Carmelo Anthony defending Steven Adams down the stretch in big moments? Who saw that coming?

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Trail Blazers' comeback win aided by Carmelo Anthony defending Pelicans' centers originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest

Carmelo Anthony has obviously been a very productive player through his 18 seasons in the NBA. Hall-of-Fame productive,

At either forward spot.

But at this stage of his basketball life, the 36-year-old veteran is finding success off the bench as a small-ball center.

Well, at least on defense. Who saw that coming? On offense, the league is no longer defined by positions, as teams move to playing all sorts of hybrid big and small lineups, often daring teams to match up with them.

During Portland’s thrilling comeback against New Orleans Tuesday night, when the Trail Blazers erased a 17-point deficit inside of the final six minutes, Anthony found himself defending rugged 6-11, 265-pound Pelicans center Steven Adams.

And that’s where experience comes in.

“Well, it comes down to how savvy you are out there on the court,” Anthony said Wednesday after practice. “Your IQ on the court. Your energy and effort, right?

“Just being smart, knowing the team that you're going up against. Knowing the guys you're going up against. Really paying attention to details.

“Knowing the difference between Stephen Adams, who is a stronger guy, not a fast roller -- but you can't let them get behind the defense. He's a great offensive rebounder. He's strong, as opposed to somebody like Jaxson Hayes, who's a quick roller on the pick and roll and gets behind the defense. He's a lob threat.

“So those are two different aspects of the individuals that you really have to pay attention to -- and that just kind of comes down to details, knowing your personnel. Knowing what you can do and knowing what you can't do. And just giving the effort.

“I know Steven Adams is way stronger than me, way bigger than me, so you know I just tried to do my best and as far as playing center, today there's no positions – it’s like positionless basketball today. It's just go out there and make plays and do what you're doing and try to win the basketball game.”

Coach Terry Stotts has found a combination he likes, using Anthony and Robert Covington together – even late in games.

“Well,” Stotts said, “let's put it this way. I'm comfortable with Melo and and RoCo at four or five, and you know the matchups will be dictated by the game.

“When we played in Minnesota, in the first game, you know, we finished with that same lineup. but RoCo was guarding Karl Anthony Towns. So it really kind of depends.

“The primary thing is, RoCo is going to guard probably the toughest matchup between those two guys and then, you know, Melo will figure out the matchups after that.”

It worked Tuesday with Covington defending Zion Williamson and Anthony taking whoever was playing center for the Pels.

“They brought Steven Adams back,” Stotts said. “They had Jaxson Hayes in, and the fact that, as a team, Adams didn't hurt us that much rebounding the ball. They didn't hurt us that much when he was involved in pick and rolls, since we were blitzing. So, we're obviously going to continue to look at that lineup because RoCo and Melo at four or five has been pretty good for us.”