• The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Charlotte Hornets 127-96 at Moda Center on Friday night, their second largest victory of the season. They shot 55.9 percent from the field and drained 15 three-pointers. Portland doled out a season-high with 31 assists, too, an impressive number made all the more notable because it committed only nine turnovers – over half of which came in the fourth quarter, when Terry Stotts put four of his five starters on ice. C.J. McCollum scored 30 points on 12-of-20 shooting, including 5-of-11 from three, despite playing just 29 minutes. Damian Lillard stuffed the stat sheet with 20 points, four rebounds, five assists, three steals, and a career-best four blocks. Jusuf Nurkic was the Blazers’ only starter to play in the final stanza, chasing a triple-double he couldn’t quite catch before Stotts took him out for good, finishing another strong performance with 11 points, 11 rebounds, and a career-high eight assists. He also notched six of the Blazers’ 16 blocks, a season-high total that just missed the team record for blocked shots in a game, and was instrumental in holding the Hornets, quietly ranked 10th in offensive rating this season, to 40 percent from the field.

    Obviously, there are many individual and team-wide stats that indicate just how well Stotts’ team played on Friday, in what could be considered their most encouraging game of the season. It’s not like the eye test was any less telling. Portland flat-out dominated Charlotte, flying all over the floor in transition and the halfcourt en route to highlight after highlight after highlight. One innocuous sequence, though, that didn’t even result in the Blazers scoring, forcing a turnover, or producing any single box-score statistic whatsoever, perhaps serves as a better encapsulation of their play against the Hornets than anything else.

    It came midway through the third quarter, as Portland’s starters extended their team’s seemingly insurmountable halftime lead with surgical precision on both ends of the court. Kemba Walker, following a corner three by Jake Layman off a cross-court bullet from Nurkic, calmly crossed halfcourt with a lefty dribble as Lillard waited for him beyond the arc. Charlotte’s franchise player crossed over between his legs then back to the left, preparing to use a high screen from Bismack Biyombo attacking the middle. Lillard went below Biyombo, quickly scooting back into position, as Nurkic met Walker just above the free throw line, allowing one of the game’s craftiest ball handlers a sliver of space between he and the recovering Lillard. After Walker successfully split the defense, veering back the other direction with a slick crossover, he leapt off his left foot in one swell motion, ostensibly to attempt what amounts to a fadeaway floater – exactly the type of difficult, acrobatic shot that’s helped propel him to stardom.

    Instead of jumping to shoot, Walker decided to leave his feet for a pass back to the rolling Biyombo, unaware that he’d finally found enough space in the paint to get a clean look at the basket. It’s not often you see a player of Walker’s skill, smarts, ingenuity, and confidence get spooked into shot-putting the ball off the glass, anticipating a block that was never going to come and forcing a pass that was never there in the first place.

    It’s hard to blame Walker for his gaffe. After all, he needed 19 shots to put up 18 points against the Blazers, and all five of his buckets came at least 15 feet away from the rim. Lillard, locked in from the opening tip, had already blocked his jumper twice via rear-view contest in the third quarter, and the Hornets shot a dismal 14-of-30 from the restricted area overall. Portland was as active, engaged, and disruptive defensively as its been all season. Even Meyers Leonard, who didn’t record a single blocked shot in 2017-18, matched his season-long total and set a new career-high with three blocked shots of his own. If Charlotte wasn’t hot from three-point range, going 13-of-30, its offensive performance would have ranked as one of the most anemic of the entire NBA season to date, a hypothetical scenario the Blazers didn’t need to prove their defensive mettle on Sunday.

    A far bigger test comes Sunday, when Portland visits the conference-leading Denver Nuggets at 5,280 feet. In easily dispatching of another inferior Eastern Conference foe, though, the Blazers, who have won six of their last seven, showed again just how good they can be when clicking at something close to all cylinders. And as striking as the statistics and awe-inducing as the highlights were, it’s those factors combined with doing all the little things that has this team playing its best basketball of the season – by far.

Fantasy News

  • Kemba Walker - G - Charlotte Hornets

    Kemba Walker led the Hornets with a solid performance in Sunday's 95-120 blowout loss to the Pacers, delivering 23 points and a full stat line.

