• (Editor’s Note: The Layup Line is a part of our Premium Membership package, and a great way to get a quick breakdown of the upcoming night’s action. Because there’s only one game on tonight we’re offering this edition up as a free read. If you’d like to see more, Premium subscribers will get a fresh Layup Line every afternoon to help get them set for the NBA slate.)

    It’s Thursday Night and that means there’s going to be some quality, nationally televised PLAYOFF basketball being played in between wondering if Reggie Miller, Chris Webber, Mark Jackson, and Jeff Van Gundy are really the best options we have to listen to at this point in the season. Only one feature game tonight and it’s all knotted up at two a piece so let’s get after it.

    Golden State Warriors @ Houston Rockets

    When the Warriors throttled the Rockets in the second half of Game 1 in Houston, much of the thought was that the defending champs were back in a big way and their appearance in yet another NBA Finals was a foregone conclusion. Houston responded by taking the Dubs to the woodshed in Game 2. Still, there remained this feeling that the Warriors would just need five instead of four to move on. Game 3 in Oracle only added to that conventional wisdom as the Warriors did what they do best and destroyed the Rockets on their home court. Houston responded yet again by beating the Warriors on their home court for the first time in the playoffs and did so in an ugly, grind-it-out type of game. The best of seven has become a best of three and Golden State’s coronation is no longer the certainty it once was at the start of the series.

    Should We Jump Off The Tallest Building In The World? Should We Lie Down On The Lawn and Let Them Run Us Over With Lawnmowers?

    Since there’s only one game tonight, I’ll just run through a number of random thoughts I’m having about for each team.

    The Warriors need to put Game 4 behind them real quick, but they need to do a much better job preparing for Game 5. That could mean digging deep and getting themselves back to mentally being the Ultimate Warriors we’ve come to know. But mostly, it just means getting back to some of the basics. More ball movement, better shot selection and getting to the rim. Their offense looked as bad and as out of sorts in Game 4 as it had at any point during the current Warrior era. Some of that is just teams reaching the point where they become battle weary, but they need to remember what got them there in the first place and it wasn’t because of those kinds of slugfests.

    The Warriors had 14 team assists, again, that won’t cut it. It won’t for the Rockets either who had only 12. The reason the Warriors offense is so dominant is that they have a knack for always finding the open man whether at the rim or from deep. Did I mention that they need to get back to that?

    Andre Iguodala’s injury has exposed the Warriors bench. Kevon Looney played 25 largely ineffective minutes. Shaun Livington was one viral play on Harden away from being mostly irrelevant this series. Jordan Bell has looked like a rookie that has missed significant time. Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee haven’t seen the floor much to match up against the smaller and faster-paced Rockets. Which means that their primary bench scoring is mostly in the hands of (gulp) Swaggy P.

    Still the Warriors aren’t going to keep shooting below 40% which means that it might have just been a collective bad night that was exacerbated by how extra handsy the Rockets were in Game 4.

    I feel like Draymond should wear Rec Specs to add to his tenacity, awkward looking shot, and overall persona. Just go full Horace Grant with it.

    I don’t know how badly Klay Thompson is hurt, but the whole reason why the Warriors looked the WARRIORS again was that Thompson was shooting more and making the Spurs and Pelicans pay for leaving him open. He’s disappeared, as Curry and Durant seem to have had a monopoly on the basketball.

    And we still have yet to see one of THOSE games from Steph where everything he throws up is going in. You know, the heat check Steph that is the most exciting player in the game. Durant has been carrying the offensive load and in Game 4 he was trying to do it all and it wasn’t working.

    DeAndre Hopkins Approves

    That CP3 corner to corner pass to Ariza that helped put the dagger in the Warriors in Game 4 was magical. Just Point Godding at its best. If Deshaun Watson isn’t 100% by the time the NFL season starts, perhaps the Texans give Chris Paul the starting QB job.

    I’m surprised Ryan Anderson hasn’t been on the floor more in this series. He may not be 100%, but the Rockets also need some scoring options beyond Eric Gordon when the world starts to collapse on James Harden.

    Same thing with Luc Mbah a Moute. Isn’t this series what you got him for? To chase the Warriors around on D and steal and easy bucket or two? He averaged 25 minutes on the season and he’s a DNP in Game 4? How much is his shoulder still bothering him? I know the Warriors bench is thin without Iggy, but the Rockets have whittled down to a seven-man rotation and I hope that Beard & Co. don’t get completely gassed.

    Eric Gordon put in some clutch shots and free throws and still hasn’t shot the ball well outside of Game 2. Clint Capela hasn’t had a big scoring outburst either. One of the two of them is due for a game that could swing the series entirely in the Rockets’ favor.

    People worrying about James Harden being shook by Shaun Livingston or by not taking that three just don’t realize he looks that way all the time. Harden will win the damn MVP of the league or end Draymond’s life on a dunk and still look like he’s sitting through a lecture on accounting for paint drying companies. It’s uncanny.

