Among the many storylines playing out within the NBA this season, the fight for the West’s eighth and final seed may be the most captivating. The Grizzlies, Blazers, Spurs, Suns, Kings, and Pelicans are all in the race and, for right now, nobody can really guarantee how it will end.
But thanks to the play of Damian Lillard, and the return of several key pieces, the Blazers are taking the league by storm. They’ve been the NBA’s best offense and have gone 3-1 since the bubble game began, beating the Grizzlies, Rockets, and Nuggets.
Of course, one cannot discount the performance of Carmelo Anthony, who has been in the middle of a major resurgence since his tenure in Portland began. He has been a key offensive player for the team, averaging 15 points and hitting key shots down the stretch of several important games.
Thursday night was the perfect showcase of his skills. Though he only dropped 7 points he made the dagger three that helped seal the game in their win against Denver.
He’s important to the team and, so much so, that Dame Lillard himself said they would’ve made the Finals had Melo been there the year before.
“He should have been here three years ago. We get on his case about that all the time. I feel like we could have been in the Finals last year if we had him.”
Damian Lillard on Carmelo Anthony: “He should have been here three years ago. We get on his case about that all the time. I feel like we could have been in the Finals last year if we had him.”
— Sean Highkin (@highkin) August 7, 2020
Bear in mind that the Blazers got all the way to the third round in the West before getting swept by the Warriors, who had Curry, Klay, and Draymond.
While Melo has undoubtedly made a positive impact on the Trail Blazers, it might be a stretch to say they could’ve beaten the Warriors, especially considering Nurkic was already out with injury at the time.
But there’s still hope for better results this season and you can bet Dame and his team will be looking to prove they are better than their record indicates. We’ll see how they fare soon enough.