The NBA world has seen Damian Lillard takeover late in games.
Again and again.
Wednesday night as the Trail Blazers looked to secure a victory over the Warriors in a contest that came down to the final seconds it was Lillard who came up with two huge possessions.
But with Golden State throwing multiple, lengthy, defenders at Lillard all game while blitzing and trapping him on the pick and roll, and every other chance they could, it was up to the rest of the team.
Even though, in the end, it was all Lillard, the Trail Blazers were thankful for Carmelo Anthony’s offensive contributions, especially in the fourth quarter.
When it matters most.
And this is nothing new.
Melo has been a mainstay closer for Portland.
“He played a lot of minutes last game and this game, but he’s earned them,” Coach Stotts continued. “Playing at a high level and in a game like this we needed his offense and the matchups, they were doing a lot of switching so having a guy like him to be able to go on the block and get a shot or rebound or draw a foul was really important.”
Just as the shorthanded Blazers have looked to Anthony to provide instant offense off the bench in recent weeks, he once again provided that spark early as well.
Melo had a team-high 11 points at the break.
He finished with 22.
In his last 11 games, Melo has scored in double figures in eight of those.
And more often than not, it’s his fourth quarter magic that propels the Trail Blazers.
But as Lillard pointed out postgame, nobody should really be surprised by the fourth quarter play from Melo, even if this is his 18th year in the league.
“He still believes in those moments," Lillard added. "He’s had so many situations where he has had to step up and he’s had to make big shots and make big plays. So when I’m getting that much attention it makes me that much more comfortable getting that ball out knowing there’s a chance that it’s going to get to his hands and knowing that he’s going to be the guy that is getting the shot or making that decision."
On the season, Melo ranks 71st in fourth quarter scoring with 4.3 points per game, while, not surprisingly, Lillard ranks fifth with 7.7 points in the final period.
But in his last five games, Anthony has averaged 7.7 points good for 17th in the league.
And it was Anthony's scoring ability along with his ability to draw fouls that aided in Portland winning the season series against Golden State, 2-1.
As Lillard reflected on Wednesday’s game specifically, he mentioned that he didn’t remember a game where he was trapped so hard and so often as he was against the Warriors, which only made Melo’s scoring more impactful.
“The right play was just to get the ball out and he had another big night.”
Lillard not only credited Melo, but added that Derrick Jones Jr., and Gary Trent Jr. were key in making the Warriors pay for all their attention that was placed on Lillard.
Yet, for Melo, it’s about simplicity.
“Don’t rush,” Anthony explained when either he or Lillard are doubled teamed. “We knew it was coming. I think everybody knows it’s coming, but don’t rush—once you give it up. let’s make smart plays, let's make the right play, don’t try to do too much out of that.”
“Whoever is open, we try to get them the ball and we make the game simple.”
During this three-game homestand, so far, that philosophy is simply working.