• 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

  • Romello White
    PF, College

    Romello White declared for the 2020 NBA Draft on Wednesday.

    White is "keeping his options available" despite declaring for the draft. It is probably a good idea considering he isn't a lock to be drafted. The junior power forward averaged 10.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks for Arizona State this past season. He isn't likely to be on the fantasy radar even if he does earn a roster spot in the NBA.

    Source: Jon Rothstein on Twitter

  • Kevin Durant
    SF, Brooklyn Nets

    The four players from the Nets who tested positive for COVID-19 are symptom free after passing a 14-day protocol but are still self-isolating, according to Greg Logan of Newsday.

    Logan went on to say that the entire traveling party for the Nets are healthy at the moment. This is a good sign to see players and staff recovering from the virus without any new cases reported.

    Source: Greg Logan on Twitter

  • Marcus Smart
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Marcus Smart plans to donate his blood plasma to the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project for research on how the virus affects the blood of those infected or have been infected already, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

    This marks an interesting end (fingers-crossed) to Smart's coronavirus infection and subsequent quarantine. Only five NBA players have received confirmed positive tests for COVID-19 but the NBA obviously isn't taking any chances during this global pandemic. With speed being medical professionals' biggest pressure with regards to a vaccine, Smart really stepped up to the plate. Hopefully other public figures who have recovered from the virus will follow his lead in donating necessary items for research. This also doesn't hurt Smart's public image, which has been known to fluctuate dramatically during his college and professional career.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Jeremy Lin
    PG, International

    The Chinese government has stopped the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association) from resuming their season, nearly two months after halting their season due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19.

    The CBA does not currently have a players' union, so these types of sweeping decisions can happen more quickly than in the United States, where the players are unionized. While this is not great news for basketball players and fans in China, it also has global ramifications for sports across the world looking for a timeline. Everyone is wondering when it will be safe to resume or begin athletic events. Executives are trying to handle the logistics of said decisions, which is much more of a slippery slope. It seems increasingly obvious that the NBA is nowhere near a return to action and currently the situation is still completely out of commissioner Adam Silver's hands.

    Source: CBS Sports

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    The entire Lakers roster has been deemed symptom-free of the coronavirus after completing a 14-day home isolation that was prescribed by team doctors, according to Lakers reporter Mike Trudell.

    Finally, some good news for the NBA. The Lakers were isolated two weeks ago and they all maintained quarantine in their homes. The league has yet to announce plans as far as next steps for potentially resuming the 2019-20 season, but this is a good start. More teams should complete quarantine periods in the coming weeks. It doesn't help that professional basketball's return in China was halted abruptly after they had planned on making a return earlier this week. This is obviously a very fluid situation and NBA commissioner Adam Silver must bide his time before making concrete decisions. Stay tuned.

    Source: Mike Trudell on Twitter

  • Clint Capela
    C, Atlanta Hawks

    According to Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlantic Journal Constitution, Clint Capela had been progressing towards participating in half-court workouts prior to the season being suspended.

    There was some uncertainty surrounding Capela's potential return this season, but now he will have a much better shot at getting a few games below his belt before the conclusion of the season. If Capela does indeed find himself on the court for a few games, we'd have to imagine that he will be on a strict minutes limit as Lloyd Pierce alluded to last month.

    Source: Atlantic Journal Constitution

  • Cameron Johnson
    SF, Phoenix Suns

    Cameron Johnson is fully cleared from mononucleosis that he has been battling for the past few weeks.

    Johnson missed the final three games before the league was suspended due to mononucleosis, but will be ready to go when the season starts up again. Johnson was looking at an expanded role with Kelly Oubre Jr. injured, but there is now a chance that Oubre Jr. will be ready a situation to monitor when the season gets ready to resume.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Joe Harris
    SF, Brooklyn Nets

    Joe Harris said that he would like to re-sign with the Nets this summer.

    When Harris was asked if he would like to play with the Nets next season, he replied, “Yeah, definitely! Why wouldn’t you?" The Nets will have Harris' Bird Rights and will certainly like to bring him back, but Harris will be a highly-coveted free agent this summer and will be looking to cash in on what is seen as a weaker free agent class.

    Source: New York Post

  • Jonathan Isaac
    PF, Orlando Magic

    Jonathan Isaac has been continuing his rehab work from a severe knee sprain amid the NBA hiatus.

    Isaac has been out since early in the calendar year after suffering a left knee sprain and bone bruise. The NBA denied the Magic a Disabled Player Exception earlier in the year, as doctors believed that Isaac wouldn't be out until mid June. Isaac was a long shot to return by the playoffs, but the hiatus has given him a better chance to return and potentially be ready for the start of the playoffs. This is an interesting watch as we continue to wait for the NBA, and life in general, to resume as normal.

    Source: The Athletic

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    The New York Post's Marc Berman reports that the NBA's best-case scenario is looking like a late June to early July brief regular season restart with a one-site, 16-team playoff, possibly with each series a best-of-three.

    He mentions that a league official said that nothing is off the table, so we're far away from anything definitive. There is still obviously a chance that the season gets cancelled, but the league is "very determined to have a champion". Don't expect anything to be determined for many weeks, if not months.

    Source: The New York Post