Carmelo Anthony led the Trail Blazers in scoring Saturday night, but it was his sizzling late-game pass to a wide-open Derrick Jones that sealed his team’s 125-121 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Anthony scored 26 points, 16 of them in the second half, when the Trail Blazers were struggling to hold off the young Timberwolves. And he made seven of his 10 shots in that half.
But it was that pass – a laser from the top circle -- to Jones under the basket with 43.9 seconds to go that lifted Portland to a five-point lead.
For all the talk about his scoring – and it’s well-deserved, as he passed Hakeem Olajuwon and moved into 11th on the all-time NBA list in this game – Melo can pass. And it's often overlooked because of that giant pile of points he has produced,
“That's why, especially in the second unit, I put Melo in a lot of passing situations because he is a good passer,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “Derrick made a good cut and Melo sees the floor well, especially when he's out on top like that.”
Jones had set a pick for Gary Trent and was alert when his defender headed for Trent at the three-point line. Jones dove to the basket and Anthony, who made the read quickly and delivered the ball at a high rate of speed, before the Minnesota defense could react.
“Melo is a savvy vet, 18 years in this league,” Jones said. "I mean, he knows the reads and makes them. He knows what to do and what not to do on the floor. I just had to finish it.”
Portland salvaged a game that appeared to have a chance to go off the rails in the second half.
The Timberwolves are arguably the worst team in the league, but they bounced back from a nine-point halftime deficit to outscore the Trail Blazers 37-27 in the third quarter.
And keep in mind, this is a team that came into the game with the 26th-ranked offense in the league and it put 37 points on Portland in the third quarter. Minnesota shot 51.2 percent from the field for the game, while grabbing an amazing 19 offensive rebounds.
Obviously, Portland’s defensive woes didn’t disappear on this night.
But Anthony rescued the game with his clutch shooting and that wonderful pass.
“I knew DJ was in the corner before the ball even swung to me,” Anthony said of his pass. “And I know what he likes to do. I know he likes to cut back door. And I just read it, I made the right play. At that point, I just want to get it out of my hands and I didn't want them to get a chance to get set.
“I played first base growing up. My first love was baseball, so you know you gotta have quick instincts when you get the ball in those situations. You’ve got to do something with it quick. And that's what I did, I made the right decision.”
More like a second baseman turning a double-play, actually.
Great hands, great vision, great pass.