• 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.

    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.

Fantasy News

  • Kemba Walker
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Team USA has named Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart and Donovan Mitchell as captains for the FIBA World Cup.

    Congratulations to Mitchell, Walker and Smart on the tremendous honor of being named captains for the USA men's team. This won't have any impact on their upcoming fantasy seasons, but it is a major accomplishment nonetheless. Team USA has an exhibition rematch against Team Australia on Saturday.

    Source: Boston.com Celtics News on Twitter

  • Isaiah Canaan
    PG, International

    Isaiah Canaan has signed a contract with the Shangdong Heroes of the Chinese Basketball Association.

    The veteran journeyman played for the Suns, Wolves and Bucks last season, appearing in 30 games total. Canaan will be looking at a more prominent role and payday overseas as he attempts to build his value back up before trying to latch on to a team towards the end of the year. Canaan is off the fantasy radar.

    Source: Zhang Duo on Twitter

  • Patty Mills
    PG, San Antonio Spurs

    Patty Mills put up 19 points, three assists, two steals, a block and three 3-pointers in Thursday's international exhibition between Team Australia and Team USA.

    The Boomers figure to be one of the chief threats to the Americans in the World Cup and put forth a competitive effort in today's exhibition. Mills has typically been a steady, late-round fantasy option for deep-league play but that may change this season as the Spurs will need to mix in both Derrick White and Dejounte Murray in the backcourt. Chris Goulding tied for the team lead in points, also scoring 19 while hitting four 3-pointers in 22 minutes off the bench.

  • Myles Turner
    C, Indiana Pacers

    Myles Turner put up 15 points and 14 rebounds in Thursday's exhibition win over Team Australia, shooting 6-of-8 from the floor with a 3-pointer.

    Turner didn't get any blocks but we know that last year's league-leader can rack those up in a hurry, whether he's getting them in international competition or not. Look for another early-middle round season out of the talented big man. Kemba Walker led Team USA with 23 points in the 102-86 win.

  • Trevon Bluiett
    PF, Utah Jazz

    Trevon Bluiett and Juwan Morgan sign with the Jazz in the hopes of one day playing in an NBA game.

    Bluiett was on a two-way contract with the Pelicans last season while Juwan Morgan played for the Jazz in the 2019 Summer League. They will both compete for a roster spot in training camp but neither is a guarantee to make the final roster. They both have yet to see the court in an NBA game and can be ignored from a fantasy perspective until that day comes.

    Source: Tony Jones on Twitter

  • Zach Collins
    C, Portland Trail Blazers

    Zach Collins (ankle) began daily contact workouts on Monday and is on pace to head into training camp fully healthy.

    Collins is heading into what could be a breakout season as he is likely to start at the power forward position. In the 2019 playoffs, the Gonzaga product blocked a shot in 11 of the 16 games including three games in which he blocked three, four and five respectively. Collins has averaged around 33% from distance throughout his career which is exactly what he shot in the postseason (7-21). If he is able to improve from long range and plays starters minutes, Collins is a can't-miss player. It's far from a guarantee though as the 21-year-old has never finished with standard-league value. It does seem like Collins will be ready for training camp barring a major setback.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Cory Joseph
    PG, Sacramento Kings

    Nick Nurse said that reports of Cory Joseph missing the FIBA World Cup are “incorrect”.

    Nurse added that he spoke to Joseph on Wednesday and that the guard has his flights booked to China. Joseph was in Canada’s camp at home earlier this month, but did not make the trip to Australia and has missed the past four exhibition games. The situation has become a little bit murky but Canada Basketball keeps holding out hope that Joseph will rejoin the team before they depart for China, which doesn’t happen until Monday.

    Source: John Casey on Twitter

  • Tyronn Lue
    PG, Los Angeles Clippers

    Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting former Cavs championship-winning coach Tyronn Lue has agreed to join the Clippers as their top assistant coach to Doc Rivers.

    The Lakers and Clippers rivalry continues to heat up. Lue was very close to a deal with the Lakers in May to become their head coach, but the sides couldn’t reach an agreement. Lue now joins Kawhi Leonard as another person to spurn the Lakers this offseason.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • PJ Tucker
    SF, Houston Rockets

    P.J. Tucker says he is optimistic about signing a contract extension soon.

    The 34-year-old 3-and-D wing hopes to extend his deal with the Rockets, but a potential extension wouldn't begin until his age-36 season. Houston has him under contract for two more seasons at this point, so they may not be motivated enough to get something done this offseason. However, a maximum Tucker extension would only have him in the $10 million per year range. Even as a 37-year-old, that could be a great deal if he can keep up his current production. Tucker remains a sneaky source of threes and steals late in fantasy drafts or off the wire.

    Source: Kurt Helin on Twitter

  • Jaylen Adams
    PG, Milwaukee Bucks

    The Bucks officially announced the signings of guards Jaylen Adams and Rayjon Tucker on Tuesday.

    Adams and Tucker have their work cut out for them in their bid to claim a roster with the big club, as the Bucks have a reasonably deep guard rotation. Adams and Tucker are more than likely competing to get playing time in the G-League this season and can be ignored in fantasy.

    Source: NBA