• The process really does matter more than the results. But for the Portland Trail Blazers, fighting tooth and nail with five other teams for four spots at the bottom of the Western Conference playoff field, any win is cause for celebration – yes, even one at home against arguably the worst team in basketball.

    The Blazers beat the Sacramento Kings 116-99 at Moda Center on Monday night, winning their fourth straight game and moving to 35-26 on the season. Damian Lillard, naturally, led Portland’s ultra-efficient offensive effort with 26 points and 12 assists on 10-of-17 shooting. Jusuf Nurkic had 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Shabazz Napier broke out of a mini shooting slump to score 20 points on just seven shots. Ed Davis and Zach Collins got going again, too, combining for 17 points – including two triples by the rookie – and eight rebounds off the bench.

    C.J. McCollum, who managed just 11 points on 18 shots, was essentially the only Trail Blazer who struggled in a performance that saw Terry Stotts’ team shoot 52.5 percent from the field, connect on 13-of-30 from beyond the arc and set a new season-high with 20 fast-break points. When Portland wasn’t running off one of its 10 steals and Lillard not abusing every defender Sacramento threw his way, the offense often made beautiful plays like this, harkening back to the heyday of Stotts’ ballyhooed flow attack.

    Defense, though, was a (relative) problem for the Blazers almost from the opening tip. They allowed 53 points in the first half, and allowed a whopping 50 points in the paint overall – more than any team averages this season except the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Pelicans. Zach Randolph led the Kings with 20 points, and Willie Cauley-Stein added 17 points and 10 rebounds.

    More troubling than any lack of resistance at the rim, though, was the number of open shots Sacramento missed. Dave Joerger’s team, which entered Monday’s action shooting 40.7 percent from deep over its last five games, made just 7-of-22 from beyond the arc against Portland, including 1-of-5 shooting from the left corner. The majority of the Kings’ missed 3-pointers were very makable looks, ones that a more seasoned team would knock down with regularity.

    All that said, the Blazers should leave this game feeling good. Now fifth-place in the West and nine games over .500 for the first time all season, their odds to make the playoffs, low as they still may be, have never been higher. Lillard has been playing at a legitimate MVP level for weeks, while the collective bench made a huge impact – Napier, Davis, Collins and Evan Turner had 39 points, 20 rebounds, eight assists and five steals between them – for the first time in what feels like a month. The division-leading Minnesota Timberwolves, missing an injured Jimmy Butler, come to town on Thursday, too, for a nationally-televised road matchup against a team suddenly trailing them by just one and-a-half games in the standings. If Portland beats Minnesota, there’s a good possibility this team enters the weekend in line for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

    That type of hopeful optimism is still premature, and frankly, wouldn’t much change the Blazers’ chances to beat the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors in a potential Western Conference Semifinal. Portland has already established itself as a worthy playoff team this season; that much alone ensures 2017-18 will be a minor success. But to make it something much more than that, the Blazers need to create a mix of defensive and offensive effectiveness that was absent even during their strong start to the season and stronger play of late.

    Little in this win over the Kings makes that development seem more likely to transpire. What another victory does do, though, is increase the likelihood of Portland getting extra opportunities to achieve that two-way success in late April and May.

    A win, especially in the 2018 Western Conference playoff race, is still a win.

Fantasy News

  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
    PF, Milwaukee Bucks

    In a recent fan question session Bucks' GM Jon Horst hinted towards signing Giannis Antetokounmpo to a supermax extension when eligible.

    Horst mentioned that he cannot technically discuss an extension until he is eligible, but said Antetokounmpo will be a Buck for a long time. The Greek Freak will be eligible next summer and is all but sure to get a supermax extension.

    Source: Fox Sports Wisconsin on Twitter

  • Tacko Fall
    C, Boston Celtics

    Tacko Fall (mild knee sprain) is expected to miss one week after a collision in workouts.

    With training camp two weeks away, Fall should be ready to roll by then. He is currently on an Exhibit 10 contract, battling for the final roster spot with Javonte Green (partially guaranteed) and Kaiser Gates (Exhibit 10). Fall is an intriguing talent at 7'7" but is not expected to be fantasy relevant in his first season even if he does make the team with the Celtics already carrying four center eligible players on guaranteed contracts.

