The Portland Trail Blazers made it clear from the get-go in Tuesday night’s road matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans that they were going to factor Carmelo Anthony heavily into the offense right out of the gate. Each of the first three possessions of the game attempted to get the ball in the veteran forward’s hands. A pass in Anthony’s direction was stolen on Portland’s first possession, and Anthony missed a 20-foot jumper in the team’s second trip into the frontcourt.
But on the Trail Blazers’ third possession, trailing 4-0 in New Orleans, Carmelo Anthony received a pass from C.J. McCollum that he sunk for a three-pointer. The three points were Anthony’s first NBA points in 376 days. Unfortunately for Portland, that three-pointer turned out to be one of the only highlights of the night for the 35-year-old. Here’s a look at Carmelo Anthony’s first night back in action since his failed run with the Houston Rockets last season.
Carmelo Anthony had an unspectacular debut
Anthony wore the No. 15 with the Denver Nuggets and the No. 7 in his time with the New York Knicks. He chose the number 00 for his new stint in Portland. His new number zero corresponded with the number of free throw attempts, offensive rebounds, assists, and steals he had in his Trail Blazers debut.
Carmelo Anthony was 2-for-3 from three-point range, adding a second three-pointer on the night when the Trail Blazers were trailing the Pelicans 99-83 midway through the fourth quarter. Anthony was a disappointing 2-for-11 from the floor on two-point field goal attempts.
The 35-year-old finished the night with 10 points, four defensive rebounds, one block, and five turnovers.
One stat from the game stuck out as particularly ugly
But the biggest issue with Carmelo Anthony’s debut was his point differential when on the court. Brandon Ingram’s +16 point differential was the best of any player on either team in the Pelicans’ 115-104 victory over the Trail Blazers. All nine of the players that saw action for New Orleans ended up with a positive point differential.
Two of Portland’s bench players, Gary Trent Jr. (+4) and Nassir Little (+9) managed to record positive point differential scores in the loss. Everyone else on the floor finished with a negative point differential, as you’d expect in a loss. But only two players had a double-digit negative. One was Kent Bazemore, who scored 11 points off of the bench but went -10 when he was on the court.
The other was Carmelo Anthony, who recorded a staggering -20 in just 24 minutes of play. When Anthony was the team’s primary defender on a possession, New Orleans went 4-for-8 from the field with three successful shots from three-point range. The bigger issue was Anthony’s misses in the offensive zone that led to possessions for the Pelicans.
Not much time to shake off the rust
You can’t be too critical of Carmelo Anthony, who was playing in his first NBA game in over a year, without the best player on his new team as Damian Lillard was out with back spasms.
But the reality is that the Trail Blazers really don’t have a whole lot of time for Anthony to shake off the rust. At 5-10, they’ve already fallen well behind the pack in an extremely deep Western Conference. Obviously, there’s still a long way to go in the regular season, but the schedule isn’t going to get any easier. Portland needs to start turning things around in a hurry if it hopes to be a contender this season.