It was a vintage Carmelo Anthony that powered the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday with no reason to think he will not be right back at it on Friday.
One night after an impressive 118-114 victory over the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers, the Trail Blazers will take the court again Friday night to play host to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Anthony scored 17 fourth-quarter points Thursday as Portland overcame a six-point deficit over the closing 12 minutes. The 36-year-old was 6 of 8 from the field in the final 12 minutes, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range.
Anthony had 24 points on the night, with the clutch nature of his performance outshining the team-high 30 from teammate Damian Lillard.
"I'm just playing, enjoying the game, taking advantage of my opportunities," Anthony said on the TNT broadcast. "I didn't play much in the third (quarter), but I stayed with it, cheered my teammates on and when my number was called, I was ready to deliver."
At question is how much he will play against the Cavaliers with just one night of rest. His usage this season suggests he will play. He has missed just one game, on Dec. 28, and played consecutive nights Jan. 13-14, Jan. 24-25 and Feb. 1-2. In fact, he played more minutes on the second night of those back-to-backs.
"Nah, I'm good, I'm good," Anthony said when the question arose about how much energy he will have moving forward.
The Trail Blazers have now won the first two games on a three-game homestand that is sandwiched between a six-game trip and an upcoming three-game trip. They have also won four of their last five.
While Cleveland absorbed a 133-95 defeat Wednesday to the Denver Nuggets, the Cavaliers will aim to play more like they did Monday when they took the Phoenix Suns to the final minutes in a 119-113 defeat.
The Cavaliers' defense was overmatched Wednesday, with the Nuggets shooting 60.0 percent from the field while making 16 3-pointers. Cleveland did have a 49-39 rebounding advantage, but committed 17 turnovers to 11 for Denver, while losing their fifth consecutive game.
On offense, the Cavaliers shot just 38.3 percent overall against the Nuggets and were just 8 of 37 from 3-point range (21.6 percent). One game earlier at Phoenix, the Cavaliers actually led by a point with 2:26 remaining but then did not score another point the rest of the way in the loss.
"The Nuggets sent a clear message from jump ball to the end of the game," Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "The message was that there was an intent to embarrass us. Whether it was through physicality, whether it was showboating after plays, whether it was a shot at the end of the game, they sent a clear message that their intent was to embarrass us and they did it."
Leading scorer Collin Sexton (22.7 points) was held to just four points at Denver on 1 of 9 shooting from the field. Second-leading scorer Andre Drummond (17.9 points) was held to just four himself on 2-of-7 shooting, while third-leading scorer Darius Garland (15.6 points) had just seven on 3-of-6 shooting.
--Field Level Media
FROM THE ARCHIVES