May 2, 2018, 11:52 pm
The Utah Jazz built the commanding type of lead few thought they could, then promptly gave it away. It’s what Quin Snyder’s team did next though, that decided Wednesday night’s game at Toyota Center.
The Jazz beat the Houston Rockets 116-108 in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals, absorbing a sustained second-half run that completely erased a 19-point lead before reigning supreme in the final stanza. Joe Ingles led Utah, which had six players score in double-figures, with 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting and 7-of-9 from beyond the arc. James Harden brought the Rockets all the way back from that huge early deficit, finishing with 32 points, six rebounds and 11 assists, but struggled in crunch time with the Jazz pulling away. Chris Paul shook off a tough start to score 23 points for the Rockets, and Clint Capela had 21 points and 11 rebounds on 10-of-15 from the field.
But Houston’s best players didn’t get the support they’ve come to expect – especially from the area they normally get it. The Rockets, often rushed by a Jazz defense intent on preventing rhythm jumpers, shot just 10-of-37 from 3-point range. Defenders routinely sat on the high side of Harden, giving him a free lane to the basket with his weak hand, to contest his deadly pull-up triple, resulting in 2-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc. Except for Eric Gordon, his teammates weren’t any better. Houston shot just 10-of-37 from beyond the arc in Game 2, good for 27 percent.
The Jazz made all the threes the Rockets missed. Spearheaded by Ingles, now shooting 50.9 percent from deep on 7.1 attempts per game in the playoffs, Utah connected on 15-of-32 triples in Game 2. Jae Crowder continued his hot shooting streak by going 3-of-6, while Dante Exum, who Houston treated as a non-shooter, went 2-of-3. What made the Jazz’s performance even more impressive than their 110.5 offensive rating suggests is that it came without Donovan Mitchell finding his range; he went just 2-of-8 from beyond the arc.
That didn’t stop the rookie sensation from at times dominating the action, of course. Mitchell finished with 17 points on 6-of-21 shooting, failing to make a two outside the restricted area. But with Ricky Rubio still sidelined by a hamstring injury, Mitchell consistently took advantage of small seams in the Houston defense created by hard rolls, slipped screens and relentless pace. He had 11 of Utah’s 26 assists, and emerged with a game-high plus-minus of +13.
Mitchell also did this as the Jazz extended their lead midway through the fourth quarter.
— NBA (@NBA) May 3, 2018
Mitchell was Utah’s best player in Game 2, but his team would be headed back to Salt Lake City down 0-2 if not for the contributions of Exum and Alec Burks. Exum’s impact loomed far larger than solid numbers of nine points, four rebounds and two assists in 17 minutes off the bench indicate. He made life harder on Harden than any other defender, using his quick feet, long arms and high hands to mostly keep the ball in front and stay in effective rear-view pursuit when beaten. Burks’ performance was no less important, but was highlighted by his work on the other side of the ball. He had 17 points, four rebounds and six assists on 7-of-11 shooting, putting constant pressure on the defense by pushing the ball in transition and attacking switches with speed and aggression.
The Jazz aren’t known for their collective athletic exploits. When Exum and Burks are cogs of the machine, though, they suddenly morph into one of the most high-octane teams in basketball – or at least that’s what transpired on Wednesday night.
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) May 3, 2018
— NBA TV (@NBATV) May 3, 2018
The Rockets weren’t at their best. They were notably listless early, allowing Utah to build a big lead, and eventually lost the verve late that propelled them all the way back from that deficit in the first place. But the Jazz clearly figured some things out offensively in the wake of Sunday’s game, and were disciplined enough on defense in Game 2 to often force Houston into shots Mike D’Antoni usually wants his team to avoid. Utah’s home floor might be the best in the league, too.
This is a series now, thankfully. It resumes on Friday night in Salt Lake City.
February 19, 2020, 10:40 pmStephen CurryPG, Golden State Warriors
Coach Steve Kerr said that Stephen Curry will play this season once he is healthy.
Kerr said that "It's important for Steph and Andrew to get to know each other and to play together". It sounds like Kerr has no problem with playing Curry once he is fully recovered so he can get used to his new teammates. Curry should be on a roster in all 12-team leagues since he's a proven fantasy stud and could be an early-round player during the fantasy playoffs.
Source: Kurt Helin on Twitter
February 19, 2020, 8:54 pmRobert Williams IIIC-F, Boston Celtics
Robert Williams (left hip edema) will not play in the upcoming four-game road trip but hinted that he would return on February 29th vs. the Rockets.
