• So much for crumbling under postseason pressure. The Houston Rockets, facing a slew of new questions from a skeptical basketball world after losing at Toyota Center two days ago, beat the Utah Jazz 113-92 on Friday night, wrestling back home-court advantage with an utterly dominant performance en route to a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference Semifinals.

    James Harden had 25 points, 12 assists and one turnover in just 30 minutes of play, setting the tone from the opening tip offensively by letting the game come to him. Eric Gordon answered that call with aplomb, scoring a playoff-high 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Chris Paul had 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists, while Clint Capela chipped in 11 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and four blocks, speaking to his supreme impact defensively.

    Two basic schematic adjustments made a major difference for Mike D’Antoni‘s team in Game 3. The Rockets let Harden work mostly away from the ball early, yielding floor-general responsibilities to Paul. After catching on the wing with a head of steam, always following a ball screen or dribble hand-off, Harden routinely had the Jazz at his mercy while help defenders rotated behind the action, still spaced behind a perfectly-spaced floor. He lofted in soft floaters over Rudy Gobert, fed Capela for a number of thunderous dunks and, overall, promoted the type of energy and activity that Houston, which doled out 25 assists despite going just 11-of-36 from three, occasionally lacks.

    Utah confused the Rockets in Game 2 by sprinting into screens and immediately slipping out of them, creating a fleeting passing lane before the defenders involved could finish completing a switch. The Rockets were ready for the same action 48 hours later. They communicated early and often defending both on and off the ball, anticipating picks and passing off individual assignments before the Jazz had an opportunity to exploit any advantage gained – if one briefly materialized at all.

    The Jazz were notably stagnant offensively as a result, settling for isolations, long two-pointers and awkward drives against swarming interior defense. Mitchell was the worst culprit, a reality owed to the even heavier offensive burden he shoulders absent Ricky Rubio, plus his lack of experience playing against postseason defenses geared toward stopping him. Time and again, the rookie drove the paint without a plan, getting his shoulder past the initial line of defense before forcing up shots through a canopy of arms. Mitchell had 10 points and three assists on 4-of-16 shooting, and was scoreless from the paint, missing his first six tries, until extended garbage time.

    He didn’t get the help he received in Game 2, either. Vivint Smart Home arena was absolutely rocking after Ingles kicked things off by hitting a deep triple on Utah’s first possession. That was hardly a harbinger of things to come, though, as Ingles missed six consecutive shots and committed five turnovers before scoring again, finishing with six points on 2-of-10 shooting. Derrick Favors, who rolled his left ankle in the third quarter and didn’t return, took two awful jumpers in the opening moments, further contributing to his team’s cramped spacing on offense. Jae Crowder, red hot coming into Game 3, was 1-of-6 from the field. Royce O’Neale was a bright spot, scoring seven straight points during a mini run in the second quarter, and Alec Burks and Dante Exum both had moments off the bench. Rudy Gobert wasn’t the problem for Utah, but still padded his stat line late on his way to 12 points and nine rebounds on 6-of-8 shooting.

    Fortunes change fast in the playoffs. Just two days ago, the Jazz were riding high, their first mission accomplished by stealing a game in Houston with two more awaiting in Salt Lake City. Three days before that, the Rockets seemed on their way to a second-round sweep, taking a 25-point halftime lead over Utah in a 110-96 victory.

    The Rockets, though, were up 70-40 at intermission on Friday, and held a 38-point lead in the third quarter. Could they really lose to the Jazz again, let alone lose this series entirely? Only time will tell. Game 4 is Sunday.

Fantasy News

  • Lauri Markkanen
    PF, Chicago Bulls

    Coach Jim Boylen said the Lauri Makkanen (right hip stress reaction) remains on track to return to game action near the beginning of March.

    Makkanen went down in late-January in an injury initially believed to be soreness but was later deemed worse. There were even rumblings that Markkanen would be able to play had it been the playoffs. Assuming Markkanen will be back within two weeks, he makes sense as a high-upside add for teams comfortably gearing up for the playoffs.

    Source: Chicago Tribune

  • Otto Porter Jr.
    SF, Chicago Bulls

    Otto Porter (foot) has reportedly shed his walking boot and could be returning to practice soon as he eyes a return to the court.

    The Bulls are optimistic that Porter, who has been out since early November, can resume practicing shortly after the All-Star break. It is uncertain what type of workload the Bulls would hand to Porter when he does suit up, but owners with open spots can start to think about stashing the versatile forward ahead of the stretch run.

    Source: Chiacgo Tribune

  • DeMarre Carroll
    SF, San Antonio Spurs

    The Spurs have officially waived F DeMarre Carroll on Tuesday.SAS officially waive DeMarre Carroll on Tuesday

    Carroll was expected to sign with the Rockets, but with the news of him being waived rather than being bought-out, Carroll will now have to clear waivers first. Feel free to leave him on the waiver wire as the situation plays itself out and we know where Carroll will be playing next.

    Source: NBA.com

  • Charlie Brown
    F, Atlanta Hawks

    The Hawks have assigned F Charlie Brown to the teams G League affiliate.

    Brown will head back to the G League where he will get more time to hone his craft. He is off the fantasy radar.

    Source: Hawks PR on Twitter

  • Terance Mann
    PG, Los Angeles Clippers

    The Clippers have assigned Terance Mann and Mfioudu Kabengele to the team's G League affiliate.

    Mann and Kabengele were rumored to be in a proposed deal for Marcus Morris but were ultimately left out of the accepted trade. Both players will get more run in the G League and can be ignored in fantasy circles.

    Source: Anthony Chiang on Twitter

  • Dzanan Musa
    SG, Brooklyn Nets

    The Nets have assigned Dzanan Musa to their NBA G League affiliate, the Long Island Nets.

    The second-year guard failed to gain much playing time while Caris Levert was sidelined due to thumb surgery. As a result, he has also fallen behind Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot in the depth chart and he is only a hold in dynasty leagues.

    Source: Chris Milholen on Twitter

  • Jeremy Pargo
    PG, Golden State Warriors

    Though Jeremy Pargo probably doesn’t figure into Golden State’s long-term plans, he is proving that he belongs at the NBA level and he is likely to finish the season with the Warriors.

    Pargo, whose 11-year professional career has spanned four NBA teams and eight overseas clubs, offered the Warriors a savvy point guard to help bring along rookies Ky Bowman and Jordan Poole. He is a deep-league option at this point and it’s up in the air whether he holds any value as we reach the end of the fantasy season.

    Source: San Francisco Chronicle

  • Mitchell Robinson
    C, New York Knicks

    While a report about the Knicks being interested in Jay Wright has surfaced in the last few days, the Villanova coach is reportedly not enamored with the idea of leaving the collegiate level.

    The Knicks are rumored to be hiring Leon Rose to run their front office and he will be in charge of choosing New York’s next coach. A lot of names will likely show up in the next few months while interim coach Mike Miller is expected to move on at the end of the season. It’s tough to gauge the fantasy value of the players in New York right now, both short and long term, so plan accordingly.

    Source: NBC Sports

  • DeMarre Carroll
    SF, 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

  • Jeff Green
    SF, 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