The Portland Trail Blazers nearly took a win against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday-evening. Carmelo Anthony came big off the bank while Damian Lillard got his usual fourth quarter running. Sadly, Jayson Tatum and the Celtics would do them one more time and take a 116-115 victory.
Dave Deckard has the Instant Recap here with your quarter-by-quarter gameplay. Here are some other things you may have missed during the nerve-racking thriller.
The Dame and Melo Show
As the final score suggests, the Celtics’ 116-115 win was a nip-and-puck affair. Each of the Blazers’ main players has chipped in hustle plays and key shots that should draw praise in the movie room. But make no mistake about it: Much of Portland’s attacking success came through the wrists of Damian Lillard and Carmelo Anthony.
All night long Boston worked on the oft-attempted strategy of making Damian Lillard too ‘freezing’ – or keeping him from returning to the center and getting into that pull-up – and Marcus Smart, notably, did a admirable job. But during the fourth quarter, Lillard fought, as he usually does, through pain to get into a rhythm and startle Boston. One night when CJ McCollum fought his shot, Anthony acted as a skilled sidekick.
Together, the two accounted for 53 points on 19-of-38 shots, including 21 of the Blazers’ 28 fourth quarter points. Especially for Anthony it has become something of a trend. That raises an interesting question.
Has anyone else noticed how different he scores in those primetime games with the lights on, compared to what he does in ‘regular’ games? It’s completely random, but it’s enough to get anyone thinking about writing a petition. Look:
Anthony in TNT or ESPN primetime games: 16.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 47.1% FG, 37.5% 3P
Anthony in other normal games: 13.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 40.7% FG, 37.7% 3P
More off-ball opportunities for Lillard
Let’s add one more Lillard takeaway to watch over the long haul: one of the hidden attributes that comes with adding Norman Powell is that it gives the Blazers a tertiary ball handler to play alongside Dame and McCollum. That gives him the chance to play more off-ball, cut and create faster looks for himself.
In tonight’s game, Lillard created a handful of points, either just because of the threat of cutting – or by finding a crack in the defense and getting efficient buckets. That feels like a fantastic development worth rooting for, and not just because it promotes better ball movement. If Lillard is as hurt as he sometimes seems, working on those isolations and pick-and-rolls isn’t going to be as fruitful as they’ve often been. He didn’t seem to have the same pace in recent weeks, so the Blazers getting creative about his workload should be an advantage going forward. In that first half we saw, among other things, rear screens that looked a bit like a Spanish pick-and-roll and a cut in a fake post-up seal.
That leads to a minor note: It appears the Blazers may be trying to find ways to manage Lillard’s cargo. His second quarter rest was much longer than usual; he checked in with just over four minutes to go in half. Keep an eye out for that in the future.
More confusion about late game rotation
The Blazers’ recent moves have given them the luxury of multiple players being able to finish a match, both offensive and defensive. Unfortunately, as tonight’s game showed, the Blazers are still struggling to get a bona fide lineup for the fourth quarter that sends teams away.
Tonight, the blatant omission came along the trajectory in the form of Robert Covington, whose perimeter defense was one of the night’s few positives. As fate would have it, he was nowhere to be found on the floor during critical moments in the fourth. Consider this another thing to watch out for in the future. Whoever puts this team on the floor to finish games could be a make-or-break factor in the future.
Losses against winners
Here are some of the changes life has to offer since the Blazers last beat a team that entered the game with a winning record: All four No. 1 seeds remained in the NCAA March Madness Tournament, Starbucks introduced three new ones. espresso / latte pairings, and the Brooklyn Nets only employed * five * former All-Stars. It’s been way too long.
The Blazers will be given a two-day break before preparing for a Friday night against the San Antonio Spurs at 5:30 p.m. PT.