• Observations and analysis from the Portland Trail Blazers’ 115-105 loss to the Golden State Warriors at Moda Center on Saturday night.

    • This outcome, for many reasons, certainly wasn’t hard to see coming. A Blazers victory at home less than 48 hours after they beat the defending champions in Oakland would have been shocking. Golden State came into this contest at a measly .500 over its past eight games, all of which came with Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green in the lineup. The Warriors have faced almost no sustained adversity en route to winning three of the past four Larry O’Brien trophies, and a second consecutive loss to a beatable foe like Portland would have changed that. They knew they needed a win on Saturday to avoid the inevitable pitfalls associated with even further media scrutiny, and delivered accordingly, with Thompson, Curry, and Durant combining for 82 points on just 55 shots. Far more surprising than a Blazers loss was how the home team refused to let down when circumstances of time and score – including Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, by the way – continued suggesting it would do just that. Portland deserves credit for keeping this game competitive until (nearly) the final whistle, and Golden State deserves more for putting together one of its most complete games of the season. The Blazers, make no mistake, need absolutely every win they can get in a Western Conference where 14 teams are fighting for eight playoff spots. But if a veteran team approaching the precipice of roster turnover can glean moral victories from a loss, this game might exist as the rare example.

     

    • Lillard finished with 40 points and five assists on 14-of-23 from the field, 6-of-13 from beyond the arc, and 6-of-7 at the free-throw line – impressive numbers, to be sure, but not necessarily the eye-popping type that come in what could be his best performance of the season. He was brilliant on Saturday night, for the most part rendering Thompson’s dogged individual defense moot with contested 3-pointers, step-back jumpers, and acrobatic finishes in traffic. Even more impressive than Lillard’s scoring exploits, though, was how he took advantage of Golden State’s pressure by getting his teammates open looks. He found Jusuf Nurkic on the roll with pinpoint bounce passes again and again after the Warriors trapped him high up the floor, and routinely hit Moe Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu with slick dump-offs down low following dribble penetration. Lillard made Curry work for his points, too, chasing him off the arc and maintaining active hands to prevent backdoor opportunities when top-blocking. In a game featuring two MVPs, a legitimate two-way star, and one of the most versatile impact defenders in league history, Lillard stood a tier above. Nurkic, unfortunately, was the only other player for Portland who played well offensively. He was decisive and aggressive as a post scorer, making his moves with equal parts quickness and power, while also properly sussing out the floor when double-teams came from the baseline. He also had multiple dunks, including a right-handed hammer that came after a spin on the block. Nurkic was the biggest reason Golden State shot below 50 percent from the restricted area, too, keeping his head on a swivel and moving on the flight of the ball as the last line of defense in the halfcourt. Terry Stotts and company must be asking themselves why they can’t get Nurkic to play with the same level of confidence, engagement, and physicality he brings to the table against the Warriors on a nightly basis. Matchups have something to do with that, obviously, but attitude does, too. Golden State can be brash and arrogant, and Nurkic always relishes the opportunity to return the favor.

     

    • Aminu and Harkless both acquitted themselves well at times during Saturday’s game. The latter, especially, regularly found a way to get behind the Warriors’ defense, knifing in from the perimeter to provide Lillard and C.J. McCollum with a nearby release valve when they drew extra help through penetration. Harkless also made a few splash plays on both ends of the floor that showed off his combination of length, speed, and quick-twitch athleticism. Any concerns that complications gleaned from summer knee surgery would bleed into the meat of the 2018-19 season are over. Still, it was hard to watch this game and come away with any other conclusion that both Harkless and Aminu were closer to liabilities against Golden State than workable assets. Neither player was paid real attention when stationed beyond the arc away from the ball, allowing the Warriors to clog driving and passing lanes, and it’s not like they made up for that rippling deficiency by eating up court space off the dribble. Six three-point attempts, one make, and four trips to the line just isn’t enough production from a pair of starting wings against a great team, even if it’s supplemented by solid individual and team defense. Is that necessarily the fault of Harkless and Aminu? Not really. The deficiencies in their games that Golden State exploited are hardly new; the entire league knows who these guys are by now. But the fact remains that Portland needs to be at or near its best to beat the Warriors, and neither Harkless nor Aminu got there on Saturday night.

     

    • Blazers not named Lillard and Nurkic: 44 points, 17-of-54 FGs, 3-of-18 3PTs, six assists. Needless to say, that’s just not close to enough from a team’s supporting cast, especially considering C.J. McCollum’s line is included in that total. Not a single bench player made his mark against Golden State, either. Zach Collins, clearly bothered by the Warriors’ activity in the paint, went scoreless on three shots and grabbed one rebound in six minutes of play. Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard each registered a -17 plus-minus. Seth Curry hit one triple, but was picked on defensively and didn’t contribute any additional statistic to the box score other than a foul while his brother was shooting a three. Portland, almost solely due to the efforts of Lillard and Nurkic, had a puncher’s chance to win this game. All it might have taken for the Blazers to come away victorious was one or two more players making a sustained positive impact. Shame.

