• Barely more than a week after C.J. McCollum made history by scoring 50 points in three quarters of play, Damian Lillard tried his best to outdo his backcourt partner. The lack of a late-game collapse, thankfully, is the only thing that prevented him from doing it.

    The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Sacramento Kings 118-100 on Friday night, earning their second victory in just over a day in the wake of a winless three-game road trip. Lillard, of course, was the story for Portland, scoring 50 points, dishing six assists and swiping three steals in only 29 minutes of play. He shot 16-of-26 from the field, 8-of-13 from 3-point range and 10-of-10 from the free throw line. For awhile, however, it seemed as if one of the best efforts of Lillard’s career would be wasted.

    The Blazers were listless on defense in the first half. On far too many occasions did the Kings’ smalls crease the paint after using ball screens, taking full advantage of Portland’s guards trailing a step or two behind the play – whether they were scoring themselves or creating opportunities for others with misses at the rim or kick-outs to the perimeter. Bogdan Bogdanovic was especially effective in ball-screen action. His length and patience as a playmaker belies his NBA experience, and is a forceful reminder of his starring career in Europe before coming stateside. Bogdanovic had 10 points in the first quarter alone.

    Fortunately for Portland, though, it was able to take a 33-31 leading heading into the second quarter despite a lack of assertiveness defensively. Why? The singular dominance of Lillard and scorching hot team-wide 3-point shooting. The Blazers’ franchise player scored 14 points in the opening stanza, hitting three of his team’s six triples. Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu accounted for two of those remaining three long-range jumpers, including one where the former found the latter with a cross-court bullet to the corner. When Harkless and Aminu are making floor plays like guards, Portland is extra tough to deal with offensively.

    That goes double for when Lillard has it going. After needing 22 shots to score 18 points against the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday night, the Blazers’ All-Star scored 28 points on 11 shots in the first half alone, less than 24 hours later. Lillard scored from everywhere, but did most of his damage from beyond the arc. Case in point: His two pull-up 3-pointers from just inside Sacramento’s new halfcourt logo.

    Despite surrendering a whopping 32 points in the paint, including 10 points to both Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos, and eight offensive rebounds, the Blazers went into intermission with a 10-point lead. The halftime box score was both a testament to Lillard’s dominance and the lack of support from his teammates: Harkless, in his third consecutive start, was Portland’s second-leading scorer in the first half with seven points.

    Lillard picked up the second half where he off the first. He scored the Blazers’ first five points of the third quarter, via a quick catch-and-shoot triple from the right wing and an uncontested layup after splitting a high ball screen. When Lillard briefly went quiet, however, the Kings took advantage, going on a 10-2 run midway through the third quarter to cut Portland’s once-comfortable lead to 75-74. The home team’s momentum only lasted so long, though. Lillard made sure of that.

    He scored 15 of the Blazers’ points in an 17-0 run that spanned the last four minutes and 13 seconds of the third quarter. Lillard didn’t just do it on offense, either. He followed up a layup past Zach Randolph to stymie a Sacramento run by ripping the ball from De’Aaron Fox on a drive, then found C.J. McCollum for an easy score of his own on the ensuing possession. After torching the Kings’ bigs again and again on the perimeter, Lillard got to 50 points by the end of the third quarter with a contested 3-pointer that was emblematic of the shot-making show he put on Friday night.

    Suddenly up 92-74 heading into the fourth quarter, Lillard, on the bench, finally got some help from his teammates – one in particular, actually.

    As the Kings threatened with triple after triple, closing to 101-88 with six minutes and 15 seconds remaining, Harkless responded like he did one night earlier. First was a backdoor, and-1 layup off a dime from Jusuf Nurkic. Next was a confident catch-and-shoot triple from the left wing, followed by a soaring defensive rebound. Once Lillard, still waiting at the scorer’s table, was set to come back in 3:44 left on the game clock, Portland was up 110-94 – an advantage that made Terry Stotts feel confident about ending his star’s night early.

    The Blazers weren’t very good on Friday night. The Kings faced little resistance offensively until the fourth quarter, both at the point of attack on the perimeter and in the physical throes of the paint. If process really matters more than results, Stotts probably isn’t happy leaving Sacramento.

    But when the result is Lillard lighting the scoreboard aflame in a double-digit road win, on the second half of a back-to-back, who really cares about the process?

     

Fantasy News

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    The Board of Governors has approved the NBA's 22-team format to restart the 2019-20 season.

    The vote was 29-1. It was widely expected that the format would get the go-ahead, even though more than one team didn't fully support the proposed plan, and the NBA has at least settled on what the season will look like once it's able to resume. They have also set the draft lottery for August 25 and the draft for October 15. The biggest hurdles remain anything that has to do with COVID-19, and to this point the league has yet to say anything about those challenges, but there is plenty of forward momentum these days.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Enes Kanter
    C, Boston Celtics

    Sean Deveney reported that "multiple agents say not all players are on board with an NBA return".

    One agent said, "Most of the guys are excited, fired up, they want to get back out there. Those are 95 percent of the conversations I have had". There are players that feel the money is not worth putting themselves and their families at risk. Enes Kanter weighed in on the topic, saying "there are some other team's players out there, that they don't want to play. They're like, 'It's just a game. I'm not going to risk my life". It is likely that the high-profile players will still play, but it looks like some role players may not be willing to take the risk to join their team when the NBA season resumes.

    Source: Heavy.com

  • Derrick Rose
    PG, Detroit Pistons

    The Pistons announced that they plan to reopen team facilities on Thursday, allowing voluntary individual workouts while following all the social-distancing guidelines.

