Anthony Tolliver leads Portland Trail Blazers to win over Charlotte Hornets with big fourth quarter
By Jamie Goldberg | The Oregonian/OregonLive
Portland Trail Blazers forward Anthony Tolliver has bounced around the NBA over the last 12 seasons, making 695 career appearances while competing for nine different teams. While he has rarely started during his career, the 34-year-old has carved out a nice role for himself within the league with his solid defense, accurate long-range shooting and consistency off the bench.
But Tolliver has struggled to find that consistency in Portland this season.
Over his first 30 appearances for the Blazers, Tolliver averaged just 3.4 points per game as he shot a disappointing 32 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from three-point range, well below his career averages in both categories.
But as the shooting woes continued over the first half of the season, Tolliver never lost confidence. After every game, he told himself the same thing: It will come. And with the game on the line Monday night, Tolliver finally found his scoring touch. The backup forward scored 16 points in the fourth quarter, matching his career high for points in a quarter, to lead the Blazers (17-24) to a hard-fought 115-112 win over the Charlotte Hornets at the Moda Center.
“It’s about persistence,” Tolliver said. “That’s who I am. That’s what’s allowed me to play in the league as long as I have, just being able to stay with it, no matter what the circumstances are, trusting in my work, trusting in my backbone, and just being able to go out there and play with a lot of confidence, no matter if I’m 0-for-5 or 5-for-5.”
Even as he struggled through one of the worst shooting stretches of his career this season, Tolliver never considered making significant changes to his routine or technique. He continued to put in the time after practice and in shootaround to work on his shot, believing that the repetition would at some point translate into better performances on the court.
Tolliver couldn’t have picked a better time to finally find his groove.
The Blazers had lost eight of their last 10 games and were riding a four-game losing streak at home heading into Monday’s game against the Hornets. Charlotte had lost 10 of its last 12 games and was playing its second game of a back-to-back, but the Hornets didn’t make things easy for the Blazers.
Both teams traded three-pointers all night — combining for 34 three-pointers in the game. The Blazers held just a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
That’s when Tolliver took over the game. He went 7 for 8 from the field and 2 for 3 from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter to prevent the Hornets from completely a comeback. Along with his 16 points in the game, Tolliver also snagged 11 rebounds.
“I told him in the locker room, ‘We don’t give out game balls, but if we did, (you) would get it,’” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.
With 2:11 left in the game and the score tied at 109-109, Tolliver received a pass from CJ McCollum at the three point line. He didn’t hesitate. His shot swished through the net as the crowd at the Moda Center went wild. The Blazers never trailed again.
“It was a game we needed — We’re in a situation where we need to win as many games as possible,” Blazers guard Damian Lillard said. “Regardless of how someone’s shooting the ball or the kind of season they’ve had, any time we can get somebody to come up big and contribute to a win, we’ll take it. I think that was A.T. tonight… I think that was his best game of the season. Obviously, a win that we needed and he came through.”
At the halfway mark of the season, the Blazers are seven games under .500 and sit in 10th place in the Western Conference standings. As they try to turn things around in the second half of the year and salvage what has been a highly disappointing season so far, the Blazers will need every player on the roster to make the most of his opportunities.
On Monday, it was Tolliver that stepped up when his team needed him.
“Obviously, we have Dame, CJ, (Carmelo Anthony), who are all tremendous, high-level individual scorers. Most nights, they’re going to be pretty darn good,” Tolliver said. “But it’s really important for role players, other guys to step up here and there, to have a game, to help carry the load in moments when (our top scorers) are not feeling as good or whenever they’re getting double-teamed and getting the ball out of their hands. That’s what we’re here for, to try to capitalize on those situations.”
— Jamie Goldberg | email@example.com | @jamiebgoldberg