February 27, 2018, 4:40 pm
OPPONENT: Sacramento Kings
RECORD: 18-49 (3-7 last 10 games, 10-22 on road)
MEASUREABLES: 101.3 offensive rating (30th), 110.0 defensive rating (29th), -8.7 net rating (29th)
WHEN, WHERE, HOW TO WATCH: 10:00 EST, Moda Center (Portland), NBC Sports Northwest/NBC Sports Bay Area
The most striking takeaway from the Portland Trail Blazers’ 118-100 victory over the Sacramento Kings on February 9 was the dominance of Damian Lillard. A week before playing in his third All-Star Game, Lillard scored 50 points on 16-of-26 shooting in just 29 minutes, sitting out the entire fourth quarter of his team’s second road win in as many nights. Well, sort of. Terry Stotts actually sent Lillard to the scorer’s table when the Kings cut their deficit to 13 points on a 3-pointer by Buddy Hield with 4:46 remaining on the game clock. Fortunately, Shabazz Napier drained a three of his own shortly thereafter, ending Lillard’s night for good before he was forced to play crunch-time hero.
That was hardly the only time the Blazers’ grasp on victory was tenuous. After leading 62-52 at halftime, Portland’s lead was just 75-74 when Zach Randolph scored with 4:25 left in the third quarter, extending Sacramento’s mini run to 10-2. Lillard came to the rescue from there, of course, scoring 15 of the Blazers’ final 17 points of the third quarter to give his team a 92-74 advantage heading into the final stanza.
Any road win in the NBA is a feat in its own right, and extenuating circumstances of a back-to-back partially explain Portland’s struggle to put one of the league’s worst teams away. Those “struggles” are all relative, too; basketball is a game of runs, and the Blazers slowed the Kings’ before Lillard went on a bigger one of his own, essentially ending the game before it was over.
For fans who have grown accustomed to Portland playing to its level of competition, though, that game was typically frustrating for its majority. The same can obviously be said for this team’s frantic comeback against the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night. The common denominator between those two games, other than Lillard forcefully burgeoning his All-NBA case? The Blazers, in the thick of one of the most competitive playoff races in NBA history, won both games.
Now 34-26 and winner of three straight, Portland sits at sixth place in the Western Conference, tied with the fifth-place and surging New Orleans Pelicans in the standings but just two games ahead of the ninth-place Los Angeles Clippers. None of the six teams fighting for the West’s bottom four playoff spots can afford losing imminently-winnable games, and Tuesday’s at Moda Center against Sacramento certainly counts as such for the Blazers.
Chief to avoiding that letdown is guarding the 3-point line. Led by underrated rookie wing Bogdan Bogdanovic and sharpshooter Buddy Hield, the Kings are shooting 40.7 percent on 27.0 3-point attempts per game in their last five outings. Even lottery-pick point guard De’Aaron Fox, billed as a non-shooter coming into his rookie year, has gotten in on the act of late, connecting on three of his four long-range tries in Monday night’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Another potential deciding factor: The availability of Zach Randolph. Coach Dave Joerger and front-office management began strategically resting veterans months ago, with the hope of accelerating the development of young players while increasing the chance of lottery-ball luck. Randolph didn’t play on Monday, ceding his starting spot to sophomore Skal Labissiere, who was recently recalled from the G-League. Al-Farouq Aminu and Zach Collins won’t have any trouble banging with the lithe, contact-averse Labissiere. But Randolph? Z-Bo isn’t the player he once was, but still has enough physical oomph left to keep a bad team competitive – especially given his recent proficiency from beyond the arc.
This is another game Portland should win. Even better than just a victory, though, would be the Blazers getting a comfortable one without needing another virtuoso performance from Lillard.
May 31, 2020, 8:10 pmKz OkpalaF, 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
May 31, 2020, 8:03 pmGabe VincentPG, 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
May 31, 2020, 7:51 pmShake MiltonSG, 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
May 31, 2020, 7:42 pmKevin DurantSF, 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
May 29, 2020, 7:43 pmEric GordonSG, 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
May 29, 2020, 6:03 pmLeBron JamesSF, 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
May 29, 2020, 4:44 pmBradley BealSG, 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
May 29, 2020, 4:03 pmJulius RandlePF, 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.
May 29, 2020, 3:46 pmJayson TatumSF, 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
May 29, 2020, 3:40 pmRJ BarrettSF, New York Knicks
The Knicks reopened their practice facility for voluntary workouts on Friday.
Another step in the right direction for the NBA's return to action at the end of July. It's still unclear if the Knicks will even be involved in whatever plan is agreed upon, but it is good to learn that the players can now access their facilities in New York. Only five team facilities have not opened up in some capacity at this point.
Source: Knicks PR on Twitter