And who said 2019 wasn’t fun?
The Bulls did not offer up much in the way of resistance, but on Terry Stotts’ birthday, the Blazers won’t much care as they wrap up a grueling, eventful and frustrating six-game road trip on a high note.
CJ McCollum hit big shots when he needed to, and Rodney Hood continued to show that he deserves to be a more featured fixture of the offense, but tonight was all about one guy.
Melo had easily his best game in a Portland uniform so far, finishing with a season high 25 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists in 31 minutes where the 35-year-old showed that he still has something to offer to this team. He even passed Alex English into 18th place on the NBA’s scoring list.
The whole repertoire was on display, from jab-step fadeaways, to a silky-smooth three-ball, to even brawniness on the baseline, punctuated by a two-handed jam over Wendell Carter Jr. in the fourth quarter where he might as well have jogged over to the scorer’s table, grabbed the PA microphone and beckoned to the United Center crowd “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!”
Seriously - he was even serenaded to a “We want Melo” chant as he rested on the bench during fourth quarter garbage time. From an away crowd.
Most encouraging though, was how much Anthony’s offense fit into the flow of the game, rather than a sort of a Hall of Fame cameo popping out at unexpected moments. The Blazers as a whole made more good passes tonight than in the past four games combined, and many of those happened when Anthony forced a weak side defender to play honest, which freed up Portland’s guards to move around in more space than they’ve seemingly had in ages.
Also take from it what you will, but in the first game where each of the de facto starters played together, the starting unit flourished. Lillard was the low man in terms of point differential at +12, while Hood was a studly +25.
The Blazers still have a major uphill climb ahead of them just to reclaim relevancy in the Western Conference, but tonight was at least a step in the right direction.
The road trip is over! The Blazers will finally return home to the (hopefully) much more friendly confines of the Moda Center when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday night.