• Now that is a statement win. Unfortunately for the Portland Trail Blazers, though, they were on the wrong side of it against the Utah Jazz.

    The surging Jazz manhandled the Blazers by a score of 115-96 on Sunday night, winning their ninth consecutive game and getting back to .500 for the first time since early December. They did it without a hobbled Ricky Rubio, too, but no one would ever know it given the way Utah decimated Portland on both sides of the ball. Donovan Mitchell led the Jazz with 27 points, while Joe Ingles frustrated the Blazers all night en route to 24 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals on 12 shot attempts.

    The Blazers, almost unbelievably based on this game’s outcome, were able to get out to an early lead. They led 10-8 early despite shooting just 2-of-9 from the field, noticeably spooked by the presence of Rudy Gobert in the paint. After Utah took the lead on a triple by Ingles, Al-Farouq Aminu answered with one of his own – his second of the period – to tie the game at 13-13. That’s when Lillard got going. His second old-school three-point play of the quarter was a dance and jumper over the newly-acquired Jae Crowder, upping his total to 13 points on 3-of-6 from the field and 7-of-7 from the free throw line.

    A 26-19 lead after the first quarter seemed somewhat safe. The Jazz struggled offensively early, and Lillard had it going. It’s not like the first half of the second quarter was a harbinger of things to come for Portland, either, which took a 42-36 lead on a 3-pointer by Shabazz Napier – his second in less than three minutes – with 3:13 on the game clock. But Utah had begun to come alive offensively, owning the offensive glass and getting good looks from deep, and any momentum Lillard had created was squashed by spending the first seven minutes of the second quarter on the bench.

    By the time halftime arrived, the Blazers’ lead was just 44-43. It would be pretty much the last time the game seemed winnable for Portland, too.

    The Jazz blitzed the Blazers in the third quarter, outscoring the home team 38-19. Even that discrepancy doesn’t accurately portray just how dominant Utah was after intermission, though. Ingles hit two 3-pointers and made fools out of the Blazers’ defenders with patient, canny pick-and-roll play. Royce O’Neale pinged the ball all over the floor, finding open shooters for jumpers and Gobert and Favors for thunderous dunks. The Jazz also extended their defense to force the ball out of Lillard’s hands, a strategy that not only led to stagnant Portland offense, but also several transition opportunities – a rarity for Quin Snyder’s club.

    Utah didn’t quite make every sequence in the third quarter look this easy, but don’t tell that to any Blazers fan who had the displeasure of watching their team get picked apart on both ends of the floor.

    Lillard, of course, refused to go away. He scored 12 consecutive points on a pair of contested threes and multiple tough finishes to close the third quarter, but it didn’t matter – the Jazz just kept on finding easy ways to score. Utah led 81-63 going into the final stanza, and extended that advantage to 25 points before Lillard finished another layup through traffic with seven minutes and 26 seconds remaining. McCollum finally got going from there, scoring 10 of his 22 points over the last half of the fourth quarter to help bring Portland within 12 points with just over two minutes left. Mitchell, however, made sure his team’s lead would stay insurmountable.

    The rookie scored nine straight points in less than a minute and-a-half, finally ending the Blazers’ long-shot comeback hopes. He did it in every way imaginable, too, with a splashed 20-footer, and-1 layup through the teeth of the defense and this filthy step-back 3-pointer.

    Don’t be fooled by Utah’s record, now an even 28-28. The Jazz entered Sunday’s game with a better net rating than Portland, and have won more lopsided games than any team in the league – including the Golden State Warriors, who they beat by a whopping 30 points in late January. Utah is really good.

    But this was a thorough dismantling on both ends of the floor, one normally reserved for league bottom-feeders. That’s not the Blazers, obviously, but it can be when an elite defense makes life difficult for Lillard and McCollum, while pinging the ball all over the floor on the other end. Not many teams would have beaten the Jazz on Sunday night, but some definitely would have been more competitive than Portland – especially at home, where the Blazers hadn’t lost in their last nine games.

    The Jazz shot 13-of-26 from beyond the arc, pulled down 16 offensive rebounds and got out to 16 fast-break points. They forced Portland into 40.7 percent shooting, and only nine 3-pointers and 13 assists. Utah dominated, plain and simple.

    What does that mean for Portland’s playoff chances? Not much. It’s no secret that the Blazers would struggle to beat one of the West’s best teams in an opening-round series. Based on Sunday, though, Portland should be glad that Utah – by the standings, at least – isn’t one of them.

Fantasy News

  • Tremont Waters
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Rookie Tremont Waters played in just 10 games with the Celtics failing to make much difference, but he was impressive in the G League where he was named the Rookie of the Year for the 2019-20 season.

    Waters averaged 18.0 points, 7.3 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 2.5 triples and 1.9 steals per game in 36 games with the Maine Red Claws. The Celtics had to sign him to a two-way contract due to roster limitations last year but the rookie has made his case for a more prominent role and he is a name to keep an eye on in dynasty formats.

  • Vincent Poirier
    C, Boston Celtics

    Vincent Poirier appeared in just 20 games for the Celtics in his first year in the NBA, averaging only 1.9 points and 1.7 rebounds in 5.7 minutes per game.

