• Observations and analysis from the Portland Trail Blazers’ 129-95 win over the Philadelphia 76ers at Moda Center on Sunday night…

    • This one was over before halftime, and C.J. McCollum was the biggest reason why. The Blazers star guard freed himself from the shackles of season-long shooting woes to score 35 points on 13-of-18 from the field. He also shot 4-of-7 from beyond the arc and made all five of his free-throw attempts. If this game was competitive going into the fourth quarter, all indications were that McCollum would have continued pouring it on, perhaps netting the second 50-point game of his career. As is, most of his damage was done in the game’s first 24 minutes, when he scored 26 points courtesy of a dizzying array off-dribble jumpers and herky-jerky drives to the paint. McCollum, as Portland fans know all too well, hasn’t been himself in 2018-19, and his team won’t get where it needs to go to avoid major roster changes unless he plays like the efficient bucket-getter he is. Might this game be a sign of things to come for the season’s remainder? At the very least, it will serve as a confidence boost McCollum can recall when circumstances deem doing so necessary. He hasn’t played with this much confidence in weeks. Here’s hoping his shot continues to fall.

    • Nearly as impactful as McCollum’s breakout game was the absence of Joel Embiid. The Sixers rested their superstar big man to allow him extra recovery time from a sore left knee. Obviously, it’s incumbent on Philadelphia to monitor the health of Embiid with something close to extreme caution. That he played in 35 of the his team’s 36 games of this season, only sitting out to rest, makes it easy to forget that there was once a legitimate question of whether he’d ever be able to suit up in the NBA at all. It makes sense that the Sixers would struggle sans Embiid; he has a darkhorse case for MVP despite going cold from beyond the arc, sporting a +13.3 net rating, best on the team by a mile. Still, it was jarring to watch Portland blow the doors off Philadelphia with players the caliber of Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler on the floor. The latter missed his first seven shots, failing to score until late in the second quarter. It’s defensively, though, where the Sixers probably missed Embiid most. On multiple occasions, Jusuf Nurkic, who was strong on both ends for the third consecutive game with 14 points, seven rebounds, and three assists, simply used his laughably superior size and length to score over the top of overmatched defenders. Evan Turner was a force on the block, too, easily exploiting mismatches of his own without having to worry about one of the league’s premier rim-protectors affecting his shot. Embiid is Philadelphia’s best player, and it’s probably not particularly close anymore. But this team, obviously, is still far better without him than how it played against the Blazers on Sunday night.

     

    • Zach Collins‘ numbers weren’t all that impressive, especially considering he didn’t sit for the entirety of the fourth quarter along with his fellow rotation players, instead racking up extended garbage minutes alongside Portland’s seldom-used young players. Regardless, he gave multiple glimpses of the feel and nuanced skill level that portend good things for the future irrespective of whether he ultimately reaches his ceiling. Collins found Turner, checked by the six-foot T.J. McConnell after switches, in the post for layups on three different occasions early. The first assist came from the wing, with the ball perfectly placed in Turner’s extended left hand as he fended off McConnell with his right, leading him directly to the basket. The second was even more impressive, as Collins caught on the left block, faced up, and tossed a soft lob over the top of McConnell to Turner right in front of the rim. The plays looked routine, and for the most part they were, but there are only so many bigs in the league capable of easily taking advantage of a mismatch down low with such deft entry passing. Collins might not ever develop into the all-court impact player Portland thinks he has a chance to be, but for reasons like this one and many others, he’ll always have a place in good team’s rotation.

    • Just like they did against Draymond Green, the Blazers began the game by giving Amir Johnson, Embiid’s replacement, a country mile of space when he caught the ball on the perimeter. The veteran responded on Philadelphia’s first possession by facing the basket, looking for cutters, waiting another beat, then draining a 20-footer. Moments later, he further weaponized Portland’s sagging defense to his team’s benefit by initiating quick dribble hand-offs, a staple of Brett Brown’s offense, with J.J. Redick, who swished a deep two and wing triple completely unencumbered by the defense. Clearly, this gambit didn’t come back to bite the Blazers in a big way on Sunday, and wasn’t overly costly in either of prior two games versus the Golden State Warriors. There are rippling benefits to leaving a non-shooter alone on the perimeter, with the player in question’s man playing center field close to the rim, putting out fires all over the court. But the more defenses employ that strategy, the more offenses will be ready to counter it with hand-offs and other actions that mitigate its effects. Keep an eye on this, both offensively and defensively for Portland, as the season continues – especially in the playoffs, when every player’s greatest weakness is preyed upon by the opposition.

