• OPPONENT: Utah Jazz

    RECORD: 30-28 (18-9 at home, on 11-game winning streak)

    MEASUREABLES: 106.0 offensive rating (13th), 103.9 defensive rating (sixth), 2.0 net rating (10th)

    PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Ricky Rubio, SG Donovan Mitchell, SF Joe Ingles, PF Derrick Favors, C Rudy Gobert

    INJURIES: Dante Exum (out indefinitely – shoulder surgery), Thabo Sefolosha (out for season – knee surgery)

    WHEN, WHERE, HOW TO WATCH: 9:00 EST, Vivint Smart Home Arena (Salt Lake City), NBC Sports Northwest/AT&T SportsNet

    The Utah Jazz boast a net rating comfortably better than the Portland Trail Blazers’. Friday’s game marks the beginning of a four-game homestand for Utah, which has the league’s ninth-easiet remaining schedule – compared to Portland’s sixth-hardest. The numbers geniuses at FiveThirtyEight give the Jazz, currently 10th-place in the Western Conference, an 87 percent chance of making the playoffs, 22 percent higher than they do the Blazers. Utah, winner of 11 straight, is just one and-a-half games behind the eighth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans and two games behind seventh-place Portland.

    Friday’s game in Salt Lake City, needless to say, is the most important one the Blazers have played all season. Some will suggest that distinction could apply to each of Portland’s 24 remaining regular-season games, a tired trope that still applies given the overcrowded nature of the Western Conference middle class. Only two and-a-half games separate fifth from tenth in the standings, and the San Antonio Spurs, tied for third with the Minnesota Timberwolves, could perhaps be joining that capacity crowd given the season-long absence of Kawhi Leonard. The Blazers, 32-26, are just a single game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers for ninth place despite going 16-10 – a 50-win pace over 82 games – since they fell to .500 on December 22. No team outside the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets is safe in the West.

    Utah should certainly be feeling good about their playoff chances, though, especially after waxing Portland 115-96 at Moda Center on February 11, both teams’ penultimate game before the All-Star break. The Jazz scored a whopping 72 points in the second half of that matchup, getting literally whatever they wanted or needed against the Blazers after intermission. They made 9-of-16 3-pointers and 17-of-19 from the free-throw line,  grabbed 10 offensive rebounds and had 12 fast-break points. Joe Ingles went 4-of-6 from beyond the arc in the second half, when Donovan Mitchell scored 21 of his 27 points – including 10 straight as Portland made a last-gasp comeback effort in the game’s final minutes.

    An inability to keep the ball out of the paint is what doomed the Blazers most during Utah’s utterly dominant second half. Ingles frustrated any defender that guarded him with ultra-patient probes, taking full advantage of Portland playing him for the pass by getting extra deep into the paint before kicking the ball out to the perimeter, where the Jazz kept moving it until they found an open shot. Mitchell and Royce O’Neale gave the Blazers similar issues, with the latter doing most of his playmaking damage by finding Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors for easy dump-offs in the paint.

    High hand-off action killed Portland. Gobert is both an excellent screen-setter and roll man, and forced rotations from weak-side helpers that yielded high-value looks like these.

    Most striking about the Jazz’s play on the other end was their comfort leaving Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu and Evan Turner beyond the 3-point line away from the ball. With Gobert , or even Ekpe Udoh, manning the middle and a plethora of long, active perimeter defenders, they’re hard enough to score on when forced to play “normal” help defense. But when Utah can get away with clogging the paint by having weak-side helpers cheating an extra two steps toward the ball, offense is even harder to come by for its opponents – especially Portland, a team so reliant on the dribble penetration of and overall offensive production of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

    The Jazz are at home, they’re rolling and they, at least over the past three weeks, have been a much better team than the Blazers. Can Lillard and company rise to the stakes and steal a crucial win on the road, steeling themselves for a frantic push toward the playoffs? We’ll find out tonight.

Fantasy News

  • Stephen Curry
    PG, Golden State Warriors

    The Warriors opened their practice facility on Monday, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

    Slater adds that five players showed up for voluntary workouts. It's the first time that Golden State's gym has been open in over two months, and there are only three teams who have yet to get players back into team facilities. While it must be nice for the players to get back to some kind of business, the Warriors are not expected to be playing any more games this season given their league-worst record and the likelihood that the NBA trims the fat rather than ask every team to play out the season.

    Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter

  • Kz Okpala
    F, Miami Heat

    Kz Okpala's offensive game has come a long way since January according to Heat Vice President and Assistant GM, Adam Simon.

    Okpala is already viewed as an NBA-ready defender, and once his offensive game is up to speed the Heat will have a hard time not getting him into the rotation. He spent 20 games in the G League and five with the Heat before the suspension slowed down his progression in 2020. Okpala got off to a slow start due to injuries, and a trade on draft day took away his chance to play in summer league. While this season is unlikely to amount to anything, Okpala is someone to watch in deeper leagues next year.

