PORTLAND, OREGON (AP) — With All-Star guard Damian Lillard nursing a groin strain, the Portland Trail Blazers got big games from CJ McCollum and Carmelo Anthony.
McCollum had 41 points, a career-high 12 assists and nine rebounds, Anthony scored a season-high 32 points and the Portland Trail Blazers rallied to beat the Detroit Pistons 107-104 on Sunday night.
“He led us tonight,” Anthony said of McCollum. “He came up big when we needed it, made the right plays, the shot was falling. He put us on his back tonight.”
It was the first time Anthony scored over 30 points since February 25, 2017, when he was with the New York Knicks. He made a jumper with Portland protecting a two-point lead with 21 seconds left.
Anthony remained focussed on the playoff fight his Blazers are in. With Portland four back in the loss column of eighth-place Memphis, Anthony knew it was up to he and McCollum to make sure the Blazers didn’t take a costly loss to the lowly Pistons.
“We don’t have a choice,” Anthony said. “We’ve got to go out there and do what we do to win games or put ourselves in position to win a basketball game. At the end of the day it’s going to come down to us too and saying this is what we got to do. This is the last quarter of the season and we in a dog fight trying to get that spot.”
Of the 27 points Portland scored in the fourth quarter, 21 came from Anthony and McCollum, who worked well together down the stretch.
“I’m very comfortable with that. I like low pick-and-rolls, side pick-and-rolls. Melo is good in isolation, he likes 15-foot jumpers,” McCollum said. “I know if I can turn the corner, then his man is going to be more hesitant to help. So it’s either I’m going to be finishing and he’s going to have opportunities to score. I think we played pretty well together and figure out ways to put the defence at a disadvantage.”
Reserve big man Christian Wood had 26 points and nine rebounds for Detroit. The Pistons’ bench accounted for 70 points.
“He’s growing right before our eyes,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said of Wood. “I love where he is, I love his progression but he’s not a finished product yet. Christian’s got to get stronger. This summer he’s got to get in the weight room and get stronger in his core together so he can take some bumps and hits and still score.”
McCollum scored or assisted on 14 consecutive Portland points in the first quarter and finished with 15 points and five assists in the period. The Blazers led 40-24, with Anthony adding 12 points.
A dunk by Wood gave the Pistons their first lead since their opening run at 45-43 with 5:36 left. Portland bounced back enough to hold a 53-51 lead at halftime after the Pistons outscored the Blazers 27-13 in the quarter.
Anthony continued his strong night in the third quarter, scoring 10 points and hitting a pair of three-pointers but the Pistons would not relent. The Pistons scored 11 straight points in the final few minutes of the period to take a 10-point lead. McCollum scored seven straight points to close the quarter with Portland only down 85-80.
A basket by McCollum put Portland ahead 99-97 with 2:49 left. After Derrick Rose’s layup, another runner from McCollum put Portland up 101-99 with 2:01 remaining. McCollum hit a pair of free throws before a dunk by Wood cut Portland’s lead to 103-101.