    Walker hit 8-of-18 shots from the field and 4-of-5 shots from the line, adding four rebounds, seven assists, three treys, a steal and one block to the box score on the night. He did a lot but clearly, by the result, he's not getting enough support. Nicolas Batum was not much help on offense with six points (1-of-4 shooting), seven rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block. It looks like it's going to Kemba carrying the bulk of the scoring load on most nights as the Hornets struggle to hang on to that eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

  • Jeff Teague - G - Minnesota Timberwolves

    An ill Jeff Teague headed to the locker room in Sunday's game vs. the Suns.

    He was questionable coming into this contest and gave it a go but it appears that he's still under the weather possibly unable to continue. If he can't return expect to see Derrick Rose to soak up his minutes and possibly a bit of Jerryd Bayless.

    Source: John Meyer on Twitter

  • Jeremy Lamb - G - Charlotte Hornets

    Jeremy Lamb had a tough time on offense for the Hornets on Sunday, going 4-for-13 from the field to finish with 10 points, five rebounds, two assists, two triples and a block.

    While his scoring efficiency tonight left a lot to be desired, Lamb has earned enough of our trust equity to deserve a pass. He's someone who can fill up the box score and thanks to his locked-in role of being the Hornets second scoring option, Lamb has been able to deliver bankable mid-round value in 8/9-cat on the season.

  • Bismack Biyombo - C - Charlotte Hornets

    Bismack Biyombo logged 24 minutes for the Hornets on Sunday and served up a double-double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and one blocked shot.

    It was not an eye-catching line but the takeaway here is that it's something that's, at the very least, the kind of production worthy of a roster spot in 14-team leagues or deeper. Willy Hernangomez was but a shadow with six points and three rebounds to his name in 18 minutes of action.

  • Ricky Rubio - G - Utah Jazz

    Ricky Rubio (hamstring), who has missed the last six games, has been tagged as questionable for Monday's game vs. the Blazers.

    He was a full participant at practice, so we know that Rubio is definitely close to a return. Stay tuned for updates at shootaround because he could be upgraded to probable, depending on how he feels. Donovan Mitchell has been balling while Rubio has been out, so their shared-backcourt dynamic will be something to watch.

    Source: Utah Jazz on Twitter

  • Aaron Gordon - F - Orlando Magic

    Aaron Gordon (lower back soreness) is questionable for Monday's game.

    Gordon was unable to play on Saturday because of his back pain, which he equated to a similar issue he dealt with in November that forced him to miss a game. Hopefully he'll be able to return relatively quickly this time as well. Jonathan Isaac moved down to power forward while Jonathon Simmons moved into the starting lineup on Saturday, and if Gordon sits that should be the same configuration we see this time around.

    Source: NBA.com

  • Joel Embiid - F/C - Philadelphia Sixers

    Joel Embiid (back tightness) is questionable on Monday against the Rockets.

    Embiid looked a little slow in the first half of Saturday's game, but turned things on in the second half. He's going to be on the injury report quite a bit going forward, so we'll just have to wait for more news to come out.

    Source: Jonathan Feigen on Twitter

  • Jimmy Butler - G/F - Philadelphia Sixers

    Jimmy Butler (sore right wrist) is questionable for Monday's game against the Rockets.

    Butler had a rough shooting game on Saturday, so he could have been playing on a bad foot in that game. The Sixers play late on Monday, but if you have to set a weekly lineup, or your lineup locks at the start of the first game, you'll have to get up early and may be forced into a tough decision.

    Source: Jonathan Feigen on Twitter

  • Lonzo Ball - G - Los Angeles Lakers

    Lonzo Ball will miss three-to-four weeks with a Grade 3 left ankle sprain.

    This is quite unfortunate for Ball owners, but was somewhat expected. Rajon Rondo (finger) is worth an add if you can hold him until he comes back. Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma should see a big uptick in usage and time with the ball, but it could get ugly for the Lakers. Josh Hart is worth an add with the added touches he will see.

    Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter

  • Jeff Teague - G - Minnesota Timberwolves

    Jeff Teague (illness) is active against the Suns on Sunday.

    We got a quick scare with the questionable tag just an hour-and-a-half before tip-off, but Teague should be just fine. Make sure he's in your lineups.

    Source: Timberwolves PR on Twitter