• The Utah Jazz beat the Portland Trail Blazers 120-90 on Friday night, subjecting the home team to its worst loss at Moda Center in almost 14 years. A golden opportunity for Portland to sustain some much-needed momentum gleaned from a three-game winning streak while picking up a head-to-head victory against another team scratching for position in the Western Conference playoff race was squandered, too. A loss would have been more of the same for Utah, another troubling sign that the inconsistencies plaguing Quin Snyder’s team over the first two months of the season were likely to linger during a particularly difficult stretch of schedule. Instead, the Jazz are 2-1 halfway through a six-game run that pits them against teams that made the playoffs last year, beating the Blazers and Golden State Warriors, near full-strength, less than 48 hours apart.

    Such is life out west, where the only rational expectation is unpredictability – except with regard to the Blazers’ inability to defend the three-point line, of course. Utah shot 16-of-31 from deep on Friday night, building an early double-digit lead by making nine of its first 12 tries, then pulling away for good after intermission with shutdown defense supplemented by more timely three-point shooting. It marked the sixth time this season the Jazz have made at least 16 triples, and only the second time they’ve reached that threshold while shooting better than 50 percent from beyond the arc.

    “Well, sometimes it was miscommunication – we lost [Kyle] Korver a few times,” Terry Stotts said after the game when asked to explain his team’s porous three-point defense. “Some was tough shot-making.”

    Korver might be the league’s most dangerous shooter sprinting off screens. On one fourth-quarter three, he went under a flare screen with C.J. McCollum on his hip, caught the ball on the move, immediately received another pick going the other direction, then launched from long-range while fading to his right after a single dribble. There’s simply not much more McCollum, six inches shorter than Korver, could have done to affect the shot.

    Portland can live with difficult makes like that, just like it can with Ricky Rubio splashing pull-up threes in transition and contested spot-up attempts early in the shot clock. The same logic applies to off-dribble tries by Joe Ingles in ball-screen action, and catch-and-shoot triples from Jae Crowder, provided a hand is in his face. It’s not like the Jazz are the Milwaukee Bucks; they entered Friday’s action ranking 26th in three-point percentage and 12th in three-point rate, acceptable numbers for a modern-day NBA offense, but hardly those that suggest they produce open looks for worthwhile shooters at will. The Blazers, by design, were always going to allow Utah some possibility of success from deep, focusing on limiting Rudy Gobert during rolls to the rim, keeping Donovan Mitchell away from the rim, and navigating an incessant maze of off-ball screens and cuts.

    Mission accomplished there, at least for the most part. Gobert, bothered by the size and activity of Jusuf Nurkic, scored just 11 points on nine shots, and Mitchell failed to break out of his horrendous shooting slump, scoring a season-low three points on just 1-of-10 from the field. But the Jazz put up a 123.7 offensive rating and doled out 35 assists, their second-highest total of the season, regardless, exploiting Portland’s nagging penchant for inattentiveness and lack of discipline defensively again and again and again.

    On many occasions Friday night, the Blazers just didn’t matchup correctly, ceding open looks from three as a defender frantically and hopelessly tried to manage effective contests at the last minute.

    Portland made similarly frustrating errors over-helping away from the ball. Briefly leaving Rubio as Lillard does in the first clip below, while an utterly fruitless effort to disrupt the action, isn’t necessarily an imminent death-knell. But abandoning Korver, one pass away in the strong-side corner, certainly applies as such. Affording Crowder some extra breathing room to offer Lillard help on a stymied Rubio drive doesn’t make much more sense, either.

    Even more damning defensively than waning engagement is waning execution, and the Blazers suffered from that affliction against the Jazz, as well. Crowder’s wide-open corner three below is the result of Seth Curry and Nik Stauskas‘ abject confusion on how to defend Korver slipping ball screens. A few minutes later, the same uncertainty leads to one of the easiest half-court baskets Exum will score all season long.

    Three straight wins over quality foes like the Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Clippers, and Memphis Grizzlies obscured the caveat accompanying Portland’s success, which happens to be the same one that’s plagued this team all season long. The Blazers got those victories despite allowing a combined 45.1 percent three-point, per Cleaning the Glass, comfortably worst in the league over each team’s previous three games. They’re now 29th in opponent’s three-point percentage overall, less than half a point from dipping below the lowly Atlanta Hawks’ last-ranked mark.

    “For whatever reason,” Stotts said, “teams are really shooting well from three against us, so we have to take ownership of that.”

    Portland’s next chance to do so, finally, comes on Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks.

Fantasy News

  • Kawhi Leonard
    SF, Los Angeles Clippers

    The Clippers closed their practice facility in a precautionary move after a member of their Orlando traveling party tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday.

    This seems like something that will continue to happen as we prepare to move teams into the Orlando bubble. We'll keep an eye on whether any specific player is infected and how that will impact the restart plans for this team.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Stephen Curry
    PG, Golden State Warriors

    According to Adrian Wojnarowski and Jackie MacMullan of ESPN, the NBA is close to signing off on a secondary bubble location in Chicago for the eight teams left out of the league resumption with a target date of September.

