• The Portland Trail Blazers might have finally found a lineup that has a chance to be successful against the New Orleans Pelicans. Unfortunately for Terry Stotts and company, it might be too late for that development to matter.

    The New Orleans Pelicans beat the Blazers 111-102 on Tuesday night, taking a commanding 2-0 lead in the teams’ first-round playoff series before it shifts to Smoothie King Center. Jrue Holiday was the best player on the floor, scoring 33 points and dishing nine assists while taking over in crunch time with the the type of two-way dominance normally reserved for his MVP-candidate teammate. That’s not to suggest Anthony Davis let the Pelicans down, either. He had 22 points, 18 rebounds, two steals and two blocks, frustrating the Blazers on both sides of the ball with his unique combination of length, skill and athleticism.

    Portland’s stars, meanwhile, were missing in action again – at least by comparison. C.J. McCollum, who had 22 points on 9-of-21 shooting, certainly had his moments offensively throughout Game 2, but failed to find the consistency needed to offset the continued struggles of his backcourt partner. Damian Lillard was badly outplayed by Holiday again, and made several defensive miscues late – by way of inattentiveness, fatigue or both – that cost his team the chance to steal a victory. He finished with 17 and four assists on 7-of-18 from the field, and committed a whopping seven turnovers.

    New Orleans, just like in Game 1, seemed on its way to another convincing victory until Portland made a run in the fourth quarter. Tuesday’s was spearheaded by the return of Moe Harkless, who not only scored 11 points on perfect 5-of-5 shooting in a team-high 27 minutes off the bench, but also allowed Stotts to abandon his traditional rotation late in favor of a lineup that threw stylistic curveballs on both ends of the floor.

    Lillard, McCollum, Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu and Zach Collins played the last six minutes and 15 seconds of Game 2, switching everything on defense and stationing five players beyond the arc offensively to storm back from a depressing third quarter in which the Blazers were outscored 33-19. Portland even took a brief two-point lead on a triple by Harkless with 3:20 left on the game clock, one stolen right back seconds later on a high-arcing triple by Nikola Mirotic to put the Pelicans up 102-100. The Blazers never got any closer.

    Holiday had 12 points in the fourth quarter, feasting as an individual scorer in ball-screen action, but even that gaudy point total doesn’t do his crunch-time impact justice. He forced the Blazers into multiple misses down the stretch with lock-down on-ball defense, and just as importantly, made every hustle play that presented itself, including tracking down a loose ball off a missed three by Mirotic with two minutes left – and calmly draining a pull-up three to put New Orleans up 105-100.

    Just as they did all game long, Holiday’s teammates followed his lead from there. E’Twaun Moore missed his second straight free throw less than a minute later, providing Portland with a glimmer of hope. But it vanished almost as quickly as it appeared, with Moore grabbing his own miss and somehow erring on an easy layup, only for another 50-50 ball to be tracked down by the Pelicans. Rajon Rondo, postseason switch flipped, iced the game on this triple with 39 seconds left, extending New Orleans’ lead to 108-100.

    Since 1984, 20 teams have lost the first two games of a seven-game series on their home floor, and only three of them have come back to win. That’s not an encouraging statistic for the Blazers, of course, but that hardly means they’re backing down from the challenge.

    “We’re down 0-2 heading into New Orleans,” McCollum said after the game. “We’ve got to have the same mindset they had. Go into their home court and compete, make second-chance opportunities for ourselves, get loose balls.”

    After a team effort good enough to win, with awesome performances from Harkless, Aminu (14 points, 15 rebounds and four 3-pointers) and Collins (12 points, five rebounds), Lillard placed the onus more squarely on himself.

    “I give a lot of credit to them for executing their game plan, seeing two and three guys and making the game difficult,” he said. “But the opportunities that I do get, I’ve just got to be better. I think it’s as simple as that.”

    The return of Harkless and the strategic gambits his presence provides will make Lillard’s life easier. Regression to the mean will help, too. But if it doesn’t come soon, Portland’s highly-anticipated postseason run will be over – and for all intents and purposes, it probably is anyway.

