April 15, 2018, 2:40 am
The result always trumps the process in the playoffs. But at least the Portland Trail Blazers can take solace heading into the remainder of the first round by knowing they have a chance against the New Orleans Pelicans. After all, for the first 40 minutes of Saturday’s game, it certainly didn’t seem that way.
The Pelicans beat the Blazers 97-95, withstanding a furious late-game rally to steal home-court advantage and give Anthony Davis the first postseason victory of his career. Davis was scary in Game 1, scoring 35 points, grabbing 14 rebounds, swiping two steals and blocking four shots on 14-of-26 shooting. He was hardly a one-man show for New Orleans, either. Jrue Holiday was the best guard on the floor Saturday night, finishing with 21 points, seven rebounds and two blocks while spearheading a suffocating team-wide defensive effort that made life hell on Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Nikola Mirotic, who scored 16 points and made four triples before tailing off late, almost shot the home team out of the game before it was over, and proved surprisingly effective on the other end of the floor.
Lillard had 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, but shot just 6-of-23 from the field. McCollum had 19 points on 7-of-18 shooting, and didn’t score his first points until the 8:43 mark of the third quarter. Evan Turner scored nine of his 13 points in the opening minutes of the game, struggling thereafter as New Orleans goaded him into launching open jump-shots.. Jusuf Nurkic was the only other Portland player in double-figures with 11 points, and basically played off the floor for the majority of the second half due to the understandable trouble he had checking Davis and Mirotic.
For three and-a-half quarters, the Blazers seemed helpless. Lillard and McCollum were completely neutralized in ball screen action, a combination of yeoman’s work by staunch rearview pursuit from primary defenders’, pitch-perfect timing and footwork from Davis and Mirotic and the inability of their teammates to space the floor behind the point of attack. Davis was cooking Nurkic whenever the Pelicans found him space to operate, showing off a smooth jumper, slick handle and the athleticism that makes him an impossible cover. Mirotic was popping threes from the slot almost before the Blazers had a chance to set their defense. Holiday was getting wherever he wanted with the ball in his hands, at times forcing the issue with aggressive drives to success that his star backcourt counterparts were never able to duplicate.
New Orleans, after reinserting its starters following a mini Portland run, got its lead back up to 86-72 on this towering alley-oop dunk by Davis with 6:02 left in the fourth.
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) April 15, 2018
Game over, right? That’s what the vast majority of a capacity Moda Center crowd and millions more watching at home thought, but apparently not the Blazers. Stotts just over a minute later, previously rolling with Pat Connaughton, Zach Collins and Ed Davis next to Lillard and McCollum in the fourth quarter – a lineup that made sense given game-long trends, including a reserve-led binge in the second quarter. Regardless, bringing back Turner, Aminu and Nurkic paid off.
Nurkic put his shoulder into Davis, flipping a shot toward the rim while getting fouled for a three-point play. Lillard got loose in transition, McCollum drained a three and Turner got creative on a slick reverse layup. The Pelicans, notably fatigued, were throwing the ball over the floor, too. Suddenly own four with just over a minute remaining, as a partisan crowd readied to burst, Portland tracked down another offensive rebound and ultimately found McCollum in the corner for a triple that, somehow, had the home team within a point.
C.J. McCollum drills the clutch corner 3 pic.twitter.com/FO7WmPDkFO
— The Render (@TheRenderNBA) April 15, 2018
The Blazers got no closer. Holiday, after contributing to the opposition’s comeback with some head-scratching decision-making offensively down the stretch, made two of the game’s biggest plays when Portland had a chance to take the lead in its final minute. First he cut off a streaking McCollum in the open floor, getting both his hands on the ball to create a turnover. After a missed 3-pointer by Davis, Holiday stuck right with Lillard on the attack, forcing the Blazers superstar to err on a go-ahead floater attempt. He wasn’t finished. Holiday capped a masterful defensive performance by blocking a would-be lay-in by Connaughton as Portland, down three, tried for a quick two with less than 10 seconds remaining.
Three factors loomed as potentially fatal for the Blazers coming into this series: the defensive influence of Holiday and Davis; the inability of any player on Stotts’ roster to contain Davis one-on-one; and the defensive ripples created by the presence of Mirotic, spacing the floor to the arc. All three of them came to fruition on Saturday, and Portland shot 37.8 percent from the field.
“I’ll be better,” McCollum said after Game 1, and there’s every reason to believe he will be going forward – for both simple regression to the mean and adjustments made by the Blazers before Tuesday.