    They went on to say that this bubble would allow those eight teams who were not invited to Orlando to have an opportunity to have mini-training camps as well as games. It has been reported throughout the last few months that the teams that were not invited should have an opportunity to prepare for next season. Many of the teams who were not included would benefit greatly from additional practice time and game reps as most of these teams have young players who need to continue to develop their skills. There will still be a lot of logistics that need to be ironed out so this a situation to monitor as we learn more.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Marvin Bagley III
    PF, Sacramento Kings

    Marvin Bagley confirmed that he is "ready to go" for the NBA restart in Orlando after rehabbing from a left foot sprain.

    It was previously reported in early July that the Kings' training staff believed that Bagley would be available for game action soon and this report confirms that Bagley will in fact be available for the league resumption. Bagley has yet to live up to the hype of the second overall pick in 2018 as he has only been able to play in 75 out of a possible 146 games (51.3 percent). It is unclear what role Bagley will have in Orlando but it appears that his injury woes are behind him and we will learn more about his ability during the league resumption. Bagley's return would likely cut into the playing time of Nemanja Bjelica, Harry Giles, Jabari Parker and Harrison Barnes.

    Source: Sean Cunningham on Twitter

  • Jusuf Nurkic
    C, Portland Trail Blazers

    In a conference call with Portland media, Terry Stotts revealed that Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are likely to return to their starting jobs and won't be under minutes restrictions when the NBA resumes.

    It should be a huge defensive lift for a Blazers squad that gave up points like crazy, though this will throw a wrench into plans for DFS players. Stotts mentioned that he's considered starting Nurkic next to current starter Hassan Whiteside, though that fit would likely only be tenable in certain matchups. This, plus news of Trevor Ariza's absence during the restart, also has big effects on the wing rotation, where it sounds like Carmelo Anthony and Gary Trent Jr. are competing to start with Nassir Little and Mario Hezonja also in the mix off the bench. This is a big blow to Hassan Whiteside's fantasy appeal — a top-15 player in 31.3 mpg this year– as his minutes should sink into the mid twenties. Anyone participating in a short league that covers the restart may want to view Whiteside as more of a middle-round, blocks specialist type, though this all obviously hinges on how Nurkic and Collins look when games begin.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Devin Booker
    SG, Phoenix Suns

    Monty Williams said that he wants to play Devin Booker and Ricky Rubio less than their typical minute allotment when the NBA resumes in Orlando.

    The Suns have extremely slim playoff hopes and Williams doesn't want to risk one of the team's starting guards sustaining an injury in what amounts to a meaningless game. Expect similar moves from plenty of teams who realistically have no shot at the playoffs, even if they don't declare as much publicly. Anyone playing fantasy games for the eight-game restart should familiarize themselves with the depth charts on such teams and maybe downgrade some of the bigger names in case their minutes are limited.

    Source: Valley Tales

  • LeBron James
    SF, Los Angeles Lakers

    Out of 344 players tested between June 24-29, nine have tested positive for COVID-19.

    That brings the NBA up to 25 positive cases among players since June 23 testing began, a positive rate of 7.1%. 10 out of 884 staff members have also tested positive. How the NBA handles any potential spread of the virus inside the Orlando bubble will make or break their entire plan.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Jontay Porter
    C, Memphis Grizzlies

    Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said that rookie Jontay Porter may be available for games in the Orlando bubble.

    Porter missed the entire 2018-19 college season after suffering a knee injury and hasn't suited up as a pro, so if he accompanies the Grizzlies to Orlando it'll be more for the experience than actual playing time. His college numbers were intriguing but Porter is only of consequence in deep dynasty formats for now.

    Source: Daily Memphian

  • Grayson Allen
    SG, Memphis Grizzlies

    Grayson Allen (left hip) may be able to play when the NBA season resumes in Orlando.

    Allen has been sidelined with left hip soreness since leaving a game in late January, and his ailment would've ended his season had things finished as scheduled. While he hasn't received the all-clear yet, the Grizzlies will evaluate him after he gets through some practices in the Orlando bubble. He's unlikely to play much even if he can, as the Grizzlies currently boast a fully healthy roster.

    Source: Daily Memphian

  • Dwight Howard
    C, Los Angeles Lakers

    Dave McMenamin of ESPN reported that Dwight Howard remains in his Atlanta-area home and the Lakers hope he will eventually join them in Orlando.

    The Lakers do not plan to replace Howard on the roster. They are being patient with Howard, but if he decides to not play in Orlando the Lakers will likely look to sign another center.

    Source: Dave McMenamin on Twitter

  • Luc Mbah a Moute
    SF, Houston Rockets

    Shams Charania reported that the Houston Rockets plan to sign Luc Mbah a Moute for the Orlando restart.

    Thabo Sefolosha announced on Wednesday that he will not participate in the Orlando restart, leaving the Rockets with a need for an additional three-and-D wing. Mbah a Moute played 61 games for the Rockets in 2017-18 and averaged 25.6 minutes per game, so he is familiar with their system. Mbah a Moute will be a low-usage player that the Rockets can plug in at the end of their rotation and will provide them more depth, which could be imperative for teams given the COVID-19 concerns surrounding this Orlando restart.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter