The reigning NBA champs tripped at the finish line in front of a home crowd last night when they allowed Carmelo Anthony and his Blazers to steam past and snatch a 101-99 win.
Anthony led Portland’s offence with a massive 28 points and seven rebounds in 36 minutes on the floor, shooting at 62.5% from beyond the arc. But the veteran forward riled up the Scotiabank Arena crowd when he landed a dagger in the face of the short-handed Raptors with 4.1 seconds remaining.
For much of the game, the Raptors didn’t allow their depleted lineup to affect them as the Blazers disinterested defence provided little resistance and allowed the Raptors offence to walk through. Kyle Lowry led the six’s charge with 24 point and 10 assists, shooting at 30% from the field, whilst Serge Ibaka held down the defence with 17 points and 11 rebounds – his second consecutive double-double.
Portland established a brief lead in the first two minutes but the Raptors soon brought the heat with a double-digit lead in the second quarter. Regardless, they allowed the Blazers to catch up in the absence of Pascal Siakam (groin), Norman Powell (shoulder) and Marc Gasol (hamstring) and now sit on a 3-5 record over the past eight games.
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The champs are using their bench players well as both Oshae Brissett and Chris Boucher chipped in with 12 points apiece but there is a lot of weight resting on vets Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet. Unfortunately, this weight showed yesterday as VanVleet sat out with a strained right hamstring and it is unspecified when he will return.
In a glimmer of hope, the Raptors got long-range specialist Matt Thomas back on Tuesday and he tallied eight points and six rebounds in 15 minutes on court. The undrafted rookie was the first off the Raptor’s bench and, after horribly missing his first shot, went 2-for-6 by the end of the play.
The six held it down in the first half, holding four-time NBA All-Star Damion Lillard to just two points and shooting at will on the Blazers. But the energy flipped just inside the second half as the Blazers used the ejection of teammate Kent Bazemore for arguing as a catalyst to their fiery comeback.
Portland went on to outscore Toronto 32-21 in a final quarter defined by Carmelo and Lillard. The 10-time All-Star dropped 10 points as Lillard hit 11, along with three assists, and the Blazers slashed their deficit to just four points.
From then on it was a tug-of-war, the Raptors stretched the lead out again as Portland pushed back in the final two minutes. Lillard splashed a three with 37 seconds draining away to tie the game as the Toronto crowd quietened down.
A bad pass handed the Blazers possession at 99-99 only for Anthony to receive the ball and hit the game-winning jumper.
Portland improves their record to 16-22 as the Raptors slip to 24-13, but the question on fans minds is what about Carmelo’s resurgence?