Glancing over at the Trail Blazers' bench at Moda Center with CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, and Zach Collins all in street clothes and it’s been that way for weeks now, it's hard not to think about how impressive it is that the Blazers are not just barely staying afloat, they’re getting it done.
Thursday night, Portland beat the best team in the East, the Philadelphia 76ers and it was the second victory over Joel Embiid and the Sixers in the past seven days.
And as Damian Lillard said postgame, it wasn't because of luck.
Last time out, the extremely shorthanded Blazers shot lights out from three without Lillard and were able to come up with the improbable win on the road.
This time around in Portland, it was Lillard who caught fire to start the game, while 18-year-veteran Carmelo Anthony finished it.
In the 118-114 victory, Melo scored 15 of Portland’s first 19 points in the fourth quarter and then drained two free throws to put the Blazers up two with 3.1 seconds remaining.
He was nearly automatic from three as well.
That’s the luxury the Blazers have right now.
To see a rhythm player like Melo find his groove with timely buckets is just what the undermanned Blazers need.
And it was exactly on cue Thursday.
The Trail Blazers veteran finished with 24 points on 9-of-15 shooting, including 4-of-5 from three.
“Melo had a huge stretch where he just made shots and he did what he does and we needed it,” Lillard said. “He carried us through that fourth quarter offensively.
But Lillard also made sure to give credit where credit was due on the other end.
“I think our activity defensively, even some possessions that they scored or we fouled, we had a presence.”
Lillard also mentioned how as a team they decided to make an in-game adjustment on how they were guarding Joel Embiid in the second half and they were able to execute it on the fly.
And yes, it was Melo time in the fourth, but it was the way the Blazers defended in the last possession that sealed the deal.
More specifically it was a heads-up play from Robert Covington.
While coming up with a steal after a bad pass from Ben Simmons, Covington had the awareness to quickly find Lillard knowing all the Sixers could do at that point was foul.
“We played nine guys and I thought every one of them made a substantial contribution to the game,” Stotts said.
Then, after praising his starters, Coach Stotts made sure to give credit to Harry Giles and his aggressive play and energy that helped boost the Blazers Thursday night.
“I’d really like to mention Harry Giles. I thought the energy he gave throughout, his minutes on the floor, he gave a lot of energy. He got in foul trouble, it didn’t deter him from playing.”
And just as Coach Stotts pointed out that every guy on the floor made a big impact, so did Portland’s five-time All-Star.
Now as the Blazers improve to 14-10 overall and 7-5 at home, it’s a quick turnaround for Portland. The Trail Blazers will welcome in the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday with tip-off set for 7:00p.m. on NBCSNW.
Closing out this three-game homestand with a win could be just what the Trail Blazers need most since they’ll be playing six of the next seven on the road.