The Trail Blazers returned to the win column with a dominant 117-94 victory over the Bulls. The victory snapped a four-game losing streak for the Blazers, paving the way for them to return to Portland on a positive note. Led by a vintage 25-point performance from Carmelo Anthony, the Blazers maintained a double-digit lead in the second half, allowing the starters to rest for a large portion of the fourth quarter. Outside of Melo’s scoring, Damian Lillard was in the zone. Lillard finished with a superb 13-point, 12-assist double-double in 27 minutes of action.
It was an exhale-inducing victory to say the least. Here is a look back at the moments that sealed Portland’s sixth win of the year.
Facing a tall and agile backcourt, Portland turned to Rodney Hood to get things rolling in the first quarter. The former Cavs forward notched the first five points for Portland as the Bulls countered by going inside on the other end. Led by a 3-3 start from Tomas Satoransky, a 6-foot-7 guard, Chicago’s offense started to click from the inside out. Off the bench, Skal Labissière matched Satoransky’s efficiency with six points of his own.
The Blazers kept pace thanks to 12 points in 10 minutes from Carmelo Anthony. Turnovers late in the quarter combined with a defensive three-second call to give the Bulls a slim 28-27 lead.
The Bulls’ lead quickly evaporated thanks to frequent trips to the free throw line for the Blazers. Portland’s 6-0 run to start the second quarter was a sign of things to come. Utilizing crisp passing and purposeful movement off the ball, the Blazers offense looked like a well-oiled machine. Thanks to another burst of Melo-centric offense, the Bulls fell into a 13-point hole just after the midpoint of the quarter.
Portland’s momentum would not last. Third-year big man Lauri Markkanen single-handedly lifted the Bulls offense back into the action, sparking a run that cut the Blazers’ cushion to just two points. Quick offense from Lillard and McCollum in addition to a buzzer-beating midrange shot from Hood allowed the Blazers to head to the locker room with a 62-54 advantage.
The open looks the Bulls enjoyed in the first half completely disappeared after halftime. The Blazers defense pursued shooters from beyond the arc and Hassan Whiteside patrolled the paint with foul-free aggression. Even when Chicago got to the rim, they struggled to finish. Both Zach LaVine and Satoransky missed uncontested dunks in the quarter.
On the offensive end, Lillard continued to thread the needle with effortless passing. Buoyed by possessions that involved multiple passes, the Blazers feasted on favorable looks while building a lead that ballooned to 22 points late in the period. The Bulls notched just 18 points in the third quarter, giving the Blazers a comfortable 92-72 lead.
The Blazers dominance carried over to fourth, earning the starters rest. Prior to exiting, Melo turned back the clock with a series of solid offensive possessions. He connected on a catch-and-shoot three-pointer and rattled the rim with a highlight-worthy dunk off a spinning post move. With a 25-point lead in hand, coach Terry Stotts cleared the bench, giving the reserves a chance put the finishing touches on a much-needed victory.
The Gang’s All Here
For the first time since adding Melo, the Blazers featured their newest signee alongside Damian Lillard and Hassan Whiteside. Outside of a Bulls run in the second quarter, the Blazers controlled the action with solid rebounding and active defense. Offensively, Lillard’s crisp passing unlocked the entire offense. Possessions that would typically end with a contested shot or turnover transformed into sets that changed hands quickly in search of wide-open shots.
It was just one game, but Whiteside and Melo combined to form a serviceable frontcourt pairing. If they can maintain that focus and effectiveness, the Blazers could return to the win column sooner rather than later.
Outside of garbage time in the fourth quarter, the Blazers utilized a re-tooled rotation. After a less-than-inspiring start to the year, Anthony Tolliver and Mario Hezonja appear to be on the outside looking in. Melo’s 25-point performance stole the show, but Labissière has established himself as a key contributor off the bench. The big fella recorded 12 points and eight rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench.
A Bit of History
Carmelo Anthony’s final points moved him to No. 18 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, two points in front of Alex English. Melo’s point total sits at 25,615 prior to his debut at the Moda Center, 456 points behind Kevin Garnett.
The Blazers return home to host the Thunder on Wednesday.