• One year ago, the Houston Rockets almost certainly would have lost Game 5. On Tuesday night, though, Chris Paul provided an ailing James Harden all the help his team needed to finish off the Utah Jazz.

    Houston overcame a stunning third-quarter from Donovan Mitchell to re-take control late, winning Game 5 112-102 to become the first team in basketball to advance to the Conference Finals. Paul, brilliant from the opening tip and at his best when it mattered most, burgeoned his big-game reputation with a playoff career-high 41 points, seven rebounds, 10 assists and zero turnovers on 13-of-22 shooting and 8-of-10 from beyond the arc. Harden, battling an illness, needed 22 shots to score 18 points, but shook off those struggles late to help the Rockets come back from a blown lead in the third quarter. P.J. Tucker, with 19 points, five triples and three blocks, was huge for Houston in a decisive fourth quarter, too. Donovan Mitchell, by the way, is the only reason it mattered at all.

    The rookie poured in 22 points of his own and accounted for 29 of Utah’s 32 total points during an awe-inspiring third quarter, turning his team’s eight-point deficit into a three-point lead entering the final stanza. Less than two weeks after eliminating the Oklahoma City Thunder with a 39-point outburst that showed off the breadth of his highlight-reel offensive repertoire, Mitchell tried his damndest to keep Utah’s season alive with spinning drives, scooping finishes and splashed 3-pointers.

    Unfortunately for the Jazz, Paul, vying for his long-awaited first trip to the Conference Finals, just refused to let the Rockets lose. He came around a baseline screen and stepped behind a dribble hand-off for three on Houston’s first possession, and found Tucker for a triple on the next trip down, prompting a timeout by Quin Snyder. Less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, Utah’s lead, once up to five, had vanished entirely. That the Jazz nearly got it back with Mitchell in the locker room is a testament to their season-long will in the face adversity.

    Mitchell’s debut campaign ended prematurely when he banged knees with Harden with just over seven minutes remaining. The Jazz, at that point down 92-87, closed to within a point of the Rockets on a three by Royce O’Neale, who capped a breakthrough rookie season with 17 points, two and-a-half minutes later. That’s when Paul shut the door on Utah’s season for good. Following the lead of Mitchell, the future Hall of Famer scored 12 of Houston’s final 15 points over the final four minutes and 34 seconds of action. The remaining three points came on another triple by Tucker, courtesy of Paul, with 35 seconds left, putting a lasting end to Utah’s last-gasp comeback bid.

    After the game, Paul and Mitchell, the latter of whom returned from the bowels of Toyota Center to catch the final moments of action, shared an on-court embrace. The future Hall of Famer and the Jazz’s new franchise player first grew close last spring, when Paul, after a workout, advised a nervous Mitchell to keep his name in the NBA draft.

    “That’s like my little brother, man,” Paul said after the game. “I told him, ‘Hell of a series. Get healthy.'”

    The future is bright for Utah. Mitchell is a legitimate superstar. Rudy Gobert, far better in Game 5 after being thoroughly outplayed by Capela 48 hours ago, is under contract for multiple seasons, and so is Joe Ingles. Ricky Rubio has one year left on his contract, and was playing the best basketball of his career before succumbing to a hamstring injury while closing out the Thunder. O’Neale is a keeper, and Dante Exum showed major flashes over the last seven weeks after missing the majority of the season while recovering from shoulder surgery. A tough decision looms on Derrick Favors, an unrestricted free agent.

    But now is not the time to analyze the Jazz’s future, nor how the offseason will affect it. The Rockets are still alive, and all signs point to a showdown with the Golden State Warriors the basketball world has been craving since November – one Paul made certain would come as quickly as possible.

Fantasy News

  • John Beilein
    , Cleveland Cavaliers

    According to Adrian Wojnarowski, John Beilein is leaving as the Cavs’ coach and J.B. Bickerstaff will be elevated to head coach.

    It’s still not official, but once Woj says it’s happening, it’s happening. A shake-up is likely to be a great thing for this roster that contains at least a few unhappy star players in Kevin Love and Andre Drummond. Be ready to act on any significant role changes that come with this move. For example, will Larry Nance Jr. and/or Kevin Porter Jr. take on expanded roles?

