October 20, 2017, 9:15 pm
The Timberwolves went back and forth with the Jazz all game, but ultimately came out on top 100-97 thanks to a late 3-pointer by Jamal Crawford.
With 28 seconds left in the game and the Jazz up 96-95, Tom Thibodeau drew up a play to get Crawford open for a three in the corner. After a nice screen by Karl-Anthony Towns, Crawford was able to get just enough space to bury it.
The way he was shooting in the fourth quarter though, he may not have needed any space. Crawford finished the game with 17 points and three 3-pointers off the bench, all coming in the fourth.
The Wolves brought him in to be a gunner and he did just that tonight. He also had a nice assist to Towns that led to a dunk.
Towns had an efficient 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting, with 10 rebounds, one assist, one steal, two blocks and one turnover. He didn’t seem bothered by Rudy Gobert on the offensive side, but he did give up a few offensive rebounds on the other end. He has had some issues there these first two games.
Andrew Wiggins scored 21 points tonight to lead all scorers, but it felt like a step backwards from his last game. His shot was not falling consistently, going 7-of-19 (2-of-6 from 3-point range), and he was burned on defense more than once.
Late in the game, Wiggins rotated to Rubio on the perimeter, leaving Joe Ingles wide open for a 3-pointer. Thibs called a timeout and was not happy in the heat of the moment. This was also after a lost offensive possession where Wiggins dribbled the life out of the ball, and eventually off his own foot, with Derrick Favors guarding him leading to a turnover.
Jimmy Butler was mostly quiet on offense again, scoring 13 points, but he did take 14 shots, mostly from isolation. He’ll get going soon enough.
On defense tonight he was his usual, dominant self. He generated numerous deflections, finishing with five steals. He also came down with the key defensive rebound that basically sealed the game with 5.2 seconds remaining, up 98-96.
Butler was also vocally active, getting into a little bit of a scrum with Ricky Rubio and standing up for his teammates.
Rubio mostly dominated the point guard matchup and tried his best to make Minnesota fans nervous. Finishing with 19 points, 11 assists, five rebounds, two steals, he outplayed Jeff Teague who finished with 10 points, four assists, two rebounds, and two steals. Rubio did miss two layups, which fans know all too much about.
Nemanja Bjelica came in and was probably the second-best big man after Towns tonight. He played only 13 minutes again, but was extremely productive with 10 points (4-of-5 shooting), two 3-pointers (2-of-2), and five rebounds. He was also very active on defense and moved the ball on offense. He’s potentially looking at more playing time.
Overall, there were a number of positives from this game. There were times where the defense was able to get consistent stops, and that is going to be key moving forward for this team. While we can’t expect guys like Towns and Wiggins to become lock down defenders already, it’s pleasant to see them wipe away the defensive lapses more often than not.
Offensively there were still some times where guys looked lost, especially early in the first half. They really simplified things at one point and just kept feeding Towns, Butler or Gibson in the post, with mixed results. There was little action on the back side, so no one to kick out to.
Late in the third quarter, and in the fourth, Bjelica and Crawford gave the offense some life and ended up winning the game for the Wolves.
At this point it appears the defense is ahead of the offense, which isn’t a bad thing at all considering the talented scorers on the roster. You know at some point they will figure it out.
Looking ahead, the Wolves visit the Oklahoma City Thunder this Sunday. The Thunder blew out the Knicks 105-84 on Thursday in their season opener. They will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back.
May 26, 2019, 10:12 pmJimmy Butler - G/F - Philadelphia Sixers
According to Tom Moore, it's a good move for the Sixers to sign Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris to big deals over the summer.
Moore points out that the move to acquire Butler at the NBA trade deadline was with the intention of keeping him with the team long-term. Butler was one of the more reliable Sixers players in the playoffs and his experience and composure shined through. Both he and Harris are expected to get a lot of suitors come free agency so it will be interesting to see how much the Sixers will be willing to cough up to retain their talented veterans.
Source: Tom Moore on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 4:01 pmBrook Lopez - C - Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks have multiple decisions to make when free agency starts but re-signing Brook Lopez is a priority, according to Malika Andrews.
The Bucks will likely lock up Khris Middleton first and then will have to decide on Malcolm Brogdon. He is a restricted free agent, but keeping him may vault Milwaukee into the luxury tax. After those two, Lopez is a priority over the other pending free agents such as Nikola Mirotic and George Hill. The Bucks won't have Bird Rights on Brook Lopez meaning they'd only have the mid-level exception to offer him, and if they go into the luxury tax, the mid-level exception drops from about $9 million to about $5 million. He'd almost certainly be taking a discount to stay in Milwaukee, but it's still possible he remains a Buck.
Source: Malika Andrews on ESPN
May 26, 2019, 3:53 pmNick Nurse - Team - Toronto Raptors
According to Peter Yannopoulos, Nick Nurse will be the coach of Team Canada this summer at the World Championships in China.