Williams said there are "No limitations on anything I'm doing" and said that he wants to "windmill every time" but has to "play it cautious a little bit". Williams looks to be ramping up and is likely to return in the next two weeks. Williams has low upside behind Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis in the rotation but can be a streamer for blocks when he returns.
Source: A. Sherrod Blakely on Twitter
February 19, 2020, 8:13 pmDario SaricPF, Phoenix Suns
Dario Saric (left ankle) participated fully in practice on Wednesday and is hopeful to return on Friday vs. the Raptors.
Saric is outside the top-150 in both 9-cat and 8-cat leagues this season. Mikal Bridges has been on a roll the past month, producing top-60 value in 9-cat leagues. Saric entering the rotation could cut into Bridges' minutes and it will be worth watching the Suns' rotations the next few games. Bridges is a hold in standard-leagues and Saric is a low-upside option in 14-team leagues.
Source: Gina Mizell on Twitter
February 19, 2020, 8:06 pmAron BaynesC, Phoenix Suns
Aron Baynes (left hip soreness) participated in practice on Wednesday.
Coach Monty Williams said he's hopeful Baynes will return on Friday vs. the Raptors. Baynes is unlikely to get back to producing standard-league value with Deandre Ayton in the lineup, who is also expected to return on Friday. Baynes could carve out late-round value in 14-team leagues for big-man stats.
Source: Gina Mizell on Twitter
February 19, 2020, 8:00 pmDeandre AytonC, Phoenix Suns
Deandre Ayton (left ankle soreness) practiced on Wednesday and Coach Monty Williams says that he's hopeful Ayton will be able to play on Friday.
Ayton missed the past two games with an injury but looks ready to return the next game. Ayton is a top-15/30 player in 9/8 cat leagues on the season and should remain in that range the rest of the way. This kills the small amount of value that Cheick Diallo had and he can be left on waiver wires outside of 20-team leagues.
Source: Gina Mizell on Twitter
February 19, 2020, 7:50 pmRobert Williams IIIC-F, Boston Celtics
Robert Williams (hip) participated in practice on Wednesday and felt good.
The Celtics are encouraged by Williams' progress and plan to ramp him up in practice over the next 1-2 weeks. Williams will be behind Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis in the rotation and will only have appeal as a block specialist. Kanter and Theis will lose value when Williams enters the rotation. Theis is a top-70 player over the past month in 26 minutes per game while Kanter is outside the top-175 in 19 minutes per game. Theis will likely hold standard-league value and Kanter will remain a low-upside option in 16-team leagues.
Source: Tim Bontemps on Twitter
February 19, 2020, 7:40 pmNorman PowellSF, Toronto Raptors
Norman Powell (finger) is about a week away from his next check up.
Nick Nurse made the comment on Wednesday and a check up does not necessarily mean a return date. Powell should be expected to miss at least one more week. He was producing top-90 value for a month before he was injured, so it may be worth grabbing him if you have an open IR spot and can afford to hold him until he returns.
Source: Laura Armstrong on Twitter
February 19, 2020, 7:23 pmMarc GasolC, Toronto Raptors
Marc Gasol (left hamstring) is a possibility for Friday's game.
Gasol has been out since late January and it sounded like the All-Star break was going to be the final stretch of rehab that he'd need in order to return. Even if his return doesn't come on Friday, it sure sounds like the big man will be back in action soon enough. Make sure Gasol isn't on your waiver wires.
Source: Eric Koreen on Twitter
February 19, 2020, 7:21 pmWill BartonSG, Denver Nuggets
Will Barton (right knee inflammation) was limited at Wednesday's practice.
The Nuggets didn't give a formal update but Barton did less at the session than Denver's other injured players, so fantasy GMs might want to look elsewhere in the short-term. Gary Harris and Torrey Craig should absorb Barton's minutes for as long as he remains out.
Source: TJ McBride on Twitter
February 19, 2020, 7:18 pmMason PlumleeC, Denver Nuggets
Mason Plumlee (right foot injury) was able to participate in most of Wednesday's practice session.
Plumlee went down in late January and was set to miss 2-4 weeks, so a return should be coming soon. The Nuggets have rolled with smaller groups while Plumlee has been shelved, though he was a defensive anchor for the second unit when healthy. Expect his return to eat away at the workloads of Jerami Grant and Michael Porter Jr.
Source: TJ McBride on Twitter