• So much for home-court advantage. The Golden State Warriors beat the Houston Rockets 119-106 on Monday, taking a 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals and wrestling back home-court from a team that worked so hard over the previous seven months to get it.

    Kevin Durant, embracing his inner alpha dog, led the way for the defending champions. He had a team-best 37 points on 14-of-27 shooting, living from mid-range in a game played by two teams that have revolutionized importance of the long ball. Durant went 9-of-18 on two-pointers outside the restricted area on a series of fadeaways, turnarounds and pull-ups over any defender Houston put in his path. It was a callback to his days with the Oklahoma City Thunder, when his team needed Durant to be exactly who he is: the best pure scorer in basketball.

    The difference between now and then? Durant had more than enough help to beat a great team on the road – both offensively and defensively.

    Klay Thompson scored 28 points, shooting 6-of-15 from three. Steph Curry had 16 points, six rebounds and eight assists, while Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala spearheaded a defensive effort that kept the Rockets’ role players in check. Kevon Looney deserves a mention, too. The Warriors came back from an early deficit once the third-year center came in the game, buoyed by his ability to hold up against James Harden and Chris Paul after switches. That tactic didn’t always work; not even close. But Looney rewarded Steve Kerr‘s years of faith in his development by making a positive impact on the game’s biggest stage, playing a team-high 25 minutes off the bench – 21 more than David West, the only other reserve big man Golden State played after starting the famed Hamptons 5.

    Harden was dominant in defeat, pouring in 41 points on 14-of-24 from the field and 5-of-9 from 3-point range. He got the Rockets a seven-point lead in the opening moments by scoring their first nine points on two step-back triples and an and-1 layup, a harbinger of things to come throughout the game’s remainder. Unfortunately, the outsized offensive burden Harden carried affected his play on the other end of the floor – a development the Warriors fostered by going at him from the opening tip. Paul finished with 23 points but never quite got going, scoring six of those points in glorified garbage time as the visitors nursed a lead late.

    Houston would have been able to overcome Harden’s inattentive, lackadaisical defensive performance if its role players had contributed on the other end. Instead, P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute combined for one point on 0-of-9 shooting overall, including 0-of-4 from beyond the arc. The Warriors’ length played a part in their struggles, of course. Mbah a Moute attacked well-timed, long-armed close-outs with several ambitious drives, but always came up empty, thwarted by Golden State’s swarming help defense. Any space Tucker thought he had to launch after a kick-out from his star teammates was quickly closed.

    Curry deserves credit for his play on that end, too – especially in comparison to Harden. Routinely targeted by Houston in pick-and-roll play, especially to open the third quarter, no matter who he was guarding, Curry mostly held his own, at least forcing Harden and Paul into a rash of dribble moves or difficult jumpers. After Thompson drained another 3-pointer midway through the third quarter, the two-time MVP, again switched onto Harden, deflected a pass and saved the loose ball to Iguodala, who streaked downcourt for a dunk, putting Golden State up 78-70 – its biggest lead of the game to that point.

    Ignore the naysayers, by the way. Yes, the Warriors went into Toyota Center and won by double-digits in a game Harden was something close to unstoppable. No, the Rockets didn’t have an answer for Durant, and yes, their role players were marginalized by Golden State’s activity, size and attention to detail. Clint Capela, who was awesome defensively and shot 6-of-7 from the field, played just 30 minutes, perhaps an indication of Mike D’Antoni‘s confidence in his ability to stay on the floor.

    Still, this was an extremely competitive game. Houston led early, and the score was tied 56-56 at half. The Warriors’ usual third-quarter excellence didn’t even put the Rockets away; a late run had them trailing by just seven points entering the final stanza. Golden State only seemed safe for good when Thompson hit his sixth and final triple with 3:55 remaining, extending his team’s lead to 106-96. Even that play almost never occurred, though; the Warriors should have been called for a backcourt violation before they secured the ball in the backcourt.

    Game 1 told us everything we thought we knew about this series. Golden State, by virtue of Durant’s singular offensive brilliance and unparalleled two-way versatility, is the best team in basketball, but Houston has a puncher’s chance. With fewer defensive miscues and more made jumpers, the Rockets can beat the Warriors. Good thing, too, because they desperately need a win before the Conference Finals shift back to Oakland.

    We’ll find out if they get it on Wednesday night.

Fantasy News

  • Derrick 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.

  • Buddy Hield
    SG, Sacramento Kings

    Buddy Hield beat Devin Booker and Davis Bertans with 27 points in the final round of the 3-Point Contest on Saturday.

    Hield had to hit the final shot to beat Booker by one point and take home the 2020 3-Point Contest trophy. Hield is third in made 3-pointers this season with 207. He has been on a roll lately and is a top-30 player over the past month while averaging 21.1 points and 4.5 threes per game. Hield should have a top-50 finish to the season.

  • Bam Adebayo
    C, Miami Heat

    Bam Adebayo beat Domantas Sabonis in the final round of the Skills Challenge to take home the victory on Saturday.

    Adebayo beat Spencer Dinwiddie, Pascal Siakam and Domantas Sabonis on his way to winning the 2020 Skills Challenge. Adebayo was able to showcase his talents on Saturday and has been a top-40 player in 9-cat leagues this season. He will have early-round value moving forward.

  • Evan Turner
    SG, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Evan Turner is set to work out for the Clippers, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

    Turner is working on a buyout with the Wolves and Minnesota never had any intention of holding ET back from other work. He's only appeared in 19 games all season and would be at the end of LA's rotation, so there's minimal fantasy impact if Turner finds his way to the Clips.

    Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter

  • Miles Bridges
    SF, Charlotte Hornets

    Miles Bridges took home the MVP Award of Team USA's 151-131 win over Team World in the Rising Stars game on Friday night, scoring 20 points, grabbing five boards, dishing out five assists and chipping in three steals.

    He hit some big shots, including a couple of three of three pointers (3-of-7 3PT). The MVP winner was not immediately obvious after the game and Bridges was the beneficiary of a wide open field. He is clinging to value in standard 12-team leagues and has been a little better of late, averaging 20 points and seven rebounds over the past two weeks. If you have an open roster spot, Bridges offers consistently average production if you need a space-filler.

  • Collin Sexton
    PG, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Collin Sexton played 20 minutes Friday in the Rising Stars game in Chicago, putting up 21 points, five rebounds and three assists.

    Sexton was not pleased about being left off the original roster for Team USA. He got an opportunity due to Tyler Herro's injury and had a good showing Friday evening. He has been very consistent thus far, holding top-125 value on the season and ranks in the top-75 over the past two months. Keep running him out there.

  • Brandon Clarke
    PF, Memphis Grizzlies

    Brandon Clarke was in the starting lineup for Team World in the Rising Stars game Friday night and put up 22 points on 11-of-15 FG and added eight rebounds.

    Clarke has the best shooting percentage out of all NBA rookies this season, sitting at a cool 62.3% from the floor. He didn't let up Friday, only missing four of his 15 shots. Clarke has sneakily almost cracked the top-75 in standard leagues this season and needs to be owned across the board. The Grizzlies are surprising everybody and currently hold a spot in the playoffs, so Clarke should maintain his value.

  • RJ Barrett
    SF, New York Knicks

    RJ Barrett had 27 points, six rebounds, five assists and chipped in three steals in the Rising Stars game Friday against Team USA.

    He had a decent night shooting the ball, going 11-for-17 from the floor, although he missed all four of the triples he attempted. Barrett's fantasy output has really been disappointing so far this season. He ranks outside the top-300 and fantasy managers, if you've managed to hold on to him all the way to this point, should be hoping the Knicks decide to really commit to letting their young guys loose after the All Star break.

  • Wendell Carter Jr.
    C, Chicago Bulls

    Wendell Carter Jr. (right ankle sprain) is hoping to play next Thursday, the Bulls' first game after the All-Star break.

    Carter has been sidelined since leaving Chicago's game on January 6 and was hit with a 4-6 week timetable, so a return out of the break would certainly line up with that. His return will likely eliminate Cristiano Felicio from the rotation while Luke Kornet will take a sizable hit to his playing time as well. Thaddeus Young also stands to lose some minutes but is worth hanging onto as long as Lauri Markkanen remains out, even if his ceiling will be lowered. Now would be a great time to make sure that WCJ wasn't dropped in any of your leagues.

    Source: Cody Westerlund on Twitter

  • Kevin Knox
    SF, New York Knicks

    After Kevin Knox played just 10 minutes on Wednesday, Knicks coach Mike Miller said, "Just having minutes isn’t the end-all."

    Miller's starting to get questions about why some of New York's younger players are still buried in the rotation, often in favor of lower-upside veterans. Knox and Dennis Smith Jr. are obvious cases, with Frank Ntilikina and Allonzo Trier in a similar boat. Miller believes that development is more than just playing a lot. "It’s about how these guys get better just if they get 10 more minutes in a game. There are a lot of things that go into the development to make these guys better… I think there are other ways and other factors [than minutes]." Leon Rose might think otherwise, but it doesn't sound like changes are coming unless it's via an edict from above Miller in the organization.

    Source: New York Post