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.
April 2, 2020, 2:40 pmKemba WalkerPG, Boston Celtics
Kemba Walker has been rehabbing his left knee while in quarantine, and says that it's "doing well."
Walker actually played in the Celtics' last three games before the season was shut down but has missed a total of eight games this season (plus one in preseason) due to left knee soreness. It's clearly a chronic issue at this point, and fantasy GMs just have to hope that this lengthy layoff will help Walker get back to full strength if and when the season resumes.
April 2, 2020, 2:32 pmMeyers LeonardC, Miami Heat
Meyers Leonard is still rehabbing his sprained left ankle and estimates that his recovery is at about 90%.
Leonard shed his walking boot at the end of February but it's been slow going, as he's still not recovered despite getting hurt on February 3. The NBA hiatus might've saved Leonard's season, but even when healthy there won't be any fantasy appeal here despite some strong runs earlier in the campaign.
Source: Anthony Chiang on Twitter
April 2, 2020, 2:28 pmNikola JokicC, Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets have announced that the person who tested positive for COVID-19 is now symptom-free.
The team never said who tested positive, only that it was a member of the organization. The Nuggets have completed their 14-day quarantine, so hopefully all involved are able to remain healthy moving forward.
Source: Mark Medina on Twitter
April 1, 2020, 7:54 pmRomello WhitePF, 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
April 1, 2020, 3:53 pmKevin DurantSF, 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
March 31, 2020, 9:05 pmMarcus SmartPG, 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
March 31, 2020, 8:44 pmJeremy LinPG, 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
March 31, 2020, 8:18 pmLeBron JamesSF, 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
March 31, 2020, 3:47 pmClint CapelaC, 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
March 31, 2020, 3:31 pmCameron JohnsonSF, 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