     

    • The officiating was notable for all the wrong reasons in this game. Charge-block calls, including two involving Green, were prompted by an inconsistent whistle all night long. In a game featuring world-class shot-makers on both sides, it often seemed like shooters weren’t being given benefit of the doubt – until they suddenly and randomly were. Andre Iguodala was ejected for tossing the ball high above the basket, into the stands, seconds after the halftime whistle. Nurkic was assessed a technical for briefly standing over Green, and the latter received his own technical for complaining to the officials only after he was given a combined minutes worth of prior leeway. Even Lillard and Stotts got in on the act late, both being called for technical fouls after an iffy call late in the game.

     

Fantasy News

  • Lonzo Ball
    PG, New Orleans Pelicans

    According to Andrew Lopez, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram have been full participants in voluntary team workouts.

    It's great news for the two former number two picks as they enter their age-22 seasons with a fresh start. Neither Ball nor Ingram has played in 60 games in either of the past two seasons due to injuries. Ingram has never cracked the top 110/170 (8-cat/9-cat), but he could easily beat that in New Orleans with a quick tempo and new role. Ball had a top 60/85 finish in his rookie season, so there's definitely upside here. Lonzo does have a very wide range of possible outcomes, so draft him only if you're feeling risky.

    Source: Andrew Lopez on Twitter

  • Yante Maten
    PF, Miami Heat

    The Celtics are signing F Yante Maten to an Exhibit 10 contract on Tuesday.

    Maten had a strong season with the Skyforce in the G-League last year averaging 23.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. He was also productive in Summer League action with the Heat this summer.

    Source: Adam Himmelsbach on Twitter

  • Paul Millsap
    PF, Denver Nuggets

    Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are all candidates for "load management" next season, according to Nick Kosmider of The Athletic

    This is pure speculation by Kosmider, but this does hold some weight after the Nuggets' playoff run last season and the league-wide popularity of resting players. Millsap would seem to be at the most significant risk to get rested due to his age and quality of depth behind him. Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee would be the biggest beneficiaries should Jokic or Millsap miss time.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Thabo Sefolosha
    SF, Utah Jazz

    Thabo Sefolosha is among the attendees at Rockets minicamp in Las Vegas with a host of other notable free agents this week.

    Sefolosha will be joined by the likes of Nick Young, Luc Mbah a Moute, Raymond Felton, Terrence Jones and Corey Brewer. The odds of someone making the Rockets' roster increased with Iman Shumpert declining an offer sheet from the team.

    Source: Kelly Iko on Twitter

  • Iman Shumpert
    SG, Free Agent

    Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, Iman Shumpert has decided to decline the contract offer from the Rockets and will not attend team minicamp in Las Vegas this week.

    It'll be back to the drawing board for Shumpert. It's unsure exactly where he'll end up now, or if he and the Rockets will come to a new agreement in the future. Shump can get steals and threes, but otherwise isn't much of a fantasy asset, unless he finds himself in an ideal situation.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Anthony Davis
    PF, Los Angeles Lakers

    After an extraordinary summer of 2019, which saw a cavalcade of stars change teams, executives around the league expect that this year’s transaction wires will be dominated by the trade market.

    “We’ve been getting calls all summer,” one general manager said. “I think if you look at the market, there is going to be a very robust trade market this winter for a few reasons.” The big driver figures to be the open, empty crater that the 2020 free-agent class has become. Teams hoping to make significant changes in their direction won’t have free agency to lean on and trades will be the only way to go. If you enjoyed the twist and turns that came with the very busy NBA free-agency period this summer, then buckle up as the trade market means more could be on the way this season.

    Source: Sean Deveney on Twitter

  • Michael Beasley
    PF, Free Agent

    The Shanxi Loongs of the Chinese Basketball Association are trying to bring Michael Beasley back to China.

    Beasley agreed to terms with the Pistons last month but he never officially signed with them as the team opted to go with Joe Johnson instead. Beasley has already played in China with Shanghai, Shandong and last year with Guangdong averaging 22.4 points, 9.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists.

    Source: Sportando

  • Justin Simon
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    Former St. John’s guard Justin Simon has signed an Exhibit-10 contract with the Bulls.

    Simon is 6’5” and went undrafted out of St. John’s, where he averaged 10.4 points and 5.1 rebounds last season, while also being named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year. The Bulls currently have 14 players on guaranteed contracts with guard Shaquille Harrison all but locked in to the 15th and final one, so that means Simon is likely headed to the Windy City Bulls of the G League.

    Source: Adam Zagora on Twitter

  • Mychal Mulder
    PG, Miami Heat

    The Heat have announced the signing of guard Mychal Mulder.

    Mulder played last season with the Windy City Bulls of the G-League and averaged 8.8 points in Summer League this year. He has good range but is unlikely to contribute much at the NBA level in 2019-20.

    Source: Miami Heat

  • Vincent Poirier
    C, Boston Celtics

    Nicolas Batum praised the play of Celtics center Vincent Poirier at the FIBA World Cup.

    According to Batum, Poirier "is a center that can block shots and control the paint." A native of France, Poirier has performed well over six seasons in Europe. Nevertheless, he should only be a depth option for the Celtics with Enes Kanter starting.

    Source: NBC Sports Boston