• 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 ArizaΒ 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

  • Bogdan Bogdanovic
    SG, Sacramento Kings

    Bogdan Bogdanovic scored a team-high 28 points in Serbia's 85-80 win over Greece on Sunday.

    Serbia will be a tough team to beat in the 2019 FIBA World Cup thanks to Bogdanovic, Nikola Jokic and Nemanja Bjelica among others. Bjelica put up 18 points and 14 rebounds as well. They were able to beat Giannis Antetokounmpo, who had 20 points. This is one of the teams that could sneak up on Team USA and pull out a win.

    Source: Eurohoops

  • Justin Anderson
    SG, Atlanta Hawks

    According to The Athletic, the Wizards and Justin Anderson are trying to work towards a training camp contract.

    Anderson averaged a career-low 9.6 minutes per game with the Hawks last season. The former first-round pick is looking to gain another opportunity on a thin Wizards team. He will likely not have much fantasy value if he manages to make the roster.

    Source: Fred Katz on Twitter

  • Victor Oladipo
    SG, Indiana Pacers

    Victor Oladipo is still rehabbing from his ruptured quad tendon in January, and is unsure if he will be an active participant at the Pacers' training camp when it opens in September.

    Our last update from Pacers POBO Kevin Pritchard had Oladipo aiming for December or January, and that timetable still seems doable. He is taking his leadership role seriously, connecting with the Pacers' new players this summer, and it seems likely that he will make his presence felt this year at some point. Oladipo had an outstanding campaign two years ago, but even before the injury he was a disappointment last season. Fantasy owners should proceed with caution, we may not see Oladipo's top form this year.

    Source: Indiana Pacers

  • Bol Bol
    C, Denver Nuggets

    Bol Bol stated that he has completely recovered from the left foot fracture that ended his college basketball career, and he is now working out twice a day for his upcoming rookie season with the Nuggets.

    The multi-talented center could put up big numbers if given the opportunity with the Nuggets, but the risk for another injury is real. With that in mind, Bol is not expected to receive a lot of minutes this season. If that somehow changes, it would be exciting to see his rare combination of blocks and 3-pointers in action.

    Source: Jim Slater of AFP

  • Dwight Howard
    C, Memphis Grizzlies

    The Grizzlies are allowing the Lakers to speak with Dwight Howard.

    The news came out yesterday that the Lakers would seek permission and the fact that they were granted it suggests that Howard will not be on the Grizzlies for long. The aftermath of DeMarcus Cousins tearing his ACL left them in need of another center if they want to remain true to playing Anthony Davis exclusively at power forward. Joakim Noah is the other option on the Lakers' radar and has been a facilitator and role player in the past.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Moritz Wagner
    PF, Washington Wizards

    Moritz Wagner has been cut from Germany’s FIBA World Cup team.

    The move seems somewhat surprising given Wagner’s youth and notoriety, but Germany still has four NBA players on their roster despite cutting Wagner. The Wizards have plenty of depth in the frontcourt and Wagner is probably lower on the totem poll when it comes to receiving minutes.

    Source: Dario Skerletic of Sportando

  • Jonah Bolden
    PF, Philadelphia Sixers

    Jonah Bolden has opted to withdraw from Team Australia in the FIBA World Cup.

    Bolden becomes the fifth NBA player to skip out on playing for Australia in the World Cup, a trend that seems to be prevalent for several countries' national teams. Bodlen could be looking at an increased role as a backup center for Philly's thin bench this upcoming season. He is not expected to be a relevant fantasy option though.

    Source: Fox Sports Australia

  • Jeremy Lin
    PG, Toronto Raptors

    Jeremy Lin is in advanced discussions with the Bejing Ducks according to a report from Chinese journalist Sonx Xiang.

    Lin previosuly turned down a deal to play for CSKA Moscow, and has also discussed his openness to playing in China. The nine year guard still hopes to resmue his NBA career at some point, but a move to China may be the best career option for him at this juncture.

    Source: Sportando

  • Dwight Howard
    C, Memphis Grizzlies

    The Lakers will soon ask Memphis permission to speak with Dwight Howard according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

    Shams goes on to mention that there is mutual interest here and that Joakim Noah could be another veteran of interest for LA. The realistic options for free agents at the five really don't go much further than these two for the Lakers. Stay tuned for more updates on this developing story.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Dwight Howard
    C, Memphis Grizzlies

    In the wake of the DeMarcus Cousins injury, one name the Lakers are considering is Dwight Howard, according to Rohan Nadkarni of Sports Illustrated.

    Howard is still a member of the Memphis Grizzlies, but it is widely assumed that he will be waived before the season starts. A reunion in LA would certainly be pretty surprising for the Lakers after Howard famously did not resign with them after a miserable season playing with Kobe Bryant. Still, the Lakers need depth at the five and there really aren't any options on the market who compare to Howard's level of productivty, even at this stage of his career. Other center options the Lakers could pursue include Joakim Noah, Kenneth Faried and Zaza Pachulia.

    Source: Rohan Nadkarni on Twitter