December 22, 2018, 2:04 pm
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.
September 21, 2019, 9:21 amKawhi LeonardSF, Los Angeles Clippers
After speaking with Doc Rivers and Lawrence Frank, Dan Woike's takeaway is that Kawhi Leonard's "load management" will not be as strict as it was last year.
It was reported in July that Kawhi said he wants to play all next season fully and approach load management on a game-to-time basis so this is further confirmation that he will most likely play more than the 60 games he played last year but surely won't play all 82 either. Kurt Helin of NBC Sports speculates that this could be for several reasons. One could be that Leonard can take on more now that he is a little healthier while he believes the Clippers might also limit his per-game minutes to help him play more games. The other idea is that because the Western Conference is so deep, the Clippers will not be able to get a good seed if Leonard sits too many games. Fantasy wise, Leonard finished last season seventh in per game value but 18th in total value since he played only 60 games. Near the top of the second round would be a great place to snag him if he plays around 70 games this season.
Source: Dan Woike on Twitter
September 21, 2019, 8:31 amMalik BeasleySG, Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets want to extend Malik Beasley and Juan Hernagomez before the October 21 deadline.
The Nuggets already locked up one of their 2016 first-round picks (Jamal Murray) to a long-term deal and now want to do the same with their other two 2016 first-round picks, Hernangomez and Beasley. If not, the two will likely become restricted free-agents at the end of the season. Both players saw stretches of big minutes last season due to injuries but at full health, Beasley was around 20 minutes per game while Hernangomez was at around 10. Fantasy wise, neither player puts up big defensive stats but Beasley is a very efficient shooter with low turnovers, knocking down 2.0 triples per game last year, putting him near top-150 value at only 23.2 minutes per game. Hernangomez is a decent rebounder and knocked down 0.9 triples per game but he would need closer to 30 minutes per game to be a factor in standard leagues.
Source: Denver Post
September 20, 2019, 8:49 pmOG AnunobySF, Toronto Raptors
Coach Nick Nurse intends to put OG Anunoby "back out there in a primary role."
With Kawhi Leonard vacating the starting small forward spot, Anunoby is the leading candidate to take the role. Before the arrival of Leonard, Anunoby started 62 games in his rookie season. Last season he started 6 out of 67 games, and missed the entire playoffs due to an emergency appendectomy. He averaged 7.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.3 blocks over 20.2 minutes per game, while shooting 45.3 percent from the floor, 33.2 percent from 3-point range and 58.1 percent from the free-throw line. He can be picked up as a late round flier in drafts.
Source: The Athletic
September 20, 2019, 4:03 pmDaryl MaconPG, Miami Heat
The Heat have signed Daryl Macon.
Macon getting picked up by another NBA squad after a solid Summer League campaign is not a shocker. If he were to crack the rotation he would post a nice assist rate, but it is unlikely Macon will be getting playing time unless something goes terribly wrong for the Heat this season.
September 20, 2019, 1:10 pmTahjere McCallF, Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks signed Tahjere McCall from their Summer League team.
This is just a depth signing for the Hawks. He shouldn't see much court time on the NBA floor if he makes the main roster out of camp
Source: Kevin Chouinard on Twitter
September 20, 2019, 11:58 amThabo SefoloshaSF, Houston Rockets
Marc Stein is reporting that the Rockets will sign Thabo Sefolosha.
Sefolosha was among the names at a recent mini camp, and he should make for a nice fit as a defensive stopper off the bench. The Rockets have a pretty thin group of reserves so we'd expect Sefolosha to be a regular rotation player, which puts him on the board as a steals specialist in deep leagues.
Source: Marc Stein on Twitter
September 19, 2019, 3:22 pmTyler ZellerC, Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets have signed C Tyler Zeller to the training camp roster on Thursday.
Zeller played all of six games last season with the Hawks and Grizzlies. Zeller will try to latch on as a third-string C for the Nuggets' deep frontcourt. Zeller is off the fantasy radar.
Source: Chris Dempsey on Twitter
September 19, 2019, 3:03 pmLuke KennardSG, Detroit Pistons
Coach Dwane Casey said that he is not sure if he will start Luke Kennard or have him run a lot of the second-team offense.
In addition, Casey mentioned that Kennard dealt with some knee tendinitis earlier this summer. Kennard is likely competing with Bruce Brown Jr. for the starting two-guard spot. We'll see how the rotation starts to shape in the preseason, but both players will get minutes either way.
September 19, 2019, 2:53 pmBlake GriffinPF, Detroit Pistons
Coach Dwane Casey revealed that although the team's training staff is easing him into things, Blake Griffin (knee) is back on the court and playing.
Coach Casey added that the team expects Griffin to be at 100% with "no lingering effects." It looks like Griffin is progressing nicely in his return and should be all systems go for the start of the season. With Griffin's extensive injury history, the team may manage him more this year. Coming off a career year, he's expected to be an early middle-round selection.
September 19, 2019, 2:44 pmVictor OladipoSG, Indiana Pacers
Coach Nate McMillan said that Victor Oladipo (knee) probably wouldn't play on opening night.
Videos have surfaced this summer of Oladipo doing on-court work, and by all accounts, he is progressing well. Coach McMillan said that Oladipo isn't playing live yet and it would seem he still has hurdles to climb. Even when Oladipo does return, he will likely be facing minute restrictions and frequent days off, at least initially. Jeremy Lamb figures to be the biggest beneficiary of Oladipo's absence.