• Stephen Curry

    The Golden State Warriors faced a different type of pressure coming out of intermission. With the season on the line, though, the defending champions did pretty much exactly what they always do in the third quarter – and they have another chance at a title to show for it. The Warriors stormed back from an 11-point halftime deficit to beat the short-handed Houston Rockets 101-92 in Game 7, winning the Western Conference to punch their fourth straight ticket to the NBA Finals.

    Kevin Durant led all scorers with 34 points on 11-of-21 shooting, also chipping in five rebounds, five assists and three blocks. It was another former MVP who keyed Golden State’s game-changing third-quarter run, though. Steph Curry scored 14 points and drained four triples in the third quarter alone, finishing a stellar all-around effort with 29 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and four steals. Klay Thompson, fighting early foul trouble, scored 19 points on 13 shots, but his biggest impact came on the other end of the floor, where he slowed James Harden after the Rockets superstar got his team out to an early double-digit lead.

    Harden’s numbers, 32 points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals, were stellar. He made several splash plays on defense, and was instrumental in Clint Capela, who had 20 points on 9-of-10 shooting, finding traction as a pick-and-roll dive man. But Harden, absent the steadying and energy-preserving presence of Chris Paul, struggled after a hot start, scoring 18 points on 8-of-23 from the field in the game’s last three quarters. Unfortunately for Harden, he wasn’t the only member of his team who couldn’t buy a jumper after pre-game adrenaline finally wore off.

    Trevor Ariza, exhausted from the arduous task of beginning possessions guarding Curry, went scoreless in 42 minutes, missing all 12 of his shot attempts – nine of which came from beyond the arc. Eric Gordon was dominant as a playmaker at times, picking up Paul’s slack with 23 points and six assists, but went just 2-of-12 from three. Harden was 2-of-13. Basically, the numbers game upon which the Rockets relied to win 65 games and set numerous long-range shooting records failed them at the worst possible time. Houston was an abysmal 7-of-44 from 3-point range in Game 7, good for 15.9 percent shooting – its worst mark of the entire 2017-18 season.

    Gordon’s 29-foot launch midway through the third quarter put his team up 42-28; it wasn’t for a full two quarters later until Houston drained its next three, from Tucker in the corner. Not only did the Rockets misfire on a playoff record 27 consecutive triples between those makes, but Golden State had suddenly turned a 14-point hole into a 10-point cushion. There was just nothing Houston could do stop the bleeding when its threes, many of which were of the catch-and-shoot variety, refused to drop over and over, and Curry was simultaneously doing stuff like this.

    The Warriors outscored the Rockets 33-15 in the third quarter, taking a seven-point lead into the final stanza. That’s when Durant took over. After forcing the issue on offense early and being bullied on the glass by Capela and P.J. Tucker, Durant scored 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting the fourth quarter, ensuring Houston’s long-shot comeback bid would fall short and looking every bit the reigning Finals MVP.

    “Our talent took over,” Steve Kerr said. “It’s as simple as that.”

    The fact it came to that at all for Golden State to beat Houston with a frustrated Paul watching from the bench was surprising. The Warriors had six turnovers in the first quarter. Tucker, valiant in another defeat, had as many offensive rebounds in the first half by himself as they did in total. Draymond Green, awesome as he was as a distributor and back-line defender, went 0-of-5 from 3-point range on wide-open shots . Golden State resorted to intentionally fouling Capela in both the second and fourth quarters, first to cut into a lead and then to protect one of its own.

    Stuff like that is hardly befitting the Warriors’ status as heavy championship favorites and a modern-day dynasty. The Rockets deserve immense credit for pushing them to the edge, and then forcing Curry and Durant to keep their team from falling. Houston isn’t a gimmick. If Paul was healthy, perhaps a different team would be representing the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. But it’s Golden State again, and a familiar foe awaits.

    “It’s going to be a fun one, an exciting one,” Durant said of another matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron’s playing – I don’t even know, I can’t even describe how he’s playing. It’s like next level basketball, so we got our work cut out for us.”

    That remains to be seen. If it indeed proves the case, though, the Warriors, having staved off elimination twice, can take solace from knowing they again rose to the occasion when there was no other option.

Fantasy News

  • Derrick Jones Jr.
    SF, Miami Heat

    Derrick Jones Jr. won the Dunk Contest on Saturday in an epic showdown with Aaron Gordon.

    Jones and Gordon extended the Dunk Contest into overtime and treated us to some of the best dunks in recent memory. Jones put on a spectacular performance with one 360, between-the-legs dunk that was reminiscent of Vince Carter. Gordon dunked over Tacko Fall in his final dunk and put up dunks worthy of a trophy himself. Jones earned the nickname of Airplane Mode on Saturday and is an option at the end of your bench in 14-team leagues.