    Although the Pistons' season is likely over as they are not one of the 22 teams that will continue to play if the Board of Governors vote to ratify the plan on Thursday, this will allow players to stay in shape for the 2020-21 season which is expected to start in December.

    Source: James Edwards III

  • Zion Williamson
    PF, New Orleans Pelicans

    Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Pelicans, Blazers, Suns, Kings, Spurs and Wizards will be the six non-playoff teams resuming action when the NBA restarts.

    This makes complete sense, as they're the only non-playoff teams that can sniff the postseason. Woj backs up an earlier Shams Charania report about a potential play-in tournament for the final playoff spot in each Conference as well. If the ninth seed trails the eighth seed by more than four games when the league's truncated regular season wraps up, the eighth seed makes the playoffs. If the deficit is under four games, however, the two teams will compete in a play-in tournament that is double-elimination for the eighth seed and single-elimination for the ninth.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the NBA will have an eight-game regular season for the purposes of playoff seeding upon its return while Shams Charania reports that there will be a play-in tournament for the eighth seed.

    This applies to the NBA coming back with 22 teams, as the league's bottom eight are well out of playoff contention and bringing them to Orlando would only negatively affect the league's pursuit for player safety. As for the play-in tournament, Charania describes it as such: "If the ninth seed is more than four games behind the eighth seed, the eighth seed earns the playoff spot; if the ninth seed is four or fewer games behind, then the eighth and ninth seed will enter a play-in tournament that is double-elimination for the eighth seed and single-elimination for ninth." Expect another announcement about the league's format in the coming days.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Corey Brewer
    SF, Sacramento Kings

    Corey Brewer, a veteran of eight different NBA teams, is still hoping to sign another contract before he calls it a career.

    Brewer, 34, seems to think he has enough in the tank for one final stint in the NBA. “We had some talks with a few teams, but nothing really happened. My agent is still working on it, so we’ll see,” Brewer said. “I feel like I can still help a team and I feel like I have a few good years left. But you never know, man." Brewer has not suited up for an NBA team this season and, with a waning jump shot and increased age, his chances of securing another pact in the NBA are pretty unlikely.

    Source: HoopsHype

  • DeMarcus Cousins
    C, Los Angeles Lakers

    Kings broadcaster Grant Napear stepped down from his position with the Kings on Tuesday after he said 'All Lives Matter..Every Single One!' when asked about his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement during a Twitter interaction with former Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.

    This is the first domino to fall in American professional sports in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement, even if it's a relatively insignificant one. Napear said of himself and the interaction, "I’m not as educated on BLM as I thought I was. I had no idea that when I said 'All Lives Matter' that it was counter to what BLM was trying to get across," he said. "I’m in pain. I’m 60 years old and I still have a lot to learn." The Kings will evidently have to find a new play-by-play man for their radio broadcasts to accompany Doug Christie when games resume.

    Source: TMZ

  • John Wall
    PG, Washington Wizards

    John Wall, who has long been rumored to have absolutely zero chance of returning to the court even if the current season is resumed, said in a conference call last week that he feels "110 percent."

    Wall and the Wizards both maintain that he will not return to action this season, regardless of the outcome of the vote on Thursday by the NBA Board of Governors. This is good news, obviously, for the team as they set their sights on next season. As of late, trade rumors have been swirling around the franchise's two top assets: Wall and All Star guard Bradley Beal. Moving forward, there is a high possibility that the Wizards will decide between the two, as Beal's contract will expire after next season. Which player will the Wizards keep? Who will they trade, or will they trade them both? They are hoping to have some time to evaluate how the pair plays in tandem early next season, as Wall has missed significant time with a torn left Achilles he suffered during the 2018-19 season. But it may be too late to negotiate an extension with Beal at that point, so they will have to play their cards with extreme care.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Bradley Beal
    SG, Washington Wizards

    Wes Unseld, a Hall of Famer and Washington Bullets legend, passed away on Tuesday due to complications with pneumonia and other illnesses. He was 74 years old.

    An outstanding rebounder, Unseld is also one of only two players to ever be awarded Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player in the same season in 1968-69. He guided the Bullets to the NBA Finals four times, winning once in 1978, a series where Unseld took home MVP honors. Hornets' GM and former teammate Mitch Kupchak said of Unseld, “As a teammate, he was tough, dependable and competitive to no end.” Unseld was a fearless competitor and highly respected across the league during his 13 seasons with the Bullets franchise. Former Knicks center and fellow Hall of Famer Willis Reed recently recalled their battles against one another, "He was most consciously a rebounder — he could shoot, but he didn’t emphasize that part of his game — and felt that if he did his job right, by getting the defensive rebound and making the quick outlet pass, they would score quickly.” Unseld was undoubtedly a pioneer for the game of basketball and means a great deal to the city of Washington D.C.

    Source: Rick Bonnell on Twitter

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    ESPN's Adrian Wojanrowski is reporting that Adam Silver and the NBA Board of Governors, who are planning to vote Thursday on how to continue the season, would like the NBA Finals to conclude no later than October 12.

    With July 31 being the widely-reported restart date and the league tentatively planning to start 𝘯𝘦𝘹𝘵 season by Christmas Day of this year, it would make sense to crown a league champion as early as possible. The meeting with the NBA Board of Governors on Thursday will (finally) bring some clarity to the rest of the NBA season, as they will hold a vote to decide how to proceed. NBA fans have been waiting since the middle of March for some resolutions. This week will provide them.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter