May 17, 2018, 12:32 am
The Western Conference Finals might live up to months’ worth of hype after all. The Houston Rockets used an incredibly well-balanced offensive attack to beat the notably sloppy Golden State Warriors 127-105 in Game 2, evening a series most believe will decide who hoists the Larry O’Brien Trophy at one game apiece.
Eric Gordon, struggling throughout the playoffs, erupted off the bench for the Rockets, scoring 27 points, netting six triples and finishing a number of difficult shots around the rim. James Harden also had 27 points, but took 24 shots to get there and went 3-of-15 from beyond the arc. Those struggles weren’t just offset by Gordon’s outburst. P.J. Tucker scored 22 points, a personal best with the Rockets and in the playoffs at large, on 8-of-9 shooting, taking advantage of Houston’s renewed commitment to moving the ball. Trevor Ariza chipped in 19 points, while Chris Paul, awesome in a crucial third quarter, contributed 16 points, six assists and three steals.
The Warriors, after appearing unbeatable at times in Game 1 despite Steph Curry’s ongoing recovery from a right knee injury, weren’t themselves from the outset on Wednesday night. Kevin Durant poured in 38 more points on 13-of-22 shooting, again roasting any defender Houston switched onto him with pull-ups, turnarounds and slithering drives. None of Golden State’s other stars played well, and neither did a supporting cast that’s never seemed more ordinary. Curry needed 19 shots to get 17 points, and didn’t connect from deep until early in the fourth quarter, extending his streak of consecutive playoff games with a three to 81 despite going 1-of-8. Klay Thompson was invisible en route to eight points on 3-of-11, and Draymond Green‘s most memorable plays from a six-point, six-rebound, six-assist performance ended in head-scratching turnovers.
It would be remiss to downplay the Rockets’ effectiveness defensively. They were far more engaged from the opening tip on Wednesday, defending with a sense of controlled urgency that was missing 48 hours earlier. Tucker, Paul, Ariza and Clint Capela deserve the most credit for their team’s improvement on that end of the floor, but Harden fared far better defensively than he did in Game 1, providing at least some resistance when targeted by the Warriors’ superstars.
Golden State routinely shot itself in the foot, too. The defending champions had seven turnovers in the first quarter alone, prompting this quip from Steve Kerr before the start of the second: “As soon as we win a game, we like to turn the ball over more.”
The Warriors finished with 15 giveaways, and had two more at halftime than their grand total of nine turnovers in Game 1. They shot 9-of-30 from three, and 10-of-29 on two-pointers outside the restricted area. Thompson, by virtue of Houston’s swarming, switch-heavy off-ball defense, took a whopping 12 fewer 3-pointers than he did on Monday. Curry beat Capela to the rim for layups on three separate occasions early, but struggled thereafter, clearly bothered by the Rockets’ physicality as he continues re-acclimating to the game after missing most of March and all of April.
In the wake of Game 1, the basketball hive mind decided the only way Houston would upset Golden State was if it abandoned the offensive approach that propelled them to home-court advantage throughout playoffs. Both the eye test and the box score suggest the Rockets did just that. They had 23 assists and 12 fast-break points in Game 2, numbers well higher than either from Monday. Harden and Paul attacked early and often in the shot clock, routinely breaking down the defense before kicking the ball out to the perimeter, initiating the type of quick-hitting ball movement crucial to producing open shots against the Warriors. Gordon found consistent traction in isolations, Ariza attacked hard close-outs by putting the ball on the floor and Tucker made several plays on short rolls after setting screens out top.
Houston consistently found itself on the fortunate side of plays decided by the basketball gods, too, never more so than when when Gordon dropped in this wild triple over Green with just over eight minutes left, extending its lead to 103-89 and stomping out Golden State’s burgeoning semblance of momentum.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 17, 2018
The result was an offensive rating of 122.3 and true shooting percentage of 63.6, right in line with the Warriors’ marks from their similarly dominant win in Game 1. Don’t tell D’Antoni that the Rockets re-wrote the script that got them here, though.c
“We are who we are, and we had to be who we are, we just did it better, longer, Guys believe it. We’re not gonna change anything up. That would be silly on my part, to panic. You don’t do that,” he said. “We’re very comfortable about who we are, and we can beat anybody, anywhere, at any time playing the way we play. Some people might not like it. Sorry.”
Golden State definitely didn’t like it on Wednesday night, but it remains to be seen if Houston can beat the defending champions anywhere, let alone at Oracle Arena. We’ll find out on Sunday, when the Western Conference Finals, suddenly as competitive as everyone hoped they would be, finally resume.
February 17, 2020, 7:12 pmDeMarre CarrollSF, San Antonio Spurs
The Rockets are expected to sign DeMarre Carroll after he clears waivers.
The Spurs just waived Carroll, who played sparingly this season in San Antonio. He figures to be fill a depth role on the Rockets.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
February 17, 2020, 7:06 pmJeff GreenSF, Houston Rockets
The Rockets have reportedly signed Jeff Green to a 10-day contract.
Green was waived by the Jazz in late December. He played just 18.4 minutes per game there, averaging 7.8 points and 2.7 rebounds.
Source: Tim MacMahon on Twitter
February 17, 2020, 6:38 pmDeMarre CarrollSF, San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have agreed to buy out DeMarre Carroll.
Carroll only played 15 games this season with the Spurs and there were rumors that he would be traded. It's possible that the Rockets will sign him, but he hasn't been worth owning in fantasy at any point this campaign.
Source: Jeff McDonald on Twitter
February 17, 2020, 4:43 pmKris DunnPG, Chicago Bulls
According to reports, there is a growing expectation within the Bulls organization that Kris Dunn may miss the remainder of the season due to his right knee MCL sprain.
Nothing is certain at the moment, but fantasy owners should prepare for the possibility that Dunn will be shut down. He has dealt with a lot of swelling and the Bulls are now five games behind the Magic, who currently hold the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Coby White could see steady minutes at guard the rest of the way, but he has only shot 37 percent from the field this season.
Source: NBC Sports Chicago
February 17, 2020, 12:51 pmBrandon IngramSF, New Orleans Pelicans
It's reportedly a "foregone conclusion" that the Pelicans offer Brandon Ingram a max contract this summer.
No surprises there, as Ingram has erased the health concerns that lingered this summer with a huge season. He's blossomed into an All-Star after missing the end of last year with DVT in his right arm and is averaging career-highs across the board. New Orleans is a great spot for fantasy value so this is a win for everyone involved, assuming pen does eventually meet paper.
Source: The Athletic
February 17, 2020, 12:47 pmJohn Beilein, Cleveland Cavaliers
John Beilein and the Cavs have discussed the possibility of Beilein stepping down from his head coaching job during the All-Star break, per Adrian Wojnarowski.
Beilein's transition to the NBA has not gone well, but abandoning a five-year commitment so soon would be absolutely shocking. He has struggled to make the jump from the college game, altering his game plans and terminology in an effort to help get the Cavs on the same page, though he's had a few notable off-court missteps and has had trouble relating to his players. Even if he doesn't leave in the coming days, one has to imagine that Beilein won't be in Cleveland much longer.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
February 16, 2020, 11:54 pmGiannis AntetokounmpoPF, Milwaukee Bucks
Giannis Antetokounmpo could not will his team to the win against Team LeBron on Sunday in what was the most competitive All-Star Game we have seen in quite some time.
Antetokounmpo scored 25 points with 11 boards on 12-of-21 shooting. He had two clutch blocks on LeBron James to keep his team alive, but ultimately Team LeBron was able to overpower Team Giannis. Antetokounmpo's value is being dragged down by free-throw shooting and turnovers, but he remains a top-30 asset nonetheless.
February 16, 2020, 11:49 pmAnthony DavisPF-C, Los Angeles Lakers
Anthony Davis secured the win for Team LeBron on Sunday with a game-winning free throw.
Davis scored 19 points with nine boards on 9-of-16 shooting. Kyle Lowry pulled him to the ground to send him to the line with a chance to win the game and AD delivered. Davis remains the No. 1 player in 9-cat formats and should have no issue maintaining that spot.
February 16, 2020, 11:46 pmKawhi LeonardSF, Los Angeles Clippers
Kawhi Leonard won the first Kobe Bryant All-Star Game MVP Award with 30 points as Team LeBron beat Team Giannis 157-155 on Sunday.
Leonard came out the gate hot as he knocked down eight triples prior to the extremely competitive fourth quarter. He turned it up with some clutch steals down the stretch and helped Team LeBron secure the win. Leonard is a lock for top-10 value as we shift our focus to the second half of the season.
February 15, 2020, 10:43 pmDerrick Jones Jr.SF, Miami Heat
Derrick Jones Jr. won the Dunk Contest on Saturday in an epic showdown with Aaron Gordon.
Jones and Gordon extended the Dunk Contest into overtime and treated us to some of the best dunks in recent memory. Jones put on a spectacular performance with one 360, between-the-legs dunk that was reminiscent of Vince Carter. Gordon dunked over Tacko Fall in his final dunk and put up dunks worthy of a trophy himself. Jones earned the nickname of Airplane Mode on Saturday and is an option at the end of your bench in 14-team leagues.