The Carmelo Anthony redemption tour began in earnest on Monday when the veteran forward dropped 25 points in a throwback performance against the Chicago Bulls. Given his performance in his first three games with the Portland Trail Blazers, though, you could be forgiven for thinking of the game as a fluke. He shot 34.1 percent from the field in those outings, all losses marred by the poor defense he has long held a reputation for. One great game isn’t enough to erase a meaningful sample of decline. And then, Wednesday happened.
Anthony arrived in Portland for his first game at the Moda Center in a Blazers uniform, and he put on an absolute show for his home fans. Carmelo scored 19 points in a blowout Blazers win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, but more importantly, he shot 9-of-11 from the field. That mark, just a shade below 82 percent from the field, was the most accurate shooting performance of his career. At times, Anthony channeled his old self.
But as the game unfolded, Anthony’s physical revitalization was also on display.
The shooting and scoring numbers were nice, but more importantly, the Blazers are starting to learn how to play with Anthony. In his first game with his new team, Portland was outscored by 20 points when he was on the floor. His plus-minus has since improved with every game. Tonight, Portland outscored Oklahoma City by 27 points with Carmelo on the floor. He is plus-46 in his last two outings.
None of this is to say that Anthony is perfect. He’ll never be an elite defender, and even tonight, he didn’t make a single 3-pointer, which is theoretically his most important function on this offense when Portland is at full strength.
But Carmelo vowed that there were not 400 better basketball players on Earth than him and that he deserved at least a spot on someone’s roster. The NBA doubted that for over a year. It’s getting harder and harder to do so now.