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.
August 21, 2019, 6:26 pmTrevon BluiettPF, Utah Jazz
Trevon Bluiett and Juwan Morgan sign with the Jazz in the hopes of one day playing in an NBA game.
Bluiett was on a two-way contract with the Pelicans last season while Juwan Morgan played for the Jazz in the 2019 Summer League. They will both compete for a roster spot in training camp but neither is a guarantee to make the final roster. They both have yet to see the court in an NBA game and can be ignored from a fantasy perspective until that day comes.
Source: Tony Jones on Twitter
August 21, 2019, 5:25 pmZach CollinsC, Portland Trail Blazers
Zach Collins (ankle) began daily contact workouts on Monday and is on pace to head into training camp fully healthy.
Collins is heading into what could be a breakout season as he is likely to start at the power forward position. In the 2019 playoffs, the Gonzaga product blocked a shot in 11 of the 16 games including three games in which he blocked three, four and five respectively. Collins has averaged around 33% from distance throughout his career which is exactly what he shot in the postseason (7-21). If he is able to improve from long range and plays starters minutes, Collins is a can't-miss player. It's far from a guarantee though as the 21-year-old has never finished with standard-league value. It does seem like Collins will be ready for training camp barring a major setback.
Source: The Athletic
August 21, 2019, 10:34 amCory JosephPG, Sacramento Kings
Nick Nurse said that reports of Cory Joseph missing the FIBA World Cup are “incorrect”.
Nurse added that he spoke to Joseph on Wednesday and that the guard has his flights booked to China. Joseph was in Canada’s camp at home earlier this month, but did not make the trip to Australia and has missed the past four exhibition games. The situation has become a little bit murky but Canada Basketball keeps holding out hope that Joseph will rejoin the team before they depart for China, which doesn’t happen until Monday.
Source: John Casey on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 10:33 pmTyronn LuePG, Los Angeles Clippers
Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting former Cavs championship-winning coach Tyronn Lue has agreed to join the Clippers as their top assistant coach to Doc Rivers.
The Lakers and Clippers rivalry continues to heat up. Lue was very close to a deal with the Lakers in May to become their head coach, but the sides couldn’t reach an agreement. Lue now joins Kawhi Leonard as another person to spurn the Lakers this offseason.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 10:28 pmPJ TuckerSF, Houston Rockets
P.J. Tucker says he is optimistic about signing a contract extension soon.
The 34-year-old 3-and-D wing hopes to extend his deal with the Rockets, but a potential extension wouldn't begin until his age-36 season. Houston has him under contract for two more seasons at this point, so they may not be motivated enough to get something done this offseason. However, a maximum Tucker extension would only have him in the $10 million per year range. Even as a 37-year-old, that could be a great deal if he can keep up his current production. Tucker remains a sneaky source of threes and steals late in fantasy drafts or off the wire.
Source: Kurt Helin on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 6:11 pmJaylen AdamsPG, Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks officially announced the signings of guards Jaylen Adams and Rayjon Tucker on Tuesday.
Adams and Tucker have their work cut out for them in their bid to claim a roster with the big club, as the Bucks have a reasonably deep guard rotation. Adams and Tucker are more than likely competing to get playing time in the G-League this season and can be ignored in fantasy.
August 20, 2019, 4:55 pmJeff LedbetterG, San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have offered summer league guard Jeff Ledbetter an Exhibit 10 deal, but he is still mulling over his options which include playing in Europe.
Ledbetter had a productive summer league and now finds himself with a chance to play for the Austin Spurs of the G-League. Ledbetter is sure to be staring at a bigger payday in Europe, so his choice will be an interesting one. We should have a decision soon.
Source: Nicola Lupo on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 4:49 pmEric MikaC, Sacramento Kings
The Kings announced on Tuesday that they signed summer league standout C Eric Mika to an exhibit 10 contract.
The former BYU big man is now set up to play for the Stockton Kings of the G-League. The Kings have a deep big man rotation, and it's unlikely that we'll see much, if any, of Mika on the roster this season.
Source: Sean Cunningham on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 4:44 pmJA MorantPG, Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant (right knee) said that he is completely healed from the minor knee surgery earlier this summer, saying he is "100 percent right now."
Morant will look to get back into the swing of things in the coming weeks as he prepares for his rookie season. Morant has the talent and the role on rebuilding team and is undoubtedly going to cost a pretty penny in fantasy drafts.
Source: Peter Edmiston on Twitter
August 20, 2019, 2:17 pmDerrick AlstonTeam, New York Knicks
The Westchester Knicks have named Derrick Alston as the new head coach, replacing Mike Miller who was promoted to join David Fizdale’s staff.
Alston, a former NBA player, has been an assistant for Westchester for four years. Before that, Alston was a player development coach with the Rockets. This will be Alston’s first head coaching gig as he continues to move up the ladder.
Source: Ian Begley on Twitter