The Portland Trail Blazers won a thrilling 115-112 nail-biter over the Charlotte Hornets tonight. Whether it was supposed to be thrilling is up to debate; Portland couldn’t defend Charlotte’s three-point shooters or hold a lead all night. Any questions pale in comparison to the game-saving performance of Anthony Tolliver, who scored (yes, you’re about to read this right) 16 points in the fourth quarter to propel his misfiring team to victory.
In the fourth.
After not even attempting a shot in the first three quarters.
We see you, Anthony Tolliver. And we acknowledge we are not worthy.
CJ McCollum got off to a hot start, scoring more than half of Portland’s points (7 of 13) in the first six minutes. The Blazers couldn’t keep the pesky Hornets out of the lane, though, and thus didn’t get any separation on the scoreboard. The score remained virtually tied until the second unit came in, when it became even more virtually tied. Damian Lillard’s constant presence, plus a couple buckets from Anfernee Simons, allowed the Blazers to survive their bench shift intact, but not ahead. Charlotte led 26-25 at the end of the first.
“No matter how much the Hornets are scoring inside, they can’t outscore Carmelo Anthony,” seemed to be the motto as the second quarter opened. ‘Melo operated out of the right-side post, faking his way to relatively easy looks. The referees evidently felt the low-scoring game wasn’t nearly slow and bad enough, so they interceded in the middle minutes of the quarter with approximately six whistles per possession. McCollum busted through late, reprising his first-quarter outburst and providing the Blazers much-needed life. The Hornets went cold just as CJ warmed up, and when the Blazers began to force turnovers and run out for easy buckets, the margin opened wide. Then Dame and CJ hit threes and it was apparently buh-bye time. Portland led 62-46 at the half, on their way to an easy victory.
Hahaha! Psyche! The Blazers don’t make anything easy, Charlotte started the third with a regular Rose Parade of three-pointers, closing the margin to four in seemingly nanoseconds. The teams battled close for the balance of the period. Charlotte cut the lead to one several times, but Portland kept making hay at the foul line to keep ahead...barely. The Hornets finally tied it at 78 at the 3:43 mark, courtesy of even more free throws. They’d take the lead on a lay-in with 2:30 left. Lillard would keep his team alive once again, hitting a couple late shots followed by a buzzer-beating deep three to preserve a 91-89 Portland lead heading into the fourth.
With his team in danger, McCollum tried to take over “one-on-everybody” to start the fourth. It didn’t work. He missed shots and traveled. Anthony Tolliver rose to the occasion and cleaned up the mess with Portland’s first three buckets in the period. Then he hit a straight-away three that brought the house down. The resulting 8-point lead felt significant. When Tolliver hit an unheard-of dipsy-doo layup off a drive a minute later, the win seemed assured. But Charlotte wouldn’t stop hitting threes.
Despite Tolliver’s heroics, the score was tied at 109 with 2:30 left. But he would not be denied. He hit yet another three, and almost caught a break-away pass off a Kent Bazemore steal that would have sealed the deal. After a Carmelo Anthony defensive save, Lillard hit a layup with 17.3 seconds left to give Portland a 5-point lead. Even that wasn’t safe; Charlotte hit a three on the ensuing possession. Then Lillard missed a free throw on the intentional foul, leaving the Hornets down three with the final possession in hand. Luckily their set got broken and Kent Bazemore blocked the final desperation heave to preserve the 3-point win.
Anthony Tolliver: 16 points and 11 rebounds on 7-8 shooting in 21 minutes. That man was Big Time tonight.
Tolliver wasn’t the only great center on the floor, though. The Blazers couldn’t stop Willy Hernangomez (season average 3.6 points). He scored 14 on 7-8 shooting. Charlotte’s bigs also helped them to plenty of second-chance points which, along with the threes, threatened to scuttle Tolliver’s win.
Charlotte shot 47.4% from deep tonight. Fortunately the Blazers topped 43% themselves. On a cold night, they would have lost big.
Damian Lillard scored 30 on 10-16 shooting, CJ McCollum 27, shooting 11-22. Combined they went 10-18 from distance. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Lillard had to play the entire first quarter and 36 overall minutes to achieve that, McCollum 37. Kyle Lowry and James Harden lead the league this season with 38.5 and 37.1 minutes respectively. They’re outliers. Lillard ranks third. If Dame and CJ have to average this much court time just to earn a win against 15-28 Charlotte, the prognosis for the rest of the season, and their stamina, isn’t bright.
The Blazers now head out on the road for a Wednesday game against the Houston Rockets at 6:30 PM. Pacific.
We need your help sending 2000+ kids in need to see the Blazers play the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 17th! It’s easy and inexpensive. Here’s how you can contribute tickets:
Click this link: Trail Blazers Group Ticket Portal
Type in this promo code: BLAZERSEDGE
That’s it! Just purchase the tickets as if you were buying them for yourself, and they’re AUTOMATICALLY DONATED to kids in need!
Please help out if you can, and Go Blazers!
P.S. If you like socks...
The good folks at Hoopswagg.com are once again partnering with us this year. They’ve designed the socks you see right below. You can purchase them through this link. When you buy a pair of socks, they buy a ticket for a participant to go to Blazer’s Edge Night. Want some nifty footwear for yourself while you send someone to see the Blazers play? This is the way to go!