Carmelo Anthony has proven himself time and time again as a guy you want with the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.
He’s made clutch shots in the Carrier Dome. He drilled game-winners during his prime years with the Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks.
Thursday night was no different as the former Syracuse star forward cashed in two late free throws to give the Portland Trail Blazers a 118-114 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Anthony connected on the most crucial points of the night, but the Blazers wouldn’t have been in position for the victory if not for his 17-point outburst in the fourth quarter.
The first six shots of the final period went down for Anthony, putting him in a zone that was reminiscent to his time at Madison Square Garden. He made three 3-pointers during that stretch and even got a ridiculous bank shot to find the bottom of the net as the shot clock expired.
Anthony finished with a season-high of 24 points with four 3-pointers off the bench. Damian Lillard led the Blazers with a team-high 30 points and seven assists.
“I’m a rhythm guy, so if I get in rhythm I start feeling good and the basket is big,” Anthony told TNT’s Shaquille O’Neal after the game.
76ers guard Seth Curry had just drilled a triple to tie the game at 114 with 22.1 seconds left in the game.
With no fouls to give, the 76ers opted to double Lillard — who’s known for sending teams home at the buzzer — on the inbound and got out of position on defense so once Anthony received the pass, he was inadvertently fouled by Tobias Harris.
After Anthony’s go-ahead free throws, Blazers forward Robert Covington sealed the win with a deflection on defense that led the ball right into the hands of Lillard for two more freebies from the line.
Anthony, averaging 13 points as a reserve for the Blazers, has found himself in a sneaky-hot zone dating back to last week’s win over the Washington Wizards when he passed Dominique Wilkins on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He’s scored more than 20 points in four of the Blazers’ last five games. On Tuesday, he passed Oscar Robertson for 12th on the league’s scoring list.
The Blazers are proving they trust Anthony down the stretch of games just as they do Lillard or C.J. McCollum.
They don’t need him be the dominant scorer he once was during his Nuggets, Knicks or even Syracuse days, but scoring explosions like Anthony had on Thursday serve as reminders of the player he once was as his NBA career enters its twilight years.
“Trust is a big thing. I can tell you that. Those guys can trust me in these moments,” Anthony said. “At the end of the day, it is basketball, though. I know how to play basketball. I know how to play the right way. It is a different situation for me, but I gotta take advantage of my opportunities.”