In a match-up of two injury-riddled teams on Tuesday night, the Portland Trail Blazers emerged victorious over the defending champion Toronto Raptors by a final score of 101-99. Carmelo Anthony hit the game-winning shot with just over three seconds remaining, capping a late fourth quarter comeback that saw the team overcome a double-digit deficit.
Anthony finished with a game-high 28 points on 10-17 shooting, while Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 24 points, before missing a potential game-winning three of his own at the final buzzer.
The teams went back-and-forth over the first few minutes, as both missed a litany of favorable looks. Neither squad could distance themselves until the Raptors caught fire in the final few minutes—closing the quarter on a 9-0 run (including five points from undrafted rookie Oshae Brissett) to take a 24-15 lead.
Damian Lillard took to elbow to the back of the head at the 2:30 mark, exiting the game. Thankfully, he would return at the 8:30 mark of the second quarter.
Mario Hezonja gave the Blazers a nice boost off the bench in the early going—converting a steal in the open court to a fastbreak lay-in, knocking down a three-pointer shortly after. The Raptors stayed hot from the field to maintain a double-digit lead. When Toronto started to cool off, they crashed the offensive glass to give themselves second and third opportunities.
Starting around the six-minute mark, the Blazers’ shots started to fall. They got back-to-back threes from Kent Bazemore and Anthony to cut the deficit to five with just under five minutes remaining. Toronto offensive rebounds continued to plague the Blazers over the final few minutes of the half, while the Raptors found success at the rim with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to take a 56-46 lead into halftime.
After the Blazers hit their first two buckets of the half to pull within six, Toronto answered with a 10-2 run of their own. This included back-to-back threes from OG Anunoby. The Raptors extended their lead to 14 with 8:30 remaining—forcing the Blazers to call timeout. The teams then traded baskets over the next few minutes. After a long Lillard three cut the lead down to eight with 3:30 remaining, Bazemore earned a double-technical for arguing a non-call at the rim and was ejected. The Raptors responded with a quick 5-0 run to jump back up 13, before Anfernee Simons scored the final four points of the frame to make it 78-69 heading into the final stanza.
The Blazers again hit the first two shots of the period to pull back within five, before a 7-0 run from Chris Boucher put the Raptors back in front by double-digits. Simons snapped the run with a pull-up three in transition, which was immediately followed by back-to-back threes from Boucher and Lillard. The teams more or less traded baskets for most of the remainder of the game, before the Blazers pulled within three points (on an Anthony three) with less than a minute remaining. A Hassan Whiteside block on the other end gave Portland the opportunity to tie the game on a deep Lillard triple with 37 seconds left.
On the ensuing Raptors possession, Whiteside drew a jump ball, which was won by Toronto. Lowry missed a contested lay-up. The ball went out of bounds on the rebound attempt. A number of players touched it and the play was reviewed, with possession being awarded back to the Raptors—who promptly turned it over.
With the ball back in hand, here’s how the Blazers responded:
CARMELO ANTHONY.— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) January 8, 2020
GAME WINNER! pic.twitter.com/STOu2UXagz
Lowry missed a potential game-winning three at the buzzer, well defended by Hezonja after a defensive switch, and the Blazers held on for the improbable 101-99 victory, closing the game on a 13-4 run.
At halftime, and even through much of the fourth quarter, the Blazers seemed destined to drop their seventh game in the last eight contests. They were annihilated on the glass by the Raptors, who won the rebounding battle 57-45. More impressively, Toronto pulled down 17 offensive rebounds, 13 of which came in the first half alone. The extra possessions allowed them to continue scoring even as they cooled from distance. Six different Raptors hit at least two three-pointers, and they survived cold spells to knock down clutch shots when they needed them, holding off significant Blazer rallies until the final minutes.
For most of the game, Anthony was the only Blazer to find any kind of offensive rhythm, and he deserves a ton of credit for pretty much single-handedly keeping Portland afloat as neither Lillard or CJ McCollum reached double-figures until the fourth quarter. Lillard had just two points at halftime before catching fire in the fourth (finishing with 20 points) and McCollum, returning from a one-game absence, went just 5-19 on the night for 10 points.
Anthony also seemed to make a concerted effort to make the right pass instead of forcing contested jumpers, and was able to draw quality looks for himself, none better than the game-winner.
Whiteside came up huge defensively down the stretch, as his block set-up Lillard’s tying shot, helping allow Anthony’s heroics to take place. The big man finished with 14 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks on the night, and was a key cog in the victory.
The Blazers will look to finish their road trip with consecutive victories when they take on the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night.