April 8, 2018, 1:04 pm
The Jazz (46-33) are playing as well as any team in the NBA, having won 27-of-32 contests and looking absolutely dominant in the process. They are also one of the healthiest teams at this late stage in the season — their only concern is a hamstring strain sustained by starting point guard Ricky Rubio during a blowout of the Clippers on Thursday.
The Lakers (34-45) are at the opposite end of the spectrum, struggling to win games due to being completely decimated by injury. Los Angeles will play without Brandon Ingram, Isaiah Thomas and Luol Deng while Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball are listed as questionable. The latter participated in a significant portion of the team drills on Saturday to upgrade his status, but his return seems unlikely for Sunday’s game.
In the absence of much of their scoring and playmaking ability, the Lakers will try to rely on Julius Randle for as much of the burden as he can shoulder. Unfortunately, this matchup is particularly difficult for him due to length and athleticism of Utah’s Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. In the last meeting, Randle was tasked with playing some point guard and did an excellent job creating for his teammates while racking up nine assists. A key element in the successful implementation of that strategy will be a repeat of the Lakers’ ability to knock down 3-pointers as they did in that game, converting 14-of-28 for 50.0 percent shooting.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led the Lakers in scoring the last time they faced the Jazz, chipping-in 28 points, five rebounds, one steal and five 3-pointers on 8-of-14 from the field. Los Angeles will need a similar performance Sunday if they are to contend.
The Lakers will also rely on rookie Josh Hart, who is fresh off a 20-point, 11-rebound double-double off the bench against the Timberwolves on Friday. Hart has proven himself to be an excellent rebounder at the guard position, often able to accrue double-digit rebounds when afforded the opportunity to start.
One glimmer of hope for the Lakers may be the absence of Utah guard Ricky Rubio, who recently torched the Lakers for 25 first-half points en route to a 31-point outburst. However, his backcourt mate and Rookie of the Year candidate Donovan Mitchell is quite able to pick up the slack if need be. In the last meeting between the two teams he contributed 26 points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal. For the year he is averaging 20.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.5 steals in what can only be described as a stellar inaugural season for the young man.
Los Angeles will also have to contend with Jazz center Rudy Gobert, arguably the league’s best defensive big man and the heart of the Utah defense. The last time the teams met Gobert accumulated a stat line of 12 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocks.
The Jazz are still fighting for their playoff seeding, able to finish as high as third in the Western Conference or miss the postseason entirely — though that remains fairly unlikely. They have the chance to clinch their playoff berth on Sunday in Los Angeles.
-The Jazz are an elite defensive team, earning a 102.0 defensive rating (second) for the season compared to 105.7 (13th) for the Lakers. However, during their recent four-game streak it’s been their offense that has catapulted them to new heights, earning a league-leading offensive rating of 118.3 during that stretch.
-These two teams generally play a very different style of basketball with Utah looking to slow the game down to take advantage of their excellent half-court defense while the Lakers try and push the rate of play. Consequently, the Lakers are among the league-leaders in pace at 102.65 vs. 97.65 for Utah.
-Taking care of the ball has been a serious problem for the Lakers all season but was particularly pronounced in their last game when a 21-5 disparity hurt any chance they had of contending with Minnesota. For the season, the Lakers turn the ball over 15.8 times per game (29th) in contrast to the Jazz who average 14.7 miscues per game (20th).
-Shooting from the charity stripe and 3-point line has been the Achilles’ heel for the Lakers all season as they are near the bottom of the league in both categories. On the season they shoot 34.6 percent from 3-point range (29th) and 71.0 percent from the free throw line (30th) while the Jazz convert 36.6 percent of their 3-point attempts (12th) and 78.0 percent of their free throws (11th).
Projected Starting Lineups
Alex Caruso (PG)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG)
Josh Hart (SF)
Julius Randle (PF)
Brook Lopez (C)
Ricky Rubio (PG)
Donovan Mitchell (SG)
Joel Ingles (SF)
Derrick Favors (PF)
Rudy Gobert (C)
Lonzo Ball (knee contusion) – OUT
Kyle Kuzma (ankle) – OUT
Brandon Ingram (concussion) – OUT
Isaiah Thomas (hip) – OUT
Luol Deng (ankle) – OUT
Ricky Rubio (hamstring) – ACTIVE
Time: 3:00 PM PST, 6:00 PM EST
Television: SPECSN/SPECD, AT&T SPORTSNET – ROCKY MOUNTAIN
Radio: 710 AM ESPN, 1330 AM ESPN DEPORTES, 97.5 FM, 1280 AM THE ZONE
May 26, 2019, 10:12 pmJimmy Butler - G/F - Philadelphia Sixers
According to Tom Moore, it's a good move for the Sixers to sign Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris to big deals over the summer.
Moore points out that the move to acquire Butler at the NBA trade deadline was with the intention of keeping him with the team long-term. Butler was one of the more reliable Sixers players in the playoffs and his experience and composure shined through. Both he and Harris are expected to get a lot of suitors come free agency so it will be interesting to see how much the Sixers will be willing to cough up to retain their talented veterans.
Source: Tom Moore on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 4:01 pmBrook Lopez - C - Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks have multiple decisions to make when free agency starts but re-signing Brook Lopez is a priority, according to Malika Andrews.
