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Carmelo Anthony helps Trail Blazers roll over Knicks

Knicks forward RJ Barrett, left, greets Portland Trail

Knicks forward RJ Barrett, left, greets Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony before an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019.  Credit: AP/Steve Dykes

PORTLAND, Ore. — If a New Yorker stayed up late enough to watch, then Carmelo Anthony had his moments for the Trail Blazers that he wanted to show back home, heating up late in the night, giving the three to the dome to the delight of the Moda Center crowd and leaving to a polite ovation with 8:09 left and a 30-point lead.

But Anthony, who finished with 16 points and was 5-for-13 from the field, had nothing to prove on this night, already content with his return to the NBA and at peace with his departure from the Knicks. So he was happy to be a part of a 115-87 win over the Knicks and maybe a little happiness that he isn’t a part of the current Knicks struggles. 

The loss was the 10th straight for the Knicks, dropping them to 4-20 on the season. And after a solid effort following a coaching change and a players-only meeting that at least resulted in a close loss, this was an embarrassment almost from the start and not at the hands of an elite team like the Bucks or Nuggets, but to a 10-15 Blazers squad.

The problem for the Knicks on this night was really Damian Lillard, who had 17 points in the first quarter and 31 in 29 minutes. And their own struggles as they shot just 7-for-38 from beyond the arc. RJ Barrett was 1-for-9 overall, the worst of a bad team effort.

Marcus Morris is just five years younger than Anthony, but he grew up wanting to emulate him, modeling his game on the high-scoring Anthony’s style. And now, as he was preparing to face Anthony Tuesday, he strongly supported Anthony’s return to the NBA.

Anthony has been back in the NBA for less than a month after sitting out for a year after being put out of action by the Houston Rockets last season and waiting for some team to come calling for his services. But he already has won a Western Conference Player of the Week award and settled into the starting lineup for the Trail Blazers.

“Yeah, no doubt about it,” Morris said. “That’s not disrespecting nobody, but there’s guys in this league that can’t really tie Melo’s shoes — now. So for sure, he should have been in the league. But it always comes full circle and he’s a real one. I always say the real never lose, so he’s back and he’s doing what he did.

“I don’t like to talk about the past. He’s here now. He’s doing his thing. Obviously, I was one of the guys rooting for him. I thought he should have been on the USA team, but it is what it is. He’s back now. I’m happy for him. He’s going to continue to be Melo and it’s good for the league.”

Anthony joined Portland after the Trail Blazers saw their roster beaten down by injuries — already without Jusef Nurkic and then seeing Zach Collins sidelined for the rest of the year. The Knicks had Anthony playing with some of their current roster before the season began, but they passed on a chance to bring him back to the city he was still calling home. 

Now they were facing him for the first time since he came back and third time since he was traded away to Oklahoma City just before the start of the 2017-18 season.

Anthony said earlier this week that he still watches the Knicks and was unhappy to see David Fizdale gone as head coach, struggling to understand what the team has done, trading away Kristaps Porzingis and falling to 4-19 with a nine-game losing streak entering their meeting Tuesday. But he still was excited to face them.

“It’s a big deal from the standpoint of I know everybody in New York will be watching, even though it’s a late game,” Anthony said. “Family, friends. It’s always that special moment anyway. Just people to see me back playing against the Knicks. A special, special game? It’s another game on our schedule that we’re trying to win, that we got to win, but it’s somewhat special from a standpoint of friends and family getting an opportunity to see me play.”

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