IMAGE: Liberty Ballers
LILLARD, ANTHONY ELEVATE BLAZERS OVER 76ERS
It is expected Damian Lillard always plays at an elite level each game.
The biggest takeaway from the Blazers performance was Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony turned the clock back in a pivotal fourth quarter scoring 17 of his 24 points as the Portland Trailblazers beat the East’s best Philadelphia 76ers for the second time in the span of a week 118-114.
The 10-time All-Star made an excellent cut on his way the paint where he was inadvertently fouled by Tobias Harris, going on to make two ice cool free throws.
Defensive ace Robert Covington made the biggest play of the game for Portland when he came across to deflect Ben Simmons’ pass looking for Harris to ensure the Blazers won its second successive game.
Superstar Damian Lillard finished with 30 points and 7 assists, for his 12th 30 point game of the season.
Joel Embiid led Philadelphia with 35 points and 9 rebounds, while Simmons narrowly was one assist shy of a third triple-double finishing with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists in 37 minutes.
There was plenty of offence in the opening half with the 76ers going into intermission up 63-60 on Joel Embiid’s buzzer-beating jumper of the inbound.
The third followed the same trajectory with Philadelphia holding sway heading into the fourth up 93-89.
Having been quiet for large parts, vintage Melo began heating up. Turning the clock back to his Nuggets and Knicks days, he made all six shots from the field with an array of pull-up threes and his traditional post-up on the low block. His scoring spree fuelled together a 19-8 Portland run.
The Blazers gave themselves separation when Lillard made a floater over Tobias Harris to put Portland ahead by five.
But Philadelphia showing why they have not been fazed in crunch moments fought back with Embiid sticking his 16-footer, then of a Blazers’ miss a running Simmons squared the pass in transition to a trailing Seth Curry swishing home a triple to tie scores at 114.
Portland aims to extend its winning streak to three when the fluctuating Cleveland Cavaliers make a trip to the Moda Centre. Philadelphia continues its four-game Western Swing with the red-hot Phoenix Suns.
HEAT BEHIND BUTLER’S TRIPLE-DOUBLE WIN FOURTH STRIGHT
The welcome return of Jimmy Butler over the last seven games has seen significant improvement.
With it the Heat are beginning to steer in the right direction.
Butler put up 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, while Max Strus had an excellent outing of the bench with 21 hitting 5 of 8 from downtown and the Miami Heat won its fourth straight game beating the Houston Rockets 101-94.
John Wall building to near his All-Star level form had 17 points and 7 assists for Houston, while Eric Gordon too scored 17 as the Rockets have dropped four in a row.
Houston began the contest clicking going up by 13 late in the first, however Miami behind the poise of Butler and Kendrick Nunn trimmed Houston’s led to six at the close of the opening half.
Miami took control in the fourth building its largest lead at 85-70 when a flame-throwing Strus buried one of his five treys with 7:53 left. Minutes later he was back again sinking another three to have the Heat in control at 95-83 with 4:04 remaining.
Houston although had other ideas. Sparked by Danuel House Jr’s triple, the Rockets conjured nine consecutive points to narrow the gap to three with 50 seconds on the clock.
Hopes of tying the game would vanish as Houston couldn’t secure two vital defensive rebounds - both falling the way of experienced veteran Andre Iguodala to sign and deliver the ideal start to an arduous seven-game trip all against the West.
In other results around the Association:
Boston got unusual quiet games from its star one-two punch: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but Semi Ojeleye stepped in.
Ojeleye scored a career-high 24 points, Kemba Walker with 21 and impressive rookie Payton Pritchard had 20 as the Boston Celtics defeated the Toronto Raptors 120-106.
Veteran Kyle Lowry paced Toronto with 24 points and 6 assists, while Pascal Siakam had 23.
Indiana bounced back from its 104-94 loss yesterday to the Brooklyn Nets to beat the Detroit Pistons 111-95 ending a season-worst four game losing skid.
Domantas Sabonis led the Pacers with 26 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists, as the team restricted Jerami Grant to an equal season-low nine points on 4 of 17 shooting.
Steph Curry lit up the Magic scoring 40 points, including 10 treys and the Golden State Warriors piled further pain on Orlando’s stumbling defence winning 111-105.
All-Star Nikola Vucevic tried his best to propel the Magic leading the way with 25 points and 13 rebounds who have lost the first two games of a four-game Western trip.
By Juri Bilcich