February 12, 2018, 12:00 am
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.
Donovan Mitchell misses floater, gets the tip dunk on his own miss between 3 Blazers pic.twitter.com/b9DscmAP3A
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) February 12, 2018
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.
Donovan Mitchell ? ? pic.twitter.com/r3GgLdHPz6
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 12, 2018
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.
September 21, 2019, 9:45 pmKevin KnoxSF, New York Knicks
Coach Fizdale told the Knicks players that no starters have been determined and players had to earn their minutes.
Kevin Knox will battle with veteran Marcus Morris for the starting small forward spot. Knox has been working on getting his body stronger to be able to take on more contact on drives to the basket. Last season as a rookie, he averaged 12.8 points on a putrid 37 percent from the field. Knox will look to get more looks closer to the basket and increase his field goal percentage to more respectable levels. Knox provided little else outside of points and rebounds last season and will need to improve his shooting and defense to be considered a standard-league player.
Source: New York Post
September 21, 2019, 5:13 pmBol BolC, Denver Nuggets
According to Nick Kosmider of The Athletic, Bol Bol could spend his entire rookie season in the G-League.
Bol Bol was not drafted to be an immediate impact player, but just fell too late fore the Nuggets liking. The 44th overall pick needs to bulk up and show that he could take the bumps and bruises before having his chance on the big stage.
Source: Nick Kosmider of The Athletic
September 21, 2019, 9:21 amKawhi LeonardSF, Los Angeles Clippers
After speaking with Doc Rivers and Lawrence Frank, Dan Woike's takeaway is that Kawhi Leonard's "load management" will not be as strict as it was last year.
It was reported in July that Kawhi said he wants to play all next season fully and approach load management on a game-to-game basis so this is further confirmation that he will most likely play more than the 60 games he played last year but surely won't play all 82 either. Kurt Helin of NBC Sports speculates that this could be for several reasons. One could be that Leonard can take on more now that he is a little healthier while he believes the Clippers might also limit his per-game minutes to help him play more games. The other idea is that because the Western Conference is so deep, the Clippers will not be able to get a good seed if Leonard sits too many games. Fantasy wise, Leonard finished last season seventh in per game value but 18th in total value since he played only 60 games. Near the top of the second round would be a great place to snag him if he plays around 70 games this season.
Source: Dan Woike on Twitter
September 21, 2019, 8:31 amMalik BeasleySG, Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets want to extend Malik Beasley and Juan Hernagomez before the October 21 deadline.
The Nuggets already locked up one of their 2016 first-round picks (Jamal Murray) to a long-term deal and now want to do the same with their other two 2016 first-round picks, Hernangomez and Beasley. If not, the two will likely become restricted free-agents at the end of the season. Both players saw stretches of big minutes last season due to injuries but at full health, Beasley was around 20 minutes per game while Hernangomez was at around 10. Fantasy wise, neither player puts up big defensive stats but Beasley is a very efficient shooter with low turnovers, knocking down 2.0 triples per game last year, putting him near top-150 value at only 23.2 minutes per game. Hernangomez is a decent rebounder and knocked down 0.9 triples per game but he would need closer to 30 minutes per game to be a factor in standard leagues.
Source: Denver Post
September 20, 2019, 8:49 pmOG AnunobySF, Toronto Raptors
Coach Nick Nurse intends to put OG Anunoby "back out there in a primary role."
With Kawhi Leonard vacating the starting small forward spot, Anunoby is the leading candidate to take the role. Before the arrival of Leonard, Anunoby started 62 games in his rookie season. Last season he started 6 out of 67 games, and missed the entire playoffs due to an emergency appendectomy. He averaged 7.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.3 blocks over 20.2 minutes per game, while shooting 45.3 percent from the floor, 33.2 percent from 3-point range and 58.1 percent from the free-throw line. He can be picked up as a late round flier in drafts.
Source: The Athletic
September 20, 2019, 4:03 pmDaryl MaconPG, Miami Heat
The Heat have signed Daryl Macon.
Macon getting picked up by another NBA squad after a solid Summer League campaign is not a shocker. If he were to crack the rotation he would post a nice assist rate, but it is unlikely Macon will be getting playing time unless something goes terribly wrong for the Heat this season.
September 20, 2019, 1:10 pmTahjere McCallF, Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks signed Tahjere McCall from their Summer League team.
This is just a depth signing for the Hawks. He shouldn't see much court time on the NBA floor if he makes the main roster out of camp
Source: Kevin Chouinard on Twitter
September 20, 2019, 11:58 amThabo SefoloshaSF, Houston Rockets
Marc Stein is reporting that the Rockets will sign Thabo Sefolosha.
Sefolosha was among the names at a recent mini camp, and he should make for a nice fit as a defensive stopper off the bench. The Rockets have a pretty thin group of reserves so we'd expect Sefolosha to be a regular rotation player, which puts him on the board as a steals specialist in deep leagues.
Source: Marc Stein on Twitter
September 19, 2019, 3:22 pmTyler ZellerC, Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets have signed C Tyler Zeller to the training camp roster on Thursday.
Zeller played all of six games last season with the Hawks and Grizzlies. Zeller will try to latch on as a third-string C for the Nuggets' deep frontcourt. Zeller is off the fantasy radar.
Source: Chris Dempsey on Twitter
September 19, 2019, 3:03 pmLuke KennardSG, Detroit Pistons
Coach Dwane Casey said that he is not sure if he will start Luke Kennard or have him run a lot of the second-team offense.
In addition, Casey mentioned that Kennard dealt with some knee tendinitis earlier this summer. Kennard is likely competing with Bruce Brown Jr. for the starting two-guard spot. We'll see how the rotation starts to shape in the preseason, but both players will get minutes either way.