Nurse will be succeeding Hornets assistant coach Jay Triano, and will be in a similar position that Gregg Popovich has with Team USA. Nurse has had a meteoric rise since being the innovator of the Raptors new offense in 2017-18 as an assistant, to being promoted to head coach, to making the NBA Finals and now being named Team Canada's head coach.
Source: Peter Yannopoulos on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 11:48 amOG Anunoby - F - Toronto Raptors
The Raptors are expressing optimism that OG Anunoby will be able to see the floor for their NBA Finals matchup with the Golden State Warriors.
Anunoby's size and defensive versatility could make for a very valuable weapon against the Warriors' small-ball lineups. That being said, he has been out for nearly a month and a half, and the Raptors' eight man rotation has hit its stride in the crux of this playoff run. It remains to be seen if he will make it back, but in the event that he can, there is no guarantee that he will be able to crack meaningful minutes in Toronto's tight rotation.
Source: Ryan Wolstat on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 11:19 amMichael Porter Jr. - F - Denver Nuggets
As a symptom from his back surgeries, Michael Porter Jr. developed drop foot, and will wear to a leg brace to help stabilize it when he makes his professional debut in Summer League according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post.
Drop foot makes it hard for one to lift the front part of their foot and is a common symptom of back related ailments, of which Porter Jr. has had two surgeries to address over the last year and a half. Porter Jr. remains an unknown commodity with a laundry list of health concerns as an NBA player. There has been some recent success with young guys being able to bounce back in big ways after suffering year-long injuries, but Porter Jr. will remain a mystery until we see him on the court for his inaugural season.
Source: The Denver Post
May 26, 2019, 11:04 amJonas Valanciunas - C - Memphis Grizzlies
Jonas Valanciunas said that he wants to see who the Memphis Grizzlies hire as their next head coach before deciding on his $17.6 million player option.
Valanciunas saw his role increase in Memphis after being traded from Toronto, and actually played to compete with the Grizz trying to win enough games to convert their, at the time, low-end lottery pick to Boston. Valanciunas made it clear that he doesn't want to return to Memphis if their plans are to pivot to a rebuild and not compete again next year, saying, "I want to know, how we gonna look in 82 games. I don't want to be a tourist. I want to win.". The Hoop Ball favorite will be hard pressed to find a situation that will give him as much run, and fantasy value, as Memphis did, making this a decision fantasy owners everywhere should monitor.
Source: Dontas Urbonas on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 10:06 amKawhi Leonard - F - Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard held Giannis Antetekounmpo to just .353 shooting from the floor with an offensive rating of 89.4 when guarding him in the Eastern Conference Finals.
This is needed to emphasize just how dominant of a defensive player Leonard really is. For reference, Giannis shot .578 from the floor with an offensive rating of 121 through the regular season. A total swing of nearly 23 percent and 32 less points per 100 possessions is preposterous for any player, especially an MVP caliber offensive juggernaut in Antetokounmpo. Keep these numbers in mind as the debate over Leonard being the league's best player continues to heat up.
Source: Micha Adams on Twitter
May 26, 2019, 1:17 amKawhi Leonard - F - Toronto Raptors
Kawhi Leonard posted a monster line in Saturday's 100-94 Game 6 win, scoring 27 points with 17 rebounds, seven assist, two steals, two blocks and six turnovers.
Leonard put the Raptors on his back and carried them into their first NBA Finals appearance. After losing the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals the Raptors stormed back to take the next four to seal the series. Kawhi has been simply marvelous for this team and found a way to crank it up another notch, averaging almost 30 points per game this series. He was all over the court this game and dominated the Bucks from inside the paint. A 4th quarter dunk over Giannis Antetokounmpo punctuated this dominance and sent the hometown crowd in a frenzy. The Raptors will try to keep their hot streak going as they face the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
May 26, 2019, 1:14 amGiannis Antetokounmpo - F - Milwaukee Bucks
While Giannis Antetokounmpo will be eligible for a five-year supermax contract worth over $247 million, ESPN's Malika Andrews is reporting that the 2020 playoff run could swing whether or not Antetokounmpo stays with the Bucks long-term.
The Bucks have three of their starters and two key bench pieces heading into free agency this summer, so they might have to make some bold choices to keep the necessary parts around while also improving the team on a budget. It's possible that this is the Antetokounmpo camp's way of encouraging Milwaukee to empty the wallet and keep the current group together, but it goes against what Giannis has said publicly about the team and city from day one. The Bucks were eliminated mere hours ago but we're already having this conversation. The NBA news cycle is perpetual.
May 26, 2019, 12:59 amKyle Lowry - G - Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry posted a solid line in Saturday's Game 6 win scoring 17 points while adding five rebounds, eight assists, three 3-pointers, one steal and only one turnover.
After a pedestrian series against the 76ers, Lowry stepped it up against the Bucks, averaging almost 20 points per game in the Eastern Conference Finals. He did a great job making smart plays for the Raptors and they will need him to continue to operate at this high level as they head off into the NBA Finals next week.