• The Western Conference Finals, believe it or not, have become a best of three. The Houston Rockets beat the Golden State Warriors 94-92 on Tuesday night, giving the defending champions their first postseason loss at Oracle Arena in nearly two years, and sending this series back to Toyota Center all square at two games apiece.

    Chris Paul, struggling before Game 4, was the hero for Houston. The numbers, 27 points and four assists on 10-of-20 shooting and 5-of-9 from beyond the arc, don’t come close to doing the future Hall-of-Famer’s performance justice. He set a gritty, combative tone from the opening tip, exchanging words with Draymond Green on multiple occasions and refusing to back down against bigger competition on either end of the floor. James Harden actually led Houston with 30 points, 24 of which came in the first half to help rescue his team from an early hole. Eric Gordon was the only other Rocket to score in double-figures, fighting his way to 14 points on as many shot attempts.

    It was a team effort for the Rockets down the stretch, one marked by defense more than anything else. After Steph Curry (28 points, 10-of-26 FGs, 5-of-13 3PTs) erupted for 17 points and four 3-pointers to turn the Warriors’ seven-point halftime deficit into a 10-point lead entering the final stanza, Houston absolutely suffocated the home team. Golden State scored just 12 points, managed one assist, committed four turnovers and missed all six of their 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter. Curry went 1-of-8, Kevin Durant (27 points, 12 rebounds, 9-of-24 FGs) went 1-of-5, including a couple of ugly forced jumpers, and Klay Thompson (10 points, 4-of-13 FGs) was scoreless. Houston was hardly themselves offensively, either, but followed the lead of Paul, who had eight points, two rebounds and two assists during the game’s deciding stretch, when no player other than him had more than a single field goal.

    “I felt like in the fourth quarter, we just ran out of gas,” said Steve Kerr, whose team played without Andre Iguodala, nursing a bruised left knee.

    This outcome seemed impossible after the game’s opening minutes. The Warriors jumped out to a 12-0 lead at the seven-minute mark of the first quarter, forcing Harden and Paul into difficult shots while swarming the paint with well-timed rotations and active arms. But Houston was the better team from that point forward, using a 28-12 run, spearheaded by Harden on both ends of the floor, over the final seven minutes of the second quarter to take a 54-46 lead into intermission. Another highlight-reel third-quarter scoring binge from Curry, which included three straight triples, seemed to signal the big-picture result that so many basketball followers thought they knew was coming before this series began. But the Rockets, playing a seven-man rotation with Luc Mbah a Moute marginalized, reached deep within to find the energy and engagement that proved all too fleeting for Golden State.

    Talent helps too, of course. Paul pushed over and over in transition, and attacked early in the shot clock once the Warriors’ surprisingly lackadaisical defense was set. Gordon continuously found his way to the paint, creating easy looks for teammates and initiating quick-hitting ball movement that kept Golden State on its toes. P.J. Tucker bullied his way to seven rebounds in the fourth quarter alone, including two on the offensive glass.

    Trevor Ariza, hounding Durant and Curry all night, brought Houston all the way back from a second separate double-digit deficit off this pinpoint, side-winding bounce pass from Paul with just more than six minutes remaining.

    Still, the Rockets never quite got the separation they had so many chances to create. Gordon’s 3-pointer with 2:27 left on the clock, which made the score 94-89 and was wide open after a miscommunication by Green and Kevon Looney following a ball screen for Harden, was their last field goal. Just more than a minute later, both Thompson and Curry misfired from three on the same possession. Following a disjointed Golden State possession that ended in an airball by Thompson, Paul could have put the Warriors away for good at the free throw line with .5 seconds remaining. He missed the first, though, and, confusingly, opted to make the second with his team leading by two, allowing Kerr to call the timeout he avoided on the previous possession.

    Curry, incredibly, got a game-tying look from the corner as time expired. The basketball gods were shining on Houston, though, as the ball clanked off the rim and evened a suddenly-epic series at 2-2.

    “Fun game,” Paul said, and the next three might very well decide the championship. Luckily for the Rockets, two of them will be played in Houston.

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