The Portland Trail Blazers never quit and escaped Scotiabank Arena with a gritty two-point win over the Toronto Raptors.
Toronto dominated the majority of the night but Portland put forth a furious late-game rally that was capped by a game-winner from 17-year veteran Carmelo Anthony. After trailing by as many as 12 points in the frame, the Trail Blazers outscored the Raptors 32-21 in the fourth to earn the win.
With that in mind, here's some thoughts on the game.
1. Carmelo Anthony is still Carmelo Anthony
After a year away from the league, Carmelo Anthony has eased right into his role as a Blazer.
Tonight was arguably his best game with his new team.
Melo finished with a game-high 28 points (10-17 FG, 5-8 3FG), including the game-tying triple and the game-winning mid-range bucket that put Portland up for good.
CARMELO ANTHONY.- Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) January 8, 2020
GAME WINNER! pic.twitter.com/STOu2UXagz
The 35-year-old has still got it.
2. A first for the Raptors
In this league, good teams beat lesser opponents.
For the first time this season, the Raptors fall to a team with a record below-.500, giving them a record of 19-1 against teams with losing records. The Lakers are now the only team that has no such losses.
There's no reason to panic, however, as Toronto owns the league's easiest January schedule and is set to face 10 more teams below .500 this month.
3. Dame time
When things looked bleak for Portland, its All-NBA point guard answered the call.
Entering the final frame, Damian Lillard had just nine points (on 2-for-7 shooting). In the fourth quarter, Lillard scored 11 points on 3-for-4 shooting (all deep triples) and dished out three assists, including the pass to Carmelo Anthony for his game-tying jumper.
It was modest by his standards, but Lillard's final stat line of 20 points, nine assists and four rebounds doesn't come close to measuring his impact in a game like this one.
4. Lowry's shooting struggles
It was a bit of a different story for the Raptors All-Star point guard.
While Kyle Lowry led the way for the injury-riddled Toronto with a game-high 24 points and 10 assists in 38 minutes of action, he did so while shooting 7-for-23 (30.4%) from the field. Lowry also attempted a season-high 16 triples and connected on just four of them.
Again, it should be no cause to panic, as Lowry's impact extends well beyond what shows up in the box scores. Still, moving forward, both Lowry and the Raptors would enjoy better shooting across the board, as the team shot just 36.5% for the game.
It's sure to come.
5. Toronto's Bench Mob made its presence felt
With Rondae Hollis-Jefferson inserted into the starting lineup, it meant Nick Nurse had to go deeper in his rotation.
- Matt Thomas looked solid in his return from injury, scoring eight points and grabbing six rebounds
- Oshae Brissett came off the bench to score 12 points and grab an additional six rebounds
- Stanley Johnson's numbers weren't the prettiest (four points, three rebounds and two assists on 1-7 FG) but his energy and effort didn't go unnoticed
And of course…
6. Chris Boucher, S'il Vous Plait
It's hard not to appreciate what Chris Boucher brings to the table.
The reserve big man was big early on in the fourth, making some much-needed plays on both ends of the floor. It ultimately wasn't enough, but he finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in under 16 minutes of action.
As a whole, the Raptors' bench combined to score 36 points and grab 26 rebounds in this one, outplaying the Blazers' second unit.
With injuries abound, the second unit's contributions are paramount to the team remaining afloat.
7. Things didn't come easy for CJ
It was a quiet night for Damian Lillard's prolific backcourt mate.
In 35 minutes of action, CJ McCollum finished with 10 points, six assists and five rebounds and shot just 5-for-19 (26.3%) from the field. It was his second-worst shooting performance of the 2019-20 season and his second-lowest scoring output.
Portland has to consider itself fortunate to come out with a win despite not getting a great night from McCollum.
8. Whiteside's in a class of his own
Hassan Whiteside is an elite rim protector.
He's leading the league in blocks per game (2.9) and in this one, finished with seven denials, including one that put him among elite company.
The first @NBA player with 100 blocks in his first 35 games of a season since...@youngwhiteside in 2015-16.@Budweiserusa Legendary Moment pic.twitter.com/edn3EfDFVo- Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) January 8, 2020
He now has 102 blocks through the first 35 games of the season.
9. What's up next?
Yet another quick turnaround for the Raptors, who will be back in action tomorrow as they travel to Charlotte to take on the Hornets.
Click here for more on how Toronto has performed in back-to-backs this season.
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