The Bucks will likely lock up Khris Middleton first and then will have to decide on Malcolm Brogdon. He is a restricted free agent, but keeping him may vault Milwaukee into the luxury tax. After those two, Lopez is a priority over the other pending free agents such as Nikola Mirotic and George Hill. The Bucks won't have Bird Rights on Brook Lopez meaning they'd only have the mid-level exception to offer him, and if they go into the luxury tax, the mid-level exception drops from about $9 million to about $5 million. He'd almost certainly be taking a discount to stay in Milwaukee, but it's still possible he remains a Buck.
Source: Malika Andrews on ESPN
May 26, 2019, 3:53 pmNick Nurse - Team - Toronto Raptors
According to Peter Yannopoulos, Nick Nurse will be the coach of Team Canada this summer at the World Championships in China.
Nurse will be succeeding Hornets assistant coach Jay Triano, and will be in a similar position that Gregg Popovich has with Team USA. Nurse has had a meteoric rise since being the innovator of the Raptors new offense in 2017-18 as an assistant, to being promoted to head coach, to making the NBA Finals and now being named Team Canada's head coach.
Source: Peter Yannopoulos on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 11:48 amOG Anunoby - F - Toronto Raptors
The Raptors are expressing optimism that OG Anunoby will be able to see the floor for their NBA Finals matchup with the Golden State Warriors.
Anunoby's size and defensive versatility could make for a very valuable weapon against the Warriors' small-ball lineups. That being said, he has been out for nearly a month and a half, and the Raptors' eight man rotation has hit its stride in the crux of this playoff run. It remains to be seen if he will make it back, but in the event that he can, there is no guarantee that he will be able to crack meaningful minutes in Toronto's tight rotation.
Source: Ryan Wolstat on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 11:19 amMichael Porter Jr. - F - Denver Nuggets
As a symptom from his back surgeries, Michael Porter Jr. developed drop foot, and will wear to a leg brace to help stabilize it when he makes his professional debut in Summer League according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post.
Drop foot makes it hard for one to lift the front part of their foot and is a common symptom of back related ailments, of which Porter Jr. has had two surgeries to address over the last year and a half. Porter Jr. remains an unknown commodity with a laundry list of health concerns as an NBA player. There has been some recent success with young guys being able to bounce back in big ways after suffering year-long injuries, but Porter Jr. will remain a mystery until we see him on the court for his inaugural season.
Source: The Denver Post
May 26, 2019, 11:04 amJonas Valanciunas - C - Memphis Grizzlies
Jonas Valanciunas said that he wants to see who the Memphis Grizzlies hire as their next head coach before deciding on his $17.6 million player option.
Valanciunas saw his role increase in Memphis after being traded from Toronto, and actually played to compete with the Grizz trying to win enough games to convert their, at the time, low-end lottery pick to Boston. Valanciunas made it clear that he doesn't want to return to Memphis if their plans are to pivot to a rebuild and not compete again next year, saying, "I want to know, how we gonna look in 82 games. I don't want to be a tourist. I want to win.". The Hoop Ball favorite will be hard pressed to find a situation that will give him as much run, and fantasy value, as Memphis did, making this a decision fantasy owners everywhere should monitor.
Source: Dontas Urbonas on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 10:06 amKawhi Leonard - F - Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard held Giannis Antetekounmpo to just .353 shooting from the floor with an offensive rating of 89.4 when guarding him in the Eastern Conference Finals.
This is needed to emphasize just how dominant of a defensive player Leonard really is. For reference, Giannis shot .578 from the floor with an offensive rating of 121 through the regular season. A total swing of nearly 23 percent and 32 less points per 100 possessions is preposterous for any player, especially an MVP caliber offensive juggernaut in Antetokounmpo. Keep these numbers in mind as the debate over Leonard being the league's best player continues to heat up.
Source: Micha Adams on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 1:17 amKawhi Leonard - F - Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard posted a monster line in Saturday's 100-94 Game 6 win, scoring 27 points with 17 rebounds, seven assist, two steals, two blocks and six turnovers.
Leonard put the Raptors on his back and carried them into their first NBA Finals appearance. After losing the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals the Raptors stormed back to take the next four to seal the series. Kawhi has been simply marvelous for this team and found a way to crank it up another notch, averaging almost 30 points per game this series. He was all over the court this game and dominated the Bucks from inside the paint. A 4th quarter dunk over Giannis Antetokounmpo punctuated this dominance and sent the hometown crowd in a frenzy. The Raptors will try to keep their hot streak going as they face the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
May 26, 2019, 1:14 amGiannis Antetokounmpo - F - Milwaukee Bucks
While Giannis Antetokounmpo will be eligible for a five-year supermax contract worth over $247 million, ESPN's Malika Andrews is reporting that the 2020 playoff run could swing whether or not Antetokounmpo stays with the Bucks long-term.
The Bucks have three of their starters and two key bench pieces heading into free agency this summer, so they might have to make some bold choices to keep the necessary parts around while also improving the team on a budget. It's possible that this is the Antetokounmpo camp's way of encouraging Milwaukee to empty the wallet and keep the current group together, but it goes against what Giannis has said publicly about the team and city from day one. The Bucks were eliminated mere hours ago but we're already having this conversation. The NBA news cycle is perpetual.
May 26, 2019, 12:59 amKyle Lowry - G - Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry posted a solid line in Saturday's Game 6 win scoring 17 points while adding five rebounds, eight assists, three 3-pointers, one steal and only one turnover.
After a pedestrian series against the 76ers, Lowry stepped it up against the Bucks, averaging almost 20 points per game in the Eastern Conference Finals. He did a great job making smart plays for the Raptors and they will need him to continue to operate at this high level as they head off into the NBA Finals next week.