws Thursday night, going 14-of-15 from the line.

Anthony went 9-of-14 from the field and 4-of-5 from three for a season-high 24 points in 25 minutes. Anfernee Simons continued his strong play off the bench, shooting 50 percent from the field for 11 points to go with two rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes.

Trent Jr. went 5-of-7 from three on the way to 19 points and Enes Kanter, despite needed three stitches at halftime to close a gash about his right eye, had another double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds in just under 32 minutes.

Joel Embiid led all scorers with 35 points whole also grabbing nine rebounds. Simmons came an assist short of a triple-double with 23 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

Next up, the Trail Blazers host the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second night of a back-to-back and the final game of a three-game homestand versus teams from the East. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m