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Carmelo Anthony Threes, 30 From Lillard Overcome Sixers

The Blazers take the season series from one of the best teams in the East.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Portland Trail Blazers Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

In a Thursday-night game that secured a surprising season sweep, the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 118-114. Damian Lillard was the leading scorer for Portland with 30 points, 19 of those coming in the first quarter. Carmelo Anthony was the hero in this one, however, scoring 24 points with 17 of them coming in final quarter. Gary Trent Jr. also added 19 points.

The Sixers had their fair share of high-scorers also. Joel Embiid had 35 points while Ben Simmons had a near triple-double with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists.

First Quarter

Threes were falling very early for Portland. It wasn’t like they were all easy catch-and-shoot opportunities either. They made five of their first six, and all of them came from pull-ups by Damian Lillard and Gary Trent Jr. Eventually other players joined in on the fun, too. Derrick Jones Jr. had a corner three even! But something that has troubled Portland this year is hot shooting quarters being nullified by mediocre defense. Some things were inevitable — like Joel Embiid drawing fouls on post-ups — but when you’re going under on screens while guarding Seth Curry, you’re not playing the game right. Ben Simmons also posed a matchup problem with his size, barreling down the lane for easy layups. Portland hit eight threes, but they only led 37-36 after one.

Second Quarter

Philly did a good job of baiting Portland into quite a few silly fouls. Embiid is already a master of this, but even Tobias Harris got in on the action by shooting seven free throws in the half (the team was 17 for 20 in the half). It was a tough thing that kept the Sixers in it, but the good news was that Portland expanded on their lead with the second unit. With Rodney Hood assigned as the primary ball-handler Portland did well. He worked his way into the post often against smaller players and scored efficiently inside for most of the quarter. But Embiid was just too much. He had 15 in the second by just working the post. Harry Giles had four first half fouls and Enes Kanter got a massive cut on his eye, so let’s just say post options were...limited. Embiid got the sixers a 63-60 lead at the half.

Third Quarter

Philadelphia’s dynamic duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons caused so many problems for Portland in the third. Embiid was just Embiid; it didn’t matter who Portland put on him in the post because he could just pound them to death. When he’s not doing that, he’s just taking easy mid-range jumpers that make him impossible to guard. Simmons is also quicker and bigger than everyone on the Blazers, and he easily exposed Portland when needed. Gary Trent Jr. finding his form again helped Portland in the third. Again, his self-creation has been a huge part of Portland staying afloat despite injuries. But Portland’s defensive struggles allowed Philly to maintain a 93-89 lead at the end of the third.

Fourth Quarter

So um...how do you analyze Carmelo Anthony just deciding he’s going to make every shot? He made three of them right in the first four minutes, and they were the most Melo threes ever: Pull-ups with no thought whatsoever. He had 17 points in the quarter and only like seven of those points came on shots that made sense! It helped that Embiid finally started to struggle, evening the playing field ever so much for Portland. But the real highlight of this quarter was the final inbound play for Portland. With the Sixers doing everything to prevent Lillard getting the ball, Melo inbounded it to Robert Covington. Lillard set a screen to create just a little separation for a curling Anthony, and the vet drew the foul on Tobias Harris. Two free throws. Blazers lead. Covington got the steal that sealed the game, and the Blazers won 118-114.

Overcoming Mismatches

You know what I really liked about this win? The fact that the Sixers brought Ben Simmons back into the lineup and Portland still won. Sure, the Blazers had Damian Lillard back and the Sixers for some reason have it in their team charter that they aren’t allowed to make threes against the Blazers (six of 27 tonight), but even with Lillard, Philly is a matchup nightmare, theoretically.

It looked at times like it was going to end badly. Portland needed to make over 80% of their threes just to fend off Embiid and Simmons by one point after the first quarter. The Australian even made a final shot for Lillard basically impossible. But despite it all, Portland persevered and found a way to win. It was a gutsy victory for the Blazers.

Stay Me7o

What a game from Carmelo Anthony. After his play was about par for the course, he just absolutely exploded. It’s hard to know what to really make of it. We saw the reanimation of peak Melo for a short bit. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but Anthony earned some hyperbolic praise tonight.

The best part was Melo getting into a rhythm by draining those early threes. That’s when he’s at his best for Portland. Coming into this game he was shooting 48% from beyond the three-point line in the fourth quarter. When Iso Melo decides to go in the post, it hurts this team. When he does it from three (or even better, just situates himself in the corner), then it’s a lot better. The more he’s doing his “Three to the Dome” celebration, the better.

Gary Trent Jr. Does It Again

I’ve touched on this a lot in past recaps, but it’s worth noting again; Gary Trent Jr. is creating good shots for himself. He wasn’t always the most efficient last week, but this game showed how great it is when he maintains a rhythm. His step-back three in particular is a useful tool he pulls out of his bag seemingly at will. Most importantly, it gives Lillard some scoring help in the starting lineup. I want to see Trent keep it up, even when CJ McCollum returns.

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The Blazers won’t wait long for their next game, as they’ll take on the Cleveland Cavaliers tomorrow at the Moda Center. Tip-off will be at 7:00 p.m. PT.