Carmelo Anthony, Trail Blazers Come Back to Beat Kyle Lowry, Raptors 101-99

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2020

TORONTO, CANADA - JANUARY 7: Carmelo Anthony #00 of the Portland Trail Blazers plays defense during the game against the Toronto Raptors on January 7, 2020 at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Portland Trail Blazers snapped out of their recent slump with a thrilling 101-99 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday at Scotiabank Arena.

Portland is still just 16-22 on the campaign but has won two of its last three contests following a five-game losing streak. Carmelo Anthony drilled the game-winning shot in the waning seconds after Damian Lillard spearheaded a comeback effort that saw the visitors overcome a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter.

The hosts are also looking for more consistency and are just 3-5 in their last eight games. They are still in a better position than Portland, though, at 24-13 on the season.

         

Notable Player Stats

  • POR G Damian Lillard: 20 points, nine assists and four rebounds
  • POR F Carmelo Anthony: 28 points, seven rebounds and two steals
  • POR C Hassan Whiteside: 14 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocks
  • TOR G Kyle Lowry: 24 points, 10 assists and four rebounds
  • TOR F Serge Ibaka: 17 points, 11 rebounds and two assists

             

Lillard, Anthony Save Trail Blazers

Losing to this short-handed version of the Raptors likely would have been a low point for the Trail Blazers this season. After all, they went to the Western Conference Finals last season but find themselves battling near the bottom of the playoff picture after their recent slump.

Anthony has been a massive addition and helped them tread water with Jusuf Nurkic, Rodney Hood, Zach Collins and Skal Labissiere all sidelined with injuries. He was at his best Tuesday, dropping mid-range shots and hitting five triples when defenders sagged off him.

His presence has helped take some of the responsibility off Lillard's and CJ McCollum's shoulders, although Portland is still dealing with a defense that is an ugly 23rd in the league in defensive rating, per NBA.com.

Thanks to the offensive play of Anthony and Lillard down the stretch, things are looking somewhat up for the Trail Blazers instead of hopeless with the injuries and recent stretch of terrible play. After all, the race for the No. 8 seed in the West is not exactly inspiring considering they were just one game back of the 15-20 San Antonio Spurs entering play.

Once they eventually get somewhat healthier and ideally start playing better defense, they could climb back into the picture.

That will be all the easier to do with Anthony playing well with games on the line alongside the dynamic backcourt.

            

Raptors' Lack of Depth Costs Them Victory

Many wrote the Raptors off as serious contenders in the Eastern Conference when Kawhi Leonard signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. Those prognosticators likely would have seen them as candidates for a top-three draft pick if the defending champions were stuck with Tuesday's injury list all season.

Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell and Marc Gasol were all out of the showdown with the Trail Blazers because of injuries.

That meant Toronto was working without three of its top five leading scorers—including leading scorer Siakam—one of its floor generals in VanVleet and its veteran presence down low who helps control the glass in Gasol.

It almost didn't matter.

The Raptors' typically strong defense prevented Lillard and McCollum (10 points) from taking over for extended stretches through the first three quarters, setting the stage for Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka to build a commanding lead.

Lowry sliced through Portland's defense and distributed whenever he drew additional attention, while Ibaka battled on the boards and served as a matchup problem because of his ability to extend his offensive arsenal beyond the arc with multiple three-pointers.

However, there just weren't enough pieces to prevent Lillard from eventually tapping into Dame Time. The four-time All-Star scored five straight points, three of which came on a deep three in the final minute, before Anthony hit the winner.

A fully healthy Raptors team likely would have had enough to maintain its lead so Lillard couldn't do what he does best in crunch time, but that was no help Tuesday.

         

What's Next?

The Raptors are at the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday, while the Trail Blazers are at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday.

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