     

    • Some notable non-McCollum numbers from a game with one of the most lopsided final scores the Blazers will be a part of all season: Portland shot 59.0 percent from the field and 54.5 percent from deep, both season-highs. Even more impressive? The Blazers made a staggering 60.7 percent of their two-point attempts, and out-rebounded the Sixers 59-36 – a discrepancy better explained by one team’s ridiculously-hot shooting and the other connecting on just 35.4 percent of its field goal attempts than anything else. Not a single player for Portland notched more than McCollum’s 28 minutes. Seth Curry, getting early run due to McCollum picking up two quick fouls in the first quarter, was a game-high plus-33. Maybe most eye-popping, though, is that Portland managed this offensive onslaught despite committing 21 turnovers, tying a season-high, including eight in the first quarter alone. Just imagine the numbers that might have been put up if Terry Stotts’ team wasn’t so sloppy with the ball.

     

    • Moe Harkless sat out of Sunday’s game to rest his surgically-repaired left knee. Though he’s apparently sore, the team stressed that there’s been no setback in his ongoing recovery from going under the knife. Good thing, too, because the energy and athleticism Harkless, ostensibly approaching pain-free status, has provided over the past two weeks has been a major boon for the Blazers.

Fantasy News

  • Chris Silva
    C, Miami Heat

    Ira Winderman reported on Twitter Friday night that Chris Silva will receive one of the two available two-way contract from the Heat.

    An undrafted free agent and a former SEC co-defensive player of the year is off to a good start to his NBA career. With the Heat's track record of player development, keep him on your deep league watch lists.

    Source: Ira Winderman on Twitter

  • Damyean Dotson
    SG, New York Knicks

    Damyean Dotson made his return to action on Friday from offseason shoulder surgery and logged 10 minutes, contributing three points, one assist, one 3-pointer and one steal.

    Dotson has a lot more competition for minutes in 2019-20 compared to his bright performance as a pick-up streamer in 2018-19. He's also under the thumb of the evil coach David Fizdale roster-shuffling chaos machine. so it's best to leave him undrafted in most leagues, applying a wait-and-see approach for now.

  • Alex Caruso
    SG, Los Angeles Lakers

    Mike Trudell reported on Twitter that Alex Caruso suffered a bone contusionon his pelvis during Friday's game and will not return.

    According to Trudell, the X-rays were negative but Caruso will undergo further testing when the team returns to Los Angeles.

    Source: Mike Trudell on Twitter

  • LaMarcus Aldridge
    PF, San Antonio Spurs

    LaMarcus Aldridge recorded 14 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks across 28 minutes in Friday's 104-91 win over Memphis.

    Aldridge continues to chug along providing scoring and rebounding with good efficiency and the occasional big nights on defense like tonight. He isn't a sexy pick, but he should produce consistently if healthy.

  • DeMar DeRozan
    SG, San Antonio Spurs

    DeMar Derozan contributed across the box score in Friday's win over Memphis with 14 points (5-for-12 shooting), six rebounds, five assists and three 3-pointers.

    It was nice to see Derozan chip in three long balls as that was sorely missing from his game last year. He's got a top-75 floor, but if he can get his long-range shooting back on track he can provide some value at his current ADP.

  • Rudy Gay
    SF, San Antonio Spurs

    Rudy Gay scored 13 points (5-for-11 shooting) off the bench to go along with seven rebounds, three assists and three 3-pointers in Friday's win over Memphis.

    Bryn Forbes started and scored 14 in this one with three 3-pointers, three assists and one steal. Gay is a high-floor/low-ceiling late pick and Forbes is a 3-point streamer.

  • Dejounte Murray
    PG, San Antonio Spurs

    Dejounte Murray scored one point on 0-for-3 shooting while adding seven rebounds, three assists and two steals over 20 minutes in Friday's win over Memphis.

    Derrick White also struggled in this one with two points (0-for-4 shooting), six rebounds, four assists one steal and one block in 19 minutes. The out-of-position rebounds and defense is nice from Murray and White, but the two will need to find a way to contribute consistently on offense if they're to reach their fantasy ceilings.

  • JA Morant
    PG, Memphis Grizzlies

    Ja Morant scored 16 points on 7-for-14 shooting adding six assists, five rebounds, two blocks and a 3-pointer across 25 minutes in Friday's 91-104 loss to the Spurs.

    The two blocks were impressive for the 6-foot-3 guard, who is locked in as a top-3 asset in dynasty leagues this season and has a good chance to contribute as a mid-round pick in standard leagues.

  • Jaren Jackson Jr.
    PF, Memphis Grizzlies

    Jaren Jackson put up 11 points, five rebounds, two assists, two blocks one steal and one 3-pointer on Friday as the Grizzlies fell to the Spurs.

    Jackson also had four fouls on Friday, as the foul trouble that plagued his rookie season continues to follow him through the preseason. The nightly double-double and 3-and-D potential keep him worthy of a pick around round four or five.

  • Brandon Ingram
    SF, New Orleans Pelicans

    Brandon Ingram started at power forward for the injured Zion Williamson and scored 16 points, along with six rebounds, three assists and two treys in Friday's 117-116 win vs. the Knicks.

    Ingram slid to the power forward spot with J.J. Redick starting. He once again did not produce any defensive stats which is the downfall in his fantasy game along with efficiency. He will still provide value in scoring and rebounding in a fast-paced Pelicans offense.