Fantasy News

  • Dejounte Murray
    PG, San Antonio Spurs

    Gregg Popovich implied that Dejounte Murray is no longer on a minutes restriction.

    This isn't too surprising after Murray played 32 minutes on Friday, but it's welcome news for his owners. Derrick White and Patty Mills are still in the mix at point guard, but Murray is showing positive signs recently.

    Source: RJ Marquez on Twitter

  • Jake Layman
    SF, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Jake Layman (left toe sprain) will not play on Monday.

    This is the ninth consecutive game that he has missed. The injury has overshadowed a solid start to the season for Layman.

    Source: Timberwolves PR on Twitter

  • Andrew Wiggins
    SF, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Andrew Wiggins (left thumb sprain) is considered questionable to face the Warriors on Monday.

    Wiggins played 29 minutes on Sunday, but it's uncertain whether he can play two games in two days. At 24.6 points per game, he is on pace for the best scoring average of his career. Keita Bates-Diop could see more action if Wiggins does not suit up.

    Source: Timberwolves PR on Twitter

  • Jeff Teague
    PG, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Jeff Teague (left ankle soreness) is listed as questionable for Monday's game.

    Teague got onto the court for 24 minutes on Sunday against the Lakers. He scored 12 points including two triples. Shabazz Napier could be in line for more minutes if Teague cannot play.

    Source: Timberwolves PR on Twitter

  • Karl-Anthony Towns
    C, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Karl Anthony-Towns (right knee tendinopathy) is considered probable for Monday against the Suns.

    Towns was able to play on Sunday and scored 19 points but only made 1-of-7 attempts from behind the arc. It's positive news that he is expected to play the second half of a back-to-back.

    Source: Timberwolves PR on Twitter

  • Shabazz Napier
    PG, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Shabazz Napier (right hamstring strain) is probable for Monday's game.

    Napier had a nice game on Sunday despite only playing for 15 minutes. His role prevents him from being particularly valuable in standard leagues, though.

    Source: Timberwolves PR on Twitter

  • Kawhi Leonard
    SF, Los Angeles Clippers

    Updating a previous report, Kawhi Leonard (knee maintenance) has officially been ruled out of Monday's game vs. the Pacers.

    This was the expectation all along. The only surprise here is how many rhetorical acrobatics the Clippers have performed with his injury designation, from "load management" to "knee soreness" and now "knee maintenance." The truth is that the Clippers' brass acquired Kawhi Leonard's services on the condition that he alone could dictate his availability for regular season games and Kawhi has understandably taken advantage of his leverage. He's annoying to have in fantasy, but he's earned the right as one of the best players on the planet and he hasn't even met his upside this season, sporting a career-low 44% field goal shooting. When that number returns to the mean, watch out.

    Source: NBA Injury Repot

  • JA Morant
    PG, Memphis Grizzlies

    Ja Morant will play on Monday after missing over a week with back spasms.

    Morant has returned quickly given his initial week-to-week status and will not be on a minutes limit. Tyus Jones carries minimal fantasy value as long as Morant stays healthy.

    Source: Grizzlies PR on Twitter

  • Jae Crowder
    PF, Memphis Grizzlies

    Jae Crowder is considered questionable for Monday's game against the Warriors due to illness.

    Grayson Allen and Solomon Hill would need to step up if Crowder is unable to play. Crowder has averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds so far this season, but his value could dip when Kyle Anderson is ready to return.

    Source: Grizzlies PR on Twitter

  • Marvin Bagley III
    PF, Sacramento Kings

    Marvin Bagley has a chance to return from his thumb fracture on Monday against the Rockets and is being listed as questionable.

    He's been participating in full contact practice for a week now and the "questionable " has followed him around for each of the last two games, which he missed. This would not be an ideal matchup for Bagley to return, but there's a chance. Upon his return, he'll immediately benefit from the usage vacuum created by De'Aaron Fox's injury, but he'll also lose center minutes to an emergent Richaun Holmes. And deservedly so, as Holmes has been the Kings' most valuable player during the past injury-riddled month. Check back in closer to tipoff for a final update on his status.

    Source: NBA Injury Report