• Donovan Mitchell was finally feeling it. The rookie scored seven straight points over a span of 56 seconds late in the second quarter, beating the Houston Rockets to the rim with crossovers and spins en route to a trio of scooping layups. A partisan crowd in Salt Lake City erupted after each highlight-reel finish, sensing Mitchell’s surging confidence as his team tried to erase an early double-digit deficit. One problem: James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela, like they did all game, made sure that wouldn’t happen, matching each of Mitchell’s scores with one of their own, turning a nine-point advantage into a 68-58 halftime lead.

    So much for a comeback. The Rockets beat the Jazz 100-87 on Sunday night, taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the teams’ second-round playoff series. Paul celebrated his 33rd birthday by scoring 27 points, grabbing 12 rebounds, dishing six assists and swiping two steals, living from mid-range offensively. Harden, who had 22 points and three steals, struggled shooting the ball from deep and committed eight turnovers, but made several big plays in the second half as Utah threatened. Capela, meanwhile, was awesome from the opening tip, finishing with 12 points, 15 rebounds (five on offense), two steals and a whopping six blocks in a career-high 37 minutes.

    The Jazz aren’t as talented as the Rockets; that’s no surprise. But what’s been unexpected throughout this series, and was magnified to its greatest extent in Game 4, is Capela dominating his proverbial matchup with Rudy Gobert. The latter has made a career out of subtle two-way plays laymen overlook: affecting shots in the paint, simultaneously guarding his man and the ball, and creating opportunities elsewhere on the other end by setting good screens and rolling hard to the rim. It was Capela’s impact, though, that loomed far larger on Sunday. He dominated the offensive glass through sheer activity and athleticism, and routinely made life hard for Jazz guards after getting switched onto the ball. Gobert had a rough time on the rare occasions he was met with Capela directly, too.

    Houstons’ center was an abject strength, basically, at the level of his superstar teammates on the perimeter. Utah’s center, on the other hand, had 11 points and 10 rebounds, but yielded a game-worst plus-minus of -28, his most glaring weaknesses – an inability to defend in space and lack of comfort with the ball – exploited on both ends of the floor.

    Still, the Jazz had a puncher’s chance to win this game in the fourth quarter. They cut a 14-point deficit at the start of the period to just 85-80 on two free throws by Mitchell, who needed 24 shots to score 25 points, with 5:58 remaining, and briefly had the chance to make it a one-possession game after Capela missed a short bank shot. But he tipped in his own shot on a quick second jump, and Paul found Trevor Ariza for a corner triple in transition on the next trip down to put the Rockets back up by 10 points. Utah, with Paul and Harden salting the game away on offense and Capela owning the rim at the other end, would get no closer.

    Houston shot 10-of-38 from beyond the arc. Harden had his dribble ripped by defenders on multiple possessions, and shot 8-of-22 from the field. Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza combined for 15 points on 17 shots. None of it mattered, not in the playoffs, where effect of the Rockets’ innate ability to switch one-through-five defensively reaches its zenith. Utah’s true shooting percentage was an ugly 47.4, yielding an offensive rating of 88.8 – its worst of the postseason.

    The Jazz, it bears mentioning, were more limited more than usual in Game 4. Ricky Rubio was inactive yet again after being upgraded to questionable before the game, and lingering discomfort from an ankle sprain on Friday night limited Derrick Favors to 16 minutes of action. Dante Exum, providing a huge spark early, picked up his third foul late in the first quarter, and left for good after tweaking his hamstring late in the third. Utah, inherently, just isn’t at its best.

    But the Rockets weren’t on Sunday, either, and won by double-digits in perhaps the league’s most hostile environment anyway. That’s what real championship contenders do. Only one more game, probably, until Houston gets the chance to live up to that moniker.

Fantasy News

  • Paul George
    SF, Los Angeles Clippers

    Paul George had a quiet Wednesday night by his standards but still fills the stat sheet, ending with 13 points, five boards, three assists, a steal, a block and two 3's.

    George is a first-round talent on a per-game basis this year. His health is looking good and he should be able to shoulder a lot of the load for fantasy teams this year.

  • Terrence Ross
    SG, Orlando Magic

    Terrence Ross was off his game on Wednesday and was limited to scoring four points on 2-of-11 shooting with one rebound, one assist and three steals.

    Ouch. Ross was on a bit of a heater prior to this one, so the sting is real. That said, he's been trending up so just consider this a hiccup thanks to a tough matchup against one of the best teams in the league.

  • Jaylen Brown
    SG, Boston Celtics

    Jaylen Brown dropped 18 points (7-for-12 shooting), eight rebounds, eight assists, two triples and one steal in Wednesday's loss to the Pacers.

    Brown continues to show no signs of slowing down since the return of Gordon Hayward, who actually left this game. Brown seems like he's in a groove right now and should continue to produce.

  • Ivica Zubac
    C, Los Angeles Clippers

    Ivica got the start but was limited to seven points, contributing in other ways with eight rebounds, an assist, a steal and two blocks on Wednesday.

    Zubac only saw 16 minutes of action but made the most of it in the counting categories. He ceded his minutes to Montrezl Harrell who had 10 points, six rebounds and four assists. Patrick Patterson also chipped in with 11 points and seven rebounds. Harrell is the one to own here, even if he is coming off the bench.

  • D.J. Augustin
    PG, Orlando Magic

    D.J. Augustin started on Wednesday for an ill Markelle Fultz but was a virtual non-factor, mustering just two points, three rebounds and two assists.

    Augustin has taken a massive hit this season with the rise to viability of Fultz. Not only has he ceded the starting PG job, but Augustin has also struggled to maintain consideration in 16-team leagues or deeper.

  • Jayson Tatum
    SF, Boston Celtics

    Jayson Tatum didn't have his shot going (4-for-13 shooting) on Wednesday but stayed aggressive attacking the basket (6-for-6 free throws) scoring 16 points to go along with six rebounds, three assists, two triples and two steals.

    Tatum had been shooting pretty efficiently recently so it's not a surprise to see that fall off a bit. It's encouraging to see him put up a productive line even on the off night.

  • Kevin Love
    PF, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Kevin Love had a strong outing in Wednesday's 116-110 loss to the Rockets, finishing with 17 points, 11 boards, two assists, a steal and a block on 8-of-14 shooting.

    When Love plays, you can count on mid-round value from him. He is currently sitting as a top-70 player this season. A trade may result in Love playing in more games down the stretch, as well.

  • Mikal Bridges
    SF, Phoenix Suns

    Mikal Bridges (left finger sprain) will play on Wednesday after being listed as probable.

    Hopefully Bridges picks up where he left off, which was rounding into a solid 3-and-D contributor.

    Source: NBA.com

  • Collin Sexton
    PG, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Collin Sexton ended his Wednesday night with 18 points, a rebound and a steal on 8-of-14 shooting.

    Other than the scoring, Sexton doesn't bring much to the table. He's sitting just instead the top-200 now and is only a streaming candidate in standard league at this point.

  • Cameron Johnson
    SF, Phoenix Suns

    Cam Johnson (left hip soreness) will play on Wednesday against the Grizzlies after being listed as probable.

    Johnson is a decent look if you need some supplemental three-pointers. It will be interesting to see how his return affects the minutes for Mikal Bridges in the Suns rotation.

    Source: NBA.com