    Source: Miami Herald

  • Gabe Vincent
    PG, Miami Heat

    Heat Vice President and Assistant GM, Adam Simon, stated that Gabe Vincent's knee is "good to go".

    It sounds like Vincent would have no problem being NBA ready if the Heat decided to call up the two-way guard when play hopefully resumes July 31. Vincent is a strong 3-point shooter with the ability to attack a closeout, but it is still unlikely the Heat will need to put him on the floor for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

    Source: Miami Herald

  • Shake Milton
    SG, Philadelphia Sixers

    According to projections by Mike O'Connor and Derek Bodner of The Athletic, Shake Milton will be a starter for the Sixers whenever play relaunches.

    Milton was thriving for the Sixers when the season was suspended due to COVID-19, and some risk remains that Ben Simmons will bump him from the rotation when the stoppage in play is lifted. In 16 starts with the Sixers, Milton averaged 14.1 points, 2.2 3-pointers, 3.6 assists, 3 rebounds and 1.1 steals. As a 3-pointer specialist along, Milton has earned a slot in 12-team formats, but things are going to be more difficult when he is forced to play off-ball in a fully healthy lineup in Philadelphia

    Source: The Athletic

  • Kevin Durant
    SF, Brooklyn Nets

    On a recent ESPN podcast featuring Adrian Wojnarowski and his colleague Zach Lowe, Wojnarowski stated that Kevin Durant (torn Achilles) would not play for the Nets this year.

    Wojnarowski went onto say that he had no source that had relayed that information to him. The Nets have largely been deferring to Durant and the medical staff when it comes to his prospects for playing this year. While the organization may get hopeful that KD will lace it up for a playoff run, all signs are still pointing to him waiting until 2020-21.

    Source: Anthony Puccio on Twitter

  • Eric Gordon
    SG, Houston Rockets

    Rockets guard Eric Gordon has improved his diet, focused on sprints, and has apparently shed 12 pounds in the process, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

    Gordon has battled knee ailments for essentially his whole career and has dealt with his fair share of nagging injuries this season as well. Losing weight to create a lighter frame would seem sensible, especially with the knee issues. The Rockets, remember, fully adopted the "small ball" lineup and move fast so Gordon is smart to keep his endurance and fitness at high levels. He's going to have to play well and make shots for the Rockets when the NBA returns to action, otherwise coach Mike D'Antoni won't be able to justify giving Gordon minutes. We don't anticipate much fantasy value out of him if and when the league starts back up.

    Source: The Athletic

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is reporting that the NBA is planning for a Board of Governors vote on Thursday, during which they are expected to approve Adam Silver's proposal for re-starting the season in Orlando.

    The trend lines are all moving in this direction, and this adds another bullet point on the schedule as the league prepares for launching games on July 31. Adam Silver has been able to bridge any divides between ownership and the players, and has been taking into account all his key constituent's views as we approach approval of a plan for moving forward. We still have plenty of items to resolve before we see game action, but the NBA is gaining momentum as these details come into place.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Bradley Beal
    SG, Washington Wizards

    On Friday, the Wizards resumed holding voluntary workouts at their practice facilities.

    The Wizards have joined a chorus of teams that are returning in limited capacities to their facilities at this point. The NBA as a whole is continuing its march towards the resumption of play with a target date of July 31 now established. The District of Columbia also entered phase one of reopening today, and it makes sense for the team to proceed on a similar trajectory.

    Source: Candace Buckner on Twitter

  • Julius Randle
    PF, New York Knicks

    Part of the Knicks' off-season thinking is to shape the roster around RJ Barrett, and it unclear where Julius Randle will fit in those plans.

    Barrett and Randle have similar offensive styles, as they typically have an advantage relying upon their strength to attack the basket, but neither has a component deep ball at this stage in their careers. As Barrett is the younger option it makes sense that the Knicks want to sign shooters to give him more space to operate with. Randle's lousy percentages and turnovers has made for a disappointing season with the Knicks thus far, and Barrett will also need to make some strides in the shooting department to become a 12-team asset. Randle is under contract for next season is owed at least $4,000,000 in 2021-22.

    Source: SNY.tv

  • Jayson Tatum
    SF, Boston Celtics

    On Friday, the Celtics' announced that their practice facilities would reopen on June 1.

    That leaves us with four NBA teams without access to their facilities. Things are beginning to accelerate throughout the league as teams ramp up activities in hopes of resuming competition in Orlando on July 31. So far so good, but the NBA still has many hurdles to overcome on the path to resuming the season.

    Source: Celtics PR on Twitter