Carmelo Anthony was waiting for Nurkic to complete his post-game availability, and every question was on Anthony after a few tough moments for Melo sealed a critical 110-102 victory over the Houston Rockets on Tuesday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Anthony made two big plays in the final three minutes, blocking a 3-point PJ Tucker with the score tied and drilling a catch-and-shoot 3 dagger right away with 54 seconds left to put Portland by five.
“Honestly, I don’t think you are losing this. If you have it, you have it, ”Anthony said of his clutch performance. “It’s something that you have to want, you have to be prepared to put yourself in these situations and enjoy these moments, take these pictures and believe that you can take these pictures. “The Blazers are off to the kind of bubble start they thought they could get, and that was largely down to the return of Nurkic and big man Zach Collins, which thus moved Anthony to his former position as a small forward. Although the Rockets tried to target Anthony in the switches on the defensive side, he held on and was able to keep pace.
The reboot saw an apparent resurgence of Anthony, although this is something he and his teammates disagree with.
“When we got him, everyone had something to say about him: what he’s going to do defensively, he’s getting older, he’s finished, where is he going to fit in,” said Damian Lillard. “Everyone had something to say: how he’s in the locker room and all that stuff, why it didn’t work out with these other teams. But he came towards us, and he was just, like, laid back, good teammate. , good for our younger players. On the pitch, he talks about whether he has a good game or a bad game. Just everything about the team. ”
Anthony has been a polarizing player in recent years, his year-long stint at Oklahoma City ending with his trade in Atlanta and his quick lift. Then he was signed by the Rockets, who only lasted 10 games. At 34, Anthony was out of the league and looking for a team.
Decimated by injuries to start the season, the Blazers added Anthony.
“Clarity,” Anthony said when asked what he gained from his absence from the NBA. “Clarity – that’s it. ”
With the Blazers, Anthony has been praised for his willingness to accept the role in which he is chosen, his professionalism and his co-ability.
“He understands what we expect of him in certain situations, depending on how the game unfolds,” said Lillard. “It’s obvious to someone like me who pays attention to everything. I find the way people talk about him really funny and disrespectful. He is a member of the Hall of Fame. ”
Rockets forward Jeff Green said, “It’s been Melo his entire career. A lot of people wrote him off during that short stint when he wasn’t in the league, but he’s proving everyone’s wrong now, and it’s great to see him there. He’s a guy that I loved coming, being close to the area, so it’s amazing to see what he’s still doing. ”
In 36 minutes, Anthony finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds. In Portland’s three games in Florida, he averages 16.3 points and adds some quality lift to Lillard and CJ McCollum as he happily integrates.
“The only thing about Melo is he loves the game, he loves the camaraderie, he loves being in the NBA,” said Blazers coach Terry Stotts. “At this point in his career I think he’s able to savor a different part of the NBA that wasn’t necessarily the same he had earlier in his career. ”
The Blazers closed the gap with the Grizzlies for 8th place in the West to just 1½ games with a 2-1 bubble start, showing marked improvement in a number of areas they have struggled in during the season. regular. In their loss to Boston, the Blazers played the Celtics on the wire, with Anthony hitting a 3 go green with 27 seconds left. Lillard is known for her big shots in “Dame Time,” and McCollum has had plenty of moments, but the ball tends to find Anthony when a bucket is needed.
“He’s just not shy about it,” Lillard said. “He finds the places where we need him. He’s not there to try and play like he’s still in New York or Denver. He knows that sometimes we need him to be on the weak side. He knows when it’s time to isolate himself. on the block. He respects the coach when he could take him out before he’s ready to go. I just think when you see that stuff from a guy of his stature, I think that says it all to our team. ”
Dave McMenamin of ESPN contributed to this report.