• So much for the Utah Jazz’s 11-game winning streak.

    In one of their most impressive performances of the 2017-18 season, the Portland Trail Blazers beat the formerly streaking Jazz 100-81 on Friday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena. C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined for 50 points on 39 shots, and came up big during the moments their team needed them most. Maurice Harkless tied his career-high with six steals, spearheading an energetic defensive effort that led to 22 points off 20 turnovers and held the Jazz to just 15 assists.

    Portland gave Utah a dose of its medicine, too. Just less than two weeks ago, the Jazz used a dominant third quarter to blow open a competitive game on the road. But on Friday, it was Terry Stotts’ team that used halftime as a springboard to convincing victory.

    The Blazers got off to a great start against the Jazz. Al-Farouq Aminu opened the game by dropping in a schemed three from the right wing, almost exactly where McCollum drained a pull-up triple on Portland’s ensuing possession. It was defense even more than hot jump-shooting, though, that set the tone for the Blazers early. Harkless, incredibly active from the opening tip, picked off two Utah passes and went the other way for tough layups, and even kept Donovan Mitchell in check – at least for the game’s opening few minutes. The rookie had a quick eight points after a second consecutive off-dribble three, cutting what was once a 23-13 Portland lead to four with 3:14 left in the opening stanza. Lillard came alive from there, but the Jazz, when they weren’t turning the ball over, were shooting even better from the perimeter than the Blazers. Considering Utah’s 68.8 percent field goal shooting and four 3-pointers, Portland was lucky to leave the first quarter up 31-30.

    One of the many encouraging signs of the game for Stotts came in the second quarter, when his bench helped push the Blazers’ lead back to double-digits. Shabazz Napier, Ed Davis and Zach Collins each had their moments on both ends. Napier hit an off-dribble three from center after settling behind a flat screen from Jusuf Nurkic, and also got backdoor for a layup off a nifty feed from Collins. After Nurkic drilled a 21-foot jumper, his second mid-range make of the game, Portland suddenly led by 11 points with three minutes and 13 seconds remaining before intermission. But Utah, ever resilient, closed on a 7-2 run behind Mitchell and Gobert, entering halftime trailing 53-47.

    The Blazers, like the Jazz before them, flat-out dominated the third quarter. After McCollum drained a three and probed his way to the paint for a difficult finish over Gobert, Harkless swiped his fifth steal of the game, leading to a dunk by Aminu in transition that put Portland up 66-51 less than four minutes into the period. Nurkic badly outplayed Gobert, too, blocking his shot on one end and backing him down from the left block for an easy righty hook shortly thereafter. Utah got some momentum after the Blazers’ extended their advantage to 16 points, but Lillard made sure he stole it right back. Portland’s All-Star drove hard to the rim to draw a pair of shooting fouls, nailing all four freebies, then closed the period with this sick step-back 20-footer over Royce O’Neale, putting his team up 80-64 heading into the fourth.

    The Jazz, slowly chipping away at a deficit some teams would deem insurmountable, got within nine points after a jumper by Jae Crowder with three minutes and five seconds remaining. Were the Blazers about to let another double-digit lead go to waste? McCollum answered that question with authority over his team’s next three possessions, nailing a trio of pull-up jumpers off the same, simple pick-and-roll action. His last make put Portland up 96-81 with 1:38 left in the game, and was almost the exact opposite of the pair that came directly before. That’s not to suggest it was any less nasty, though.

    There’s no reason to sugarcoat the significance of this victory for the Blazers. They not only ended Utah’s 11-game winning streak and put more distance between themselves and others fighting for Western Conference playoff positioning, but also played arguably their most complete game of the season. There’s no formula for Portland that will yield more consistently successful results than establishing a big lead through a balanced two-way effort, then allowing Lillard and McCollum to take over when the going gets tough. If the Blazers ever develop a concrete identity before the season ends, it should look pretty much exactly like this.

    Portland’s win, on the road against a quality opponent who is surging up the standings, is cause for celebration. The Blazers can’t get too happy, though – this victory will be for naught if it’s not followed up by beating the lowly Phoenix Suns in less than 24 hours.

Fantasy News

  • Andre Iguodala
    SF, Miami Heat

    Andre Iguodala returned to South Florida after living in California since the NBA season was suspended.

    Iguodala returning to the market where his team is could mean that he believes team workouts will begin soon. However, there is no official timetable on when team workouts will begin and Jimmy Butler has yet to return to Miami.

    Source: Ira Winderman on Twitter

  • Zach LaVine
    SG, Chicago Bulls

    K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported that the Bulls were cleared by the Governor of Illinois and are in talks with city officials to open practice facilities on Friday for voluntary workouts that would follow the NBA guidelines.

    The NBA's guidelines currently state that a maximum of four players are allowed in the facility at any given time and there can only be one player per hoop. The Bulls are currently eight games behind the Orlando Magic for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls may not play again this season given how far behind they are in the standings and the recent reports of proposals to not continue the regular season.

    Source: K.C. Johnson on Twitter

  • Luka Doncic
    PG-SF, Dallas Mavericks

    Marc Stein of the New York Times has reported that the Mavs plan to open their practice facility on Thursday.

