In a thrilling start to their week, the Portland Trail Blazers took down the Toronto Raptors 112-111 at the Moda Center thanks to some late-game heroics. CJ McCollum — who hit the game-winner with just under 10 seconds left to play — was the hero in this one, scoring 30 points along with six rebounds and five assists. Damian Lillard also had 23 points on the night while Carmelo Anthony came alive in the fourth quarter to finish with 20 points off the bench.
The Raptors’ hot shooting might not have been enough to win, but it did lead to some solid individual performances. Pascal Siakam led the way with a 22-point triple double, adding 13 boards and 10 assists. Chris Boucher also added 20 points off the bench.
Things started slow for Portland, as they missed their first five shots and didn’t score until three minutes into the quarter. Pascal Siakam was causing problems for the Blazers, scoring 12 points by attacking the middle of the key. Siakam’s length gave him a slight edge over Robert Covington and others, as he would often spin his way to the free throw line before draining a tough mid-range jumpshot. Lethargy seemed to be a theme for Portland, as they struggled to finish at the rim while allowing Toronto to shoot 60% from the field with five threes. Portland pulled it together slightly at the end, but a buzzer beater from Siakam made it 32-21 Raptors.
Portland offensively started to put things together, mostly thanks to CJ McCollum’s stellar self-creation and Enes Kanter’s cleanup ability. Unfortunately, not much changed on the other end. Toronto hit another five threes, entering the half with 10 made from outside. Toronto’s guards consistently got out on the fastbreak and kicked it to the corner so players like Boucher and Norman Powell could just drain threes. Boucher in particular dominated the second, hitting threes on offense and protecting the rim on defense. Luckily, the duo of McCollum and Kanter (13 and 12 points respectively) helped keep it close. A late rebound and free throws from Covington made it a 60-55 lead for Toronto.
Things started great for Portland in the quarter as they scored the first six points to retake the lead. It did not last long, and Toronto immediately went on a 12-0 run to push the lead back to double digits. The Raptors forced numerous turnovers. OG Anunoby was often at the finishing end, scoring eight quick points along with (you guessed it!) two corner threes. Lillard had a solid quarter, scoring seven points and facilitating the offense. His gravity opened up numerous opportunities for his teammates, and he was able to finish through contact as well. They forced more turnovers this quarter as well, leaving Toronto with 12 turnovers through three quarters. But in the end, Toronto did enough to stay ahead 86-76 with one period left to play.
Both offenses exploded during the fourth quarter, which wasn’t particularly surprising considering the trends of this game. Corner threes continued to hurt Portland on defense, as guys were consistently open for Toronto in those pockets. Scoring three became as easy as a quick drive-and-kick for the Raptors. The three-point barrage didn’t make the comeback easy. McCollum’s 12 fourth-quarter points allowed Portland to keep it close. But it was Carmelo Anthony scoring 13 points in the quarter that really changed the game. It was a complete 180 after being a sieve on defense and going 2 for 10 before the fourth. In the end, it was McCollum’s crossover-to-jumper over Fred VanVleet that sealed it for Portland, giving them the 112-111 victory.
CJ McCollum Stays Hot
Usually when you’re being called by your middle name, you’re in trouble for something bad you did. But when you’re Christian James McCollum, it just means that you’ve once again put together a masterclass performance. McCollum took over this game (along with some help from ‘Melo towards the end) absolutely refusing to let Portland drop it.
It’s just a continuation of what’s been a great start to the season for McCollum, and it’s something we’re not used to seeing from him. Anyone who has paid attention to Portland during the Lillard-McCollum era knows that he’s not one to start the season hot. But with his quality of play being this high, it might be fair to ask the big question: Is this the year McCollum does enough to be an All-Star? If he keeps having moments like this, it just might be.
One of the most interesting things about the Blazers this season has been the duality of their players. One moment resembles a career-night and the next moment a dumpster fire. Carmelo Anthony was a dumpster fire for most of the night, but when it mattered most he showed up. If you want to truly understand how absurd it was, just check our own Dan Marang’s Twitter feed.
Carmelo’s 13 points were huge in the fourth. He even had key rebounds and the occasional smart defensive play. But I couldn’t help but ask myself one question: WHY DOESN’T HE JUST DO THIS ALL THE TIME?!? When Melo stays outside and at least tries on defense, he’s a solid bench player, and it’s almost more frustrating to see nights like this because it makes you question what was going on the other three quarters. Regardless, the Blazers don’t win this without him, so kudos to ‘Melo.
Jusuf Nurkic left this game in the first half with a left quad contusion. Nurkic being out meant that Portland had to suddenly figure out how to survive without him. They did surprisingly well, even in his absence. It helped that Kanter had 14 points off the bench, but what really helped Portland win was their smaller lineup.
With the Lillard-McCollum-Trent-Covington-Melo lineup, the Blazers became more versatile and surprisingly pesky. It’s certainly something that could be worth monitoring going forward. It’s unknown whether Nurkic will be good to go in Portland’s next game in Sacramento, so a viable smaller lineup could be huge for the Blazers. It’ll most likely depend on whether or not Melo is hitting shots or not, but we saw how useful it is when it works.
Next up, the Blazers will travel to Sacramento on Wednesday to take on the Kings. Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m. PT.