    It’s just nice to have close basketball games again even if it was more plodder than pinball machine. I don’t want to be greedy, but, ah screw it, I hope we get a series decider that winds up as one of those 131-130 games that we all know that both teams are capable of and expected when this series first began. There’s no guarantee that the Finals will match the firepower of this series so the next three games might be the last chance we have at a true barrage of star power and firepower. Appease me basketball Gods!

Fantasy News

  • Trevon Bluiett
    PF, Utah Jazz

    Trevon Bluiett and Juwan Morgan sign with the Jazz in the hopes of one day playing in an NBA game.

    Bluiett was on a two-way contract with the Pelicans last season while Juwan Morgan played for the Jazz in the 2019 Summer League. They will both compete for a roster spot in training camp but neither is a guarantee to make the final roster. They both have yet to see the court in an NBA game and can be ignored from a fantasy perspective until that day comes.

    Source: Tony Jones on Twitter

  • Zach Collins
    C, Portland Trail Blazers

    Zach Collins (ankle) began daily contact workouts on Monday and is on pace to head into training camp fully healthy.

    Collins is heading into what could be a breakout season as he is likely to start at the power forward position. In the 2019 playoffs, the Gonzaga product blocked a shot in 11 of the 16 games including three games in which he blocked three, four and five respectively. Collins has averaged around 33% from distance throughout his career which is exactly what he shot in the postseason (7-21). If he is able to improve from long range and plays starters minutes, Collins is a can't-miss player. It's far from a guarantee though as the 21-year-old has never finished with standard-league value. It does seem like Collins will be ready for training camp barring a major setback.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Cory Joseph
    PG, Sacramento Kings

    Nick Nurse said that reports of Cory Joseph missing the FIBA World Cup are “incorrect”.

    Nurse added that he spoke to Joseph on Wednesday and that the guard has his flights booked to China. Joseph was in Canada’s camp at home earlier this month, but did not make the trip to Australia and has missed the past four exhibition games. The situation has become a little bit murky but Canada Basketball keeps holding out hope that Joseph will rejoin the team before they depart for China, which doesn’t happen until Monday.

    Source: John Casey on Twitter

  • Tyronn Lue
    PG, Los Angeles Clippers

    Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting former Cavs championship-winning coach Tyronn Lue has agreed to join the Clippers as their top assistant coach to Doc Rivers.

    The Lakers and Clippers rivalry continues to heat up. Lue was very close to a deal with the Lakers in May to become their head coach, but the sides couldn’t reach an agreement. Lue now joins Kawhi Leonard as another person to spurn the Lakers this offseason.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • PJ Tucker
    SF, Houston Rockets

    P.J. Tucker says he is optimistic about signing a contract extension soon.

    The 34-year-old 3-and-D wing hopes to extend his deal with the Rockets, but a potential extension wouldn't begin until his age-36 season. Houston has him under contract for two more seasons at this point, so they may not be motivated enough to get something done this offseason. However, a maximum Tucker extension would only have him in the $10 million per year range. Even as a 37-year-old, that could be a great deal if he can keep up his current production. Tucker remains a sneaky source of threes and steals late in fantasy drafts or off the wire.

    Source: Kurt Helin on Twitter

  • Jaylen Adams
    PG, Milwaukee Bucks

    The Bucks officially announced the signings of guards Jaylen Adams and Rayjon Tucker on Tuesday.

    Adams and Tucker have their work cut out for them in their bid to claim a roster with the big club, as the Bucks have a reasonably deep guard rotation. Adams and Tucker are more than likely competing to get playing time in the G-League this season and can be ignored in fantasy.

    Source: NBA

  • Jeff Ledbetter
    G, San Antonio Spurs

    The Spurs have offered summer league guard Jeff Ledbetter an Exhibit 10 deal, but he is still mulling over his options which include playing in Europe.

    Ledbetter had a productive summer league and now finds himself with a chance to play for the Austin Spurs of the G-League. Ledbetter is sure to be staring at a bigger payday in Europe, so his choice will be an interesting one. We should have a decision soon.

    Source: Nicola Lupo on Twitter

  • Eric Mika
    C, Sacramento Kings

    The Kings announced on Tuesday that they signed summer league standout C Eric Mika to an exhibit 10 contract.

    The former BYU big man is now set up to play for the Stockton Kings of the G-League. The Kings have a deep big man rotation, and it's unlikely that we'll see much, if any, of Mika on the roster this season.

    Source: Sean Cunningham on Twitter

  • JA Morant
    PG, Memphis Grizzlies

    Ja Morant (right knee) said that he is completely healed from the minor knee surgery earlier this summer, saying he is "100 percent right now."

    Morant will look to get back into the swing of things in the coming weeks as he prepares for his rookie season. Morant has the talent and the role on rebuilding team and is undoubtedly going to cost a pretty penny in fantasy drafts.

    Source: Peter Edmiston on Twitter

  • Derrick Alston
    Team, New York Knicks

    The Westchester Knicks have named Derrick Alston as the new head coach, replacing Mike Miller who was promoted to join David Fizdale’s staff.

    Alston, a former NBA player, has been an assistant for Westchester for four years. Before that, Alston was a player development coach with the Rockets. This will be Alston’s first head coaching gig as he continues to move up the ladder.

    Source: Ian Begley on Twitter