Anyone expecting this series to be easy, for either team, was fooling themselves. It was always going six or seven games no matter how we got there. The Blazers are in trouble, but saw enough in the last six minutes of Game 1 to leave it feeling relatively encouraged. Davis might play like an MVP, Holiday might be the best guard on the floor for any given stint and Mirotic might rain threes and make a real impact on defense. Even so, and at the very least, Portland will still be capable of beating the Pelicans.
Unfortunately, it just didn’t happen on Saturday. Onto Game 2.
December 5, 2019, 8:29 pmDamyean DotsonSG, New York Knicks
Damyean Dotson dislocated his left pinky on Thursday and is questionable to return against the Nuggets.
X-rays have come back negative, which is good news. Dotson is only a deep-league 3-point specialist, and any absence will likely lead to more minutes for Wayne Ellington and Allonzo Trier.
Source: Knicks PR on Twitter
December 5, 2019, 7:23 pmFrank NtilikinaPG, New York Knicks
Frank Ntilikina will get the start on Thursday against the Nuggets.
Ntilikina draws the start over Elfrid Payton and Dennis Smith Jr. on Thursday. Payton did earn the starting role prior to getting injured so it is possible that he supplants Ntilikina at some point this season. As long as all three point guards are healthy, they will all have their fantasy ceilings capped.
Source: Ian Begley on Twitter
December 5, 2019, 7:17 pmCarmelo AnthonyPF, Portland Trail Blazers
Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Blazers have guaranteed Carmelo Anthony's contract for the remainder of the season.
This comes as no surprise as Anthony has helped the Blazers significantly since signing a partially guaranteed contract a few weeks ago. Anthony is currently producing per-game value of 119/128 in 8/9 cat leagues. It remains to be seen if he can produce at this level for an entire season at the age of 35.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
December 5, 2019, 7:13 pmJacob EvansSG, Golden State Warriors
Jacob Evans (left adductor strain) is officially listed as questionable on the latest NBA Injury Report.
Coach Steve Kerr told the media earlier on Thursday that Evans should be considered questionable for Friday's contest but the official injury report lists him as out. Regardless, Evans is clearly close to returning to the court. When he does return, he will likely take away some minutes from two-way player, Ky Bowman.
Source: NBA Injury Report
December 5, 2019, 7:06 pmMarvin Bagley IIIPF, Sacramento Kings
Marvin Bagley (right thumb fracture) has been cleared for contact on Thursday.
This is great news for the Kings and Bagley as we are just over six weeks from the initial injury. Continue to monitor for updates but Bagley should return to the court soon. Bagley's return could lower the fantasy values of Richaun Holmes and Nemanja Bjelica.
Source: Jason Jones on Twitter
December 5, 2019, 6:56 pmJake LaymanSF, Minnesota Timberwolves
Jake Layman (left toe sprain) has been ruled out ahead of Friday's matchup against the Thunder.
This will mark Layman's seventh straight missed game. Treveon Graham, Josh Okogie and Keita Bates-Diop will all continue to see more opportunity while Layman is sidelined.
Source: Wolves PR on Twitter
December 5, 2019, 6:52 pmNaz ReidC, Minnesota Timberwolves
Naz Reid is questionable to face the Thunder on Friday as he nurses a sore shoulder.
Reid has yet to play in a regular season NBA game and will likely continue to spend most of his time this season in the G league. He is off the fantasy radar for now.
Source: Wolves PR on Twitter
December 5, 2019, 6:49 pmAron BaynesC, Phoenix Suns
Aron Baynes has been downgraded to out for Thursday's tilt vs. the Pelicans.
Including Thursday's game, Baynes has only played in one game over the last nine. Frank Kaminsky and Cheick Diallo will continue to get more opportunity for as long as Baynes remains out.
Source: Duane Rankin on Twitter
December 5, 2019, 6:46 pmIsaiah ThomasPG, Washington Wizards
Isaiah Thomas (left calf strain) will not play in Thursday's game vs. the Sixers.
Thomas was not listed on the injury report so it is possible that this injury occurred in warmups prior to the contest. Continue to monitor as we will learn more later tonight or Friday. Ish Smith will likely start at point while Chris Chiozza will get additional opportunity. Chiozza could be a great low-cost DFS play on Thursday as the Wizards will also be without Jordan McRae (finger).
Source: Wizards PR on Twitter
December 5, 2019, 6:42 pmDerrick FavorsPF, New Orleans Pelicans
Derrick Favors (personal) will not play on Thursday vs. the Suns.
Favors is dealing with something much bigger than basketball right now. While he remains out, Jaxson Hayes, Nicolò Melli and Kenrich Williams could see more opportunity.
Source: Daniel Sallerson on Twitter