    Source: Jared Weiss on Twitter

  • Nicolas Batum
    SG, Charlotte Hornets

    According to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have been informed that, "The agenda is youth and development."

    The article adds that both players will have a chance to compete for minutes but the Hornets' top priority will be to develop their younger players which bodes well for Dwayne Bacon, Miles Bridges, Devonte Graham, P.J. Washington and Willy Hernangomez. Miles was already putting up near top-100 value to close the season at around 25 minutes per game while the rest of the players could all produce fantasy value if given the minutes so they should at least be put on the watch list to see how the preseason plays out.

    Source: Charlotte Observer

  • Bogdan Bogdanovic
    SG, Sacramento Kings

    Bogdan Bogdanovic finished with 32 points on 10-of-17 shooting and drained seven triples as Serbia topped Czech Republic 90-81 to finish in 5th place.

    Bogdanovic also added four rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block and was certainly one of the most impressive players in the tournament. Although he has the talent to be a successful full-time starter, the 27-year old will likely be relegated to a similar 25-27 minute, off-the-bench role he played last season with Buddy Hield, Harrison Barnes and newly added Trevor Ariza also on the wings. Nikola Jokic also did his usual thing this game with seven points, 14 rebounds and seven assists. Boban Marjanovic and Nemanja Bejlica were not really involved in this one, playing only two and eight minutes, respectively.

    Source: FIBA

  • Donovan Mitchell
    SG, Utah Jazz

    Donovan Mitchell scored 16 points with 10 assists as US beat Poland 87-74 on Saturday to finish seventh place in the tournament.

    Mitchell was an efficient 5-of-6 from the field and 4-of-4 from downtown but the bigger story of course was USA's disappointing showing as this was only the second time that they finished outside the top-3 in the FIBA World Cup since 1978. Kemba Walker (neck), Jayson Tatum (ankle) and Marcus Smart (hand/quad/calf) all sat out the final game as they now have two weeks to rest before the start of training camp.

    Source: FIBA

  • Evan Fournier
    SF, Orlando Magic

    Evan Fournier scored 16 points to lead France in their semifinal loss to Argentina by the score of 80-66.

    This was a really poor showing all around in an elimination game by the French team. Fournier scored an inefficient 16 and was joined by Frank Ntilikina's 16 as two of just three French players in double figures.

  • Rudy Gobert
    C, Utah Jazz

    Rudy Gobert was invisible in France's loss to Argentina in the semifinals of the FIBA World Cup, scoring just three points and pulling down 11 rebounds in 29 minutes.

    This just wasn't enough from Gobert, who couldn't impose his will against a weaker Argentina squad on paper. Joining him in the "forgot there was a game" club was Nicolas Batum, who consistently finds a way to do nothing in heavy minutes. Batum's line in this one was a paltry three points (1-of-6 shooting), five boards, one assist and a block.

  • Patty Mills
    PG, San Antonio Spurs

    Patty Mills was the star for Australia, scoring 34 points and hitting four triples against Spain, but Australia fell in double overtime 95-88.

    Mills did as much as he could but he just didn't get enough help from his supporting cast. Joe Ingles couldn't find the basket and only had four points (to go along with 10 rebounds and seven assists). With that off night of shooting from Ingles, the Aussies needed someone like Matthew Dellavedova (six points) or Aron Baynes (six points) to step up.

  • Ricky Rubio
    PG, Phoenix Suns

    Ricky Rubio approached a triple-double in the semi-final win over Australia with 19 points, seven boards and 12 assists in 38 minutes.

    It was another big line for Rubio in the semis, who has been a stalwart for this Spanish run to the finals. He was inefficient from the field (6-of-19) but ran the offense well and should be a factor again in the final game.

  • Marc Gasol
    C, Toronto Raptors

    Marc Gasol carried Spain to the FIBA World Cup Final in a double-OT win over Australia, finishing with 33 points, six rebounds and four assists.

    Gasol had a great outing to lift Spain here and they should have a great shot at winning the title against Argentina. We'll see how this high workload summer affects him going into the new season.