• 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

  • Dwight Howard
    C, Memphis Grizzlies

    Dwight Howard has agreed with the Grizzlies on a buyout, and will sign a non-guaranteed contract with the Lakers.

    The Lakers are giving Howard an opportunity to be fantasy relevant. When given minutes, Dwight can produce double-doubles with the best of them, but he has been changing teams for years now. He will be worth a gamble at the end of your draft if camp with the Lakers goes well, but this is a non-guaranteed deal, and he only played nine games last season.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Marcus Derrickson
    PF, Atlanta Hawks

    The Hawks signed Marcus Derrickson to an Exhibit 10 contract on Friday.

    It looks like Derrickson will be a G-League option for the Hawks, so there's nothing to see here. At one point he was competing for the last roster spot on the team. We don't need to keep of track of every computer-generated player.

    Source: Chris Vivlamore on Twitter

  • Marreese Speights
    C, Free Agent

    Marreese Speights will work out for the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday according to Alex Kennedy of Hoopshype.

    Speights spent last year playing in China and will attempt his NBA comeback with the Lakers. who are in desperate need of an additional center. He is among three centers the Lakers are looking into, the others being Dwight Howard and Joakim Noah. Of those three, Speights unquestionably has the best floor spacing ability, which would be his strongest bet to eke out those other two for the job.

    Source: Alex Kennedy on Twitter

  • Trevor Booker
    PF, International

    Trevor Booker has worked out for the Nuggets and has workouts planned with the Bucks and Clippers, according to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype.

    Booker was out of the NBA in 2018-19, spending the season in China after he didn't get any offers in free agency. He did return to the US to undergo a procedure on his foot but is apparently fully recovered. The last time we saw Booker he split 68 games between the Nets, Sixers and Pacers in 2017-18. If he does make a successful comeback he'll have no fantasy relevance.

    Source: Alex Kennedy on Twitter

  • John Henson
    PF, Cleveland Cavaliers

    In a recent Q & A on Cleveland.com, beat writer Chris Fedor said that the Cavs are "excited" to have a healthy John Henson.

    Henson underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left wrist last November and missed the rest of the season. He was limited to 14 games with Milwaukee before getting traded to the Cavs, averaging 5.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 13.4 minutes per game. The Cavs do have a crowded rotation at center with Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love and Larry Nance Jr. all candidates to see minutes, but Henson gives them an element of rim protection and could factor in. He's a name to remember for deep-league owners hunting blocks.

    Source: Cleveland.com

  • Robert Covington
    SF, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Robert Covington (right knee bone bruise) will reportedly be "good to go" for the start of training camp in October.

    Well, this is good news that we didn't hope we would need. Covington played 35 games last year and couldn't get over the bone bruise injury that kept him out for a majority of the year. We expected him to be ready to go, and the fact that we're even discussing this is slightly less than ideal.

    Source: Dane Moore on Twitter

  • Kemba Walker
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Team USA has named Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart and Donovan Mitchell as captains for the FIBA World Cup.

    Congratulations to Mitchell, Walker and Smart on the tremendous honor of being named captains for the USA men's team. This won't have any impact on their upcoming fantasy seasons, but it is a major accomplishment nonetheless. Team USA has an exhibition rematch against Team Australia on Saturday.

    Source: Boston.com Celtics News on Twitter

  • Isaiah Canaan
    PG, International

    Isaiah Canaan has signed a contract with the Shangdong Heroes of the Chinese Basketball Association.

    The veteran journeyman played for the Suns, Wolves and Bucks last season, appearing in 30 games total. Canaan will be looking at a more prominent role and payday overseas as he attempts to build his value back up before trying to latch on to a team towards the end of the year. Canaan is off the fantasy radar.

    Source: Zhang Duo on Twitter

  • Patty Mills
    PG, San Antonio Spurs

    Patty Mills put up 19 points, three assists, two steals, a block and three 3-pointers in Thursday's international exhibition between Team Australia and Team USA.

    The Boomers figure to be one of the chief threats to the Americans in the World Cup and put forth a competitive effort in today's exhibition. Mills has typically been a steady, late-round fantasy option for deep-league play but that may change this season as the Spurs will need to mix in both Derrick White and Dejounte Murray in the backcourt. Chris Goulding tied for the team lead in points, also scoring 19 while hitting four 3-pointers in 22 minutes off the bench.

  • Myles Turner
    C, Indiana Pacers

    Myles Turner put up 15 points and 14 rebounds in Thursday's exhibition win over Team Australia, shooting 6-of-8 from the floor with a 3-pointer.

    Turner didn't get any blocks but we know that last year's league-leader can rack those up in a hurry, whether he's getting them in international competition or not. Look for another early-middle round season out of the talented big man. Kemba Walker led Team USA with 23 points in the 102-86 win.