    The French big missed six weeks due to a fractured right pinkie but even when he was healthy he couldn’t secure any playing time and remained deep in the depth chart behind Robert Williams and Grant Williams. The Celtics signed him as insurance last year and it’s obvious that they didn’t have much expectations out of him in his first year playing away from home.

  • Meyers Leonard
    C, Miami Heat

    Talking to the Miami Herald, Meyers Leonard said that his ankle has healed correctly and he is ready to play in Orlando and make a case for his next contract in the NBA.

    Leonard, who started the first 49 games of the season before the injury, averaged 6.1 points while shooting 52 percent from the field and 42.9 from the 3-point line. He is an impending free agent, and even though he wants to remain in Miami, he is expected to have plenty of suitors after a productive year with the Heat.

    Source: Miami Herald

  • Gordon Hayward
    SF, Boston Celtics

    After two years in which he struggled to return to his old form, Gordon Hayward looked fresh and healthy averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.6 triples and 0. 8 steals while shooting .502/.392/.847 splits and returning 51/44 value in 8/9-cat scoring formats.

    The versatile forward had a tremendous start to the season before missing a few games with a left foot injury that is reportedly still bothering him. Regardless, he still managed to play 33.4 minutes in 45 games and he should continue to be the wild card for a Celtics team that is looking to make some noise in Orlando next month. Hayward can opt out of the max contract that he signed with the Celtics a few years ago and it will be interesting to see if he feels like testing the open market.

  • Brad Wanamaker
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Brad Wanamaker averaged 6.6 points, 1.4 triples, 2.5 assists, 2.0 rebounds and 0.8 steals in 19.3 minutes off the bench, returning 241/245 value in 8/9-cat scoring formats.

    With Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart missing time due to various injuries, the Celtics had to turn to Wanamaker for some much-needed help at the point guard position and the veteran delivered. His percentages though were ugly and he doesn’t really have a diverse fantasy game but Wanamaker proved to be a nice option in deeper formats. He is a free agent at the end of the season and he should be able to generate some interest around the league as a scoring guard who can hit the triple.

  • Enes Kanter
    C, Boston Celtics

    After signing with the Celtics as a free agent last year, Enes Kanter lost the starting job to Daniel Theis and played just 17.5 minutes in 51 games, good for 187/181 in 8/9-cat scoring formats.

    Kanter failed to score in double-digits for the first time since 2013, but he collected 7.7 rebounds and blocked a career-high 0.7 shots per game. His lack of defensive efficiency was what forced Brad Stevens to move him to the bench and it looks likely that he continues to battle Robert Williams for the backup center minutes in Boston. He has a player option for next year and it will be interesting to see if he chooses to look for a better deal in the open market.

  • Kemba Walker
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Kemba Walker’s numbers fell slightly in his first year in Boston, but he still managed to return top-50 value in just 50 games, ending up ranked as 43/42 in 8/9-cat scoring formats.

    Playing with a much more talented group, the charismatic guard ended up averaging 21.2 points, 3.3 triples, 4.9 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 0.9 steals while shooting .421 from the field, .377 from behind the 3-point arc and .867 from the charity line. Health was the main issue for Walker who had to miss some time due to knee soreness but the recent break probably worked in his favor and he should be ready for the Orlando bubble.

  • Dwight Howard
    C, Los Angeles Lakers

    Dwight Howard has decided to play for the resumption of the season in July.

    His status was up in the air at first, but he has now decided to play. This was a big redemption year for Howard and it's his best shot at a title since he was on the Orlando Magic so it isn't surprising to see him take advantage of this opportunity.

    Source: Shams on Twitter

  • Kyrie Irving
    PG, Brooklyn Nets

    Kyrie Irving's 2019-20 was marred by injuries, limiting him to play just 20 games, but the guard still impressed based on per-game averages, ending the season ranked 6/5 in 8/9-cat scoring formats.

    Irving came into 2019-20 with chip on his shoulder, failing to deliver as a leader for the Celtics, both on and off the court. Unfortunately, a myriad of injuries kept him on the sidelines for majority of the season. Out of all them, it was his nagging right shoulder injury that was his biggest bane. It even forced him to undergo season-ending arthroscopic surgery to address it. That said, expect that aforementioned chip on his shoulder to still be there next season. We should see more of his improved production from 2019-20 with averages of 27.8 PPG, 2.8 3PG, 5.2 RPG and 6.4 APG on a new career-high shooting of 47.8 percent from the field. Both he and Kevin Durant will be big question marks for the 2020-21, especially when it comes to their health history.

  • Joe Harris
    SF, Brooklyn Nets

    Joe Harris had a solid fourth year as a pro in 2019-20, averaging 13.9 PPG, 2.4 3PG and 2.1 RPG on .471 shooting from the field, to finish the season with ranked at 137/140 in 8/9-cat per game value.

    Harris saw a slight slide from his 2018-19 production, but it wasn't too bad as he still was able to be a standard-league value player, thanks to his efficient shooting percentages from the field and the line and his respectable 1.5 turnovers per game. Harris remains one of the league's best sources of 3-point shooting without putting fantasy teams' field goal percentage at risk. His role should remain steady in 2020-21, though he could slide below the 30-minute per game mark.