    This news would make the Mavs the 23rd team to have their facilities open for "voluntary and socially distanced player workouts". Continue to monitor the wire as we should learn more about the potential of the league resuming in early June.

    Source: Marc Stein on Twitter

  • Kawhi Leonard
    SF, Los Angeles Clippers

    On Tuesday afternoon, AmicoHoops reported (via Twitter) that an unidentified NBA GM told them the league has seriously discussed resuming the current NBA season on Wednesday, July 22.

    Nothing has been officially announced, by any means, and this is the first we've heard of specific target date(s) from anyone. It's looking like the continuation of the season will occur in Orlando at Walt Disney World at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, which has accommodations for at least some of what the NBA has planned for a resuming activity. As we have relayed numerous times recently, the next week or two seem to be a likely window for some decisions from Adam Silver and Co. at the NBA league office to start to come down. Stay tuned, hoops fans.

    Source: AmicoHoops on Twitter

  • Damian Lillard
    PG, Portland Trail Blazers

    Damian Lillard announced on Tuesday evening that, in the event of a continuation of the NBA season, he would not be participating if the Blazers are scheduled to play 'meaningless games' with no shot at making the playoffs.

    "If we come back and they're just like, 'We're adding a few games to finish the regular season,' and they're throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don't have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I'm going to be with my team because I'm a part of the team. But I'm not going to be participating," Lillard told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday morning. It's hard to blame him, as it is quite easy to see the potential situation from his point of view. There have been countless scenarios tossed around by the league office during the pandemic period, but nothing is set in stone so far. Lillard, for his part, is only interested in returning to action if there exists a legitimate shot for his Blazers to reach the NBA Finals. Fair enough.

    Source: Yahoo! Sports

  • Joel Embiid
    C, Philadelphia Sixers

    The Sixers, who have their practice facility located in nearby Camden, NJ, will allow voluntary player workouts at the facility beginning on Wednesday, raising the number of NBA teams who have been able to do so to 22.

    The Celtics, Knicks, Bulls, Pistons, Wizards, Mavericks, Spurs and Warriors are the final teams remaining who are unable to return to their practice facilities. The NBA seems to be inching ever so close to, at the very least, announcing a plan for a continuation of the current season. This next week or two should be very eventful on that front.

    Source: Marc Stein on Twitter

  • Clint Capela
    C, Atlanta Hawks

    Hawks GM Travis Schlenk indicated on Tuesday that Clint Capela (right heel, plantar fasciitis) could very well play in the event of an NBA restart.

    "Clint [Capela] says he's feeling better, and there's a possibility that we can get him back on the court," Schlenk said in a phone interview with ESPN. "Practicing and playing five games would be valuable to us." Capela has yet to see the floor for the Hawks since he was acquired at the deadline from the Rockets, and one would have to surmise that he would be under a heavy minutes restriction if the league resumes and if the Hawks deem him healthy enough to give it a go. Still two big "ifs," but this is obviously positive news for the Hawks and potentially for fantasy owners who have managed to stash Capela in an injury slot this long.

    Source: ESPN.com

  • Mohamed Bamba
    C, Orlando Magic

    Magic center Mo Bamba said on Tuesday that he's spent the quarantine period bulking up, self-proclaiming that he's put on close to 30 pounds of muscle.

    Bamba said of his time off, ""I’ve worked my tail off during this quarantine. This is going to sound weird, but I put on probably about 28 pounds since quarantine (started)." He laughed and added that only about 2.5 percent of the weight he's put on is body fat. Bamba, along with many other NBA players, "can’t wait to get back out there and work" which is a great sign for the Magic and their fans. Jonathan Isaac is becoming more and more of a potential option for the team when/if the season is resumed as the days pass, so his presence would limit Bamba's chances on the offensive end of the floor. The team has yet to decide whether or not they want to play Isaac at all the rest of the season, regardless of the rumblings about a restart from the league office. However, this bulk-up on Bamba's part is nonetheless pretty impressive and is certainly noteworthy.

    Source: NBA.com

  • Terry Rozier
    PG, Charlotte Hornets

    The Hornets are the latest team to re-open their facilities, with the Novant Health Training Center set to open up on Tuesday.

    With this, there are only eight teams left to open their practice courts back up, though nobody has been able to engage in any sort of team work yet. Individual workouts are better than no workouts, however, and the league appears to be getting its ducks in a row in terms of returning to play. There's still no firm timelines but things do appear to be heading in the right direction.

    Source: Charlotte Hornets

  • Jon Leuer
    PF, Milwaukee Bucks

    Jon Leuer has announced his retirement from basketball.

    Injuries completely destroyed Leuer's career, as he played in a combined 49 games over the previous two seasons with zero appearances in the 2019-20 campaign. Leuer's high point came with the Suns, where he averaged 8.5 points to go with 5.6 rebounds, 0.6 steals, 0.4 blocks and a 38.2 mark from deep. His eight-year career comes to an end, with Leuer saying that his body simply won't let him play at a high level anymore.

    Source: Jon Leuer on Instagram