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Terry Rozier
    PG, Charlotte Hornets

    Terry Rozier (left knee soreness) practiced in full on Tuesday.

    Rozier missed the Hornet's final game heading into the All-Star break, but it wasn't considered to be a long-term concern. Feel free to get Rozier back into all lineups ahead of Thursday's game against the Bulls.

    Source: Rod Boone on Twitter

  • Damian Lillard
    PG, Portland Trail Blazers

    Coach Terry Stotts said that he wouldn't put a timetable on when star point guard Damian Lillard (right groin strain) would return, but he is expected to be re-evaluated on Tuesday or Wednesday.

    Lillard was given a timetable of 1-2 weeks last Wednesday, as the All-Star break came at an ideal time. Lillard has a shot to avoid any missed time if his re-evaluation shows progress, but owners should prepare for a scenario in which he misses a handful of games. The Blazers have five games remaining in February.

    Source: NBC Sports

  • Dario Saric
    PF, Phoenix Suns

    The Suns expect Dario Saric (left ankle) to be available to play against the Raptors on Friday.

    James Jones said that he expects everyone outside ok Frank Kaminsky to be available for Friday's game, meaning Tyler Johnson will be out there as well. While Saric has been out, Mikal Bridges has seen his role expand while Kelly Oubre Jr. has played a lot of PF. Keep an eye on how the rotation shakes out now that the Suns are healthy shakes out.

    Source: Kellan Olson on Twitter

  • Aron Baynes
    C, Phoenix Suns

    James Jones said that he expects Aron Baynes (left hip soreness) to be available for Friday's game against the Raptors.

    Baynes will be joining Deandre Ayton and the rest of the injured Suns' players in returning for this one. Baynes hasn't played in roughly a month and should be seeing a minimal role off the bench down the stretch. He can be left on the waiver wire unless something happens to Ayton.

    Source: Kellan Olson on Twitter

  • Deandre Ayton
    C, Phoenix Suns

    James Jones said that he expects Deandre Ayton (left ankle soreness) to be available to play against the Raptors on Friday.

    Ayton missed a few games to close out the first half, but it looks like the second-year big man will be good to go when the Suns return to action. Ayton was putting up top-12/16 per-game value in 9/8 cat leagues in the 13 games before going down, and owners have to be ecstatic to get him back in their lineups. Cheick Diallo will revert to a deep reserve role.

    Source: Kellan Olson on Twitter

  • Cody Martin
    PF, Charlotte Hornets

    Cody Martin (concussion protocol) fully participated in Tuesday's practice session.

    Martin found himself in the starting lineup before going down a few weeks ago, as he has started to earn a bigger role in coach James Borrego's rotation. With Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist out of the picture, Martin should have a reasonably safe role for the second half of the season.

    Source: Rick Bonnell on Twitter

  • Clint Capela
    C, Atlanta Hawks

    Clint Capela (right heel) did not participate in Tuesday's practice.

    Capela doesn't have a specific target date as he continues to fight the heel issue. With Capela out, Dewayne Dedmon will continue to absorb the bulk of minutes at C with Damian Jones backing him up. Over his past four games, Dedmon has averaged 8.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 3.8 blocks and 1.0 trey in 28.3 minutes per game.

    Source: Chris Kirschner on Twitter

  • Otto Porter Jr.
    SF, Chicago Bulls

    Otto Porter Jr. (left foot fracture) returned to Bulls practice on Tuesday.

    Porter added that he felt good and will return to game action when is 100 percent healthy. It was being reported earlier this week that Porter is eyeing a return before the end of the month, and this would be in line with that projection. It is unclear what type of minutes Porter can handle down the stretch, but his versatile skillset makes for an upside stash in fantasy circles.

    Source: K.C. Johnson on Twitter

  • Wendell Carter Jr.
    C, Chicago Bulls

    Wendell Carter Jr. (right ankle sprain) resumed practicing on Tuesday as he eyes a return to game action.

    Carter is hopeful of playing when the Bulls return to action against the Hornets on Thursday. The Bulls may take a cautious approach and let him get in a few more practices before clearing him, but Carter's arrow is pointing straight up right now. If he is lingering on your league's waiver wire, go grab him.

    Source: K.C. Johnson on Twitter