  • Buddy Hield
    SG, Sacramento Kings

    Buddy Hield beat Devin Booker and Davis Bertans with 27 points in the final round of the 3-Point Contest on Saturday.

    Hield had to hit the final shot to beat Booker by one point and take home the 2020 3-Point Contest trophy. Hield is third in made 3-pointers this season with 207. He has been on a roll lately and is a top-30 player over the past month while averaging 21.1 points and 4.5 threes per game. Hield should have a top-50 finish to the season.

  • Bam Adebayo
    C, Miami Heat

    Bam Adebayo beat Domantas Sabonis in the final round of the Skills Challenge to take home the victory on Saturday.

    Adebayo beat Spencer Dinwiddie, Pascal Siakam and Domantas Sabonis on his way to winning the 2020 Skills Challenge. Adebayo was able to showcase his talents on Saturday and has been a top-40 player in 9-cat leagues this season. He will have early-round value moving forward.

  • Evan Turner
    SG, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Evan Turner is set to work out for the Clippers, per Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

    Turner is working on a buyout with the Wolves and Minnesota never had any intention of holding ET back from other work. He's only appeared in 19 games all season and would be at the end of LA's rotation, so there's minimal fantasy impact if Turner finds his way to the Clips.

    Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter

  • Miles Bridges
    SF, Charlotte Hornets

    Miles Bridges took home the MVP Award of Team USA's 151-131 win over Team World in the Rising Stars game on Friday night, scoring 20 points, grabbing five boards, dishing out five assists and chipping in three steals.

    He hit some big shots, including a couple of three of three pointers (3-of-7 3PT). The MVP winner was not immediately obvious after the game and Bridges was the beneficiary of a wide open field. He is clinging to value in standard 12-team leagues and has been a little better of late, averaging 20 points and seven rebounds over the past two weeks. If you have an open roster spot, Bridges offers consistently average production if you need a space-filler.

  • Collin Sexton
    PG, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Collin Sexton played 20 minutes Friday in the Rising Stars game in Chicago, putting up 21 points, five rebounds and three assists.

    Sexton was not pleased about being left off the original roster for Team USA. He got an opportunity due to Tyler Herro's injury and had a good showing Friday evening. He has been very consistent thus far, holding top-125 value on the season and ranks in the top-75 over the past two months. Keep running him out there.

  • Brandon Clarke
    PF, Memphis Grizzlies

    Brandon Clarke was in the starting lineup for Team World in the Rising Stars game Friday night and put up 22 points on 11-of-15 FG and added eight rebounds.

    Clarke has the best shooting percentage out of all NBA rookies this season, sitting at a cool 62.3% from the floor. He didn't let up Friday, only missing four of his 15 shots. Clarke has sneakily almost cracked the top-75 in standard leagues this season and needs to be owned across the board. The Grizzlies are surprising everybody and currently hold a spot in the playoffs, so Clarke should maintain his value.

  • RJ Barrett
    SF, New York Knicks

    RJ Barrett had 27 points, six rebounds, five assists and chipped in three steals in the Rising Stars game Friday against Team USA.

    He had a decent night shooting the ball, going 11-for-17 from the floor, although he missed all four of the triples he attempted. Barrett's fantasy output has really been disappointing so far this season. He ranks outside the top-300 and fantasy managers, if you've managed to hold on to him all the way to this point, should be hoping the Knicks decide to really commit to letting their young guys loose after the All Star break.

  • Wendell Carter Jr.
    C, Chicago Bulls

    Wendell Carter Jr. (right ankle sprain) is hoping to play next Thursday, the Bulls' first game after the All-Star break.

    Carter has been sidelined since leaving Chicago's game on January 6 and was hit with a 4-6 week timetable, so a return out of the break would certainly line up with that. His return will likely eliminate Cristiano Felicio from the rotation while Luke Kornet will take a sizable hit to his playing time as well. Thaddeus Young also stands to lose some minutes but is worth hanging onto as long as Lauri Markkanen remains out, even if his ceiling will be lowered. Now would be a great time to make sure that WCJ wasn't dropped in any of your leagues.

    Source: Cody Westerlund on Twitter

  • Kevin Knox
    SF, New York Knicks

    After Kevin Knox played just 10 minutes on Wednesday, Knicks coach Mike Miller said, "Just having minutes isn’t the end-all."

    Miller's starting to get questions about why some of New York's younger players are still buried in the rotation, often in favor of lower-upside veterans. Knox and Dennis Smith Jr. are obvious cases, with Frank Ntilikina and Allonzo Trier in a similar boat. Miller believes that development is more than just playing a lot. "It’s about how these guys get better just if they get 10 more minutes in a game. There are a lot of things that go into the development to make these guys better… I think there are other ways and other factors [than minutes]." Leon Rose might think otherwise, but it doesn't sound like changes are coming unless it's via an edict from above Miller in the organization.

    Source: New York Post