• 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

  • 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

  • Jeff Ledbetter
    G, San Antonio Spurs

    The Spurs have offered summer league guard Jeff Ledbetter an Exhibit 10 deal, but he is still mulling over his options which include playing in Europe.

    Ledbetter had a productive summer league and now finds himself with a chance to play for the Austin Spurs of the G-League. Ledbetter is sure to be staring at a bigger payday in Europe, so his choice will be an interesting one. We should have a decision soon.

    Source: Nicola Lupo on Twitter

  • Eric Mika
    C, Sacramento Kings

    The Kings announced on Tuesday that they signed summer league standout C Eric Mika to an exhibit 10 contract.

    The former BYU big man is now set up to play for the Stockton Kings of the G-League. The Kings have a deep big man rotation, and it's unlikely that we'll see much, if any, of Mika on the roster this season.

    Source: Sean Cunningham on Twitter

  • JA Morant
    PG, Memphis Grizzlies

    Ja Morant (right knee) said that he is completely healed from the minor knee surgery earlier this summer, saying he is "100 percent right now."

    Morant will look to get back into the swing of things in the coming weeks as he prepares for his rookie season. Morant has the talent and the role on rebuilding team and is undoubtedly going to cost a pretty penny in fantasy drafts.

    Source: Peter Edmiston on Twitter

  • Derrick Alston
    Team, New York Knicks

    The Westchester Knicks have named Derrick Alston as the new head coach, replacing Mike Miller who was promoted to join David Fizdale’s staff.

    Alston, a former NBA player, has been an assistant for Westchester for four years. Before that, Alston was a player development coach with the Rockets. This will be Alston’s first head coaching gig as he continues to move up the ladder.

    Source: Ian Begley on Twitter