The Utah Jazz have been on a roll — they have gone 20-2 of late — but the point guard ranks are getting thin. Ricky Rubio has a knee contusion that may keep him out for a game or two, and his backup Raul Neto is out with a fractured wrist. This is where the Jazz are making a smart move, bringing in a 10-day contract guy for depth and getting a look at him.
G League guard David Stockton, son of Utah Jazz legend John Stockton, is signing a 10-day contract with the team, league sources told ESPN. Stockton, 25, is expected to join the Jazz today, sources said.
Stockton, who played his college ball at Gonzaga like his father, has spent most of this season with the Reno Big Horns and averaged 16.3 points and 5.2 assists a night. Watching him in Summer League, Stockton is a smart, floor general kind of point guard who knows how to run a team. He is not as athletic as most of the guys he has gone up against, but he knows how to compensate.
However long this lasts, it’s good to see a Stockton in a Jazz uniform again.
Marquese Chriss, Jared Dudley cheap shot Ricky Rubio, get ejected (VIDEO)
Basketball has some dumb unwritten rules. One of them, apparently, is that you can’t step over a player’s legs to get the ball if they’ve recently airballed a dunk.
Utah Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio violated that rule on Thursday night when Phoenix Suns big man Marquese Chriss whiffed on a dunk attempt in the third quarter. The ball went out of bounds after Chriss’ miss, and in order to get the offense going Rubio hopped over the end of his legs to inbound the ball.
That set off Suns veteran Jared Dudley, who went straight to the body of Rubio as he was running down the court seconds later. Rubio got up to confront Dudley, then was pushed to the ground by Chriss as he rushed up the court.
Chriss appeared shaken up on the play, and that seems to be what initially sent Dudley off the rails. Then again, if it was just about disrespect from stepping over a player — ie. Allen Iverson did to Tyronn Lue — the way to avoid that is to not airball a dunk in the first place.
Thought Quese got fouled, Ref gave them the ball while he was on the ground with my other teammate trying to help him up.. I wanted to stop the fast break( I always do this) The push was a little much but he flopped and sold it.. Flagrant 1 or 2 and you move on.. https://t.co/Yf6CYlcaFj
Dudley was hit with a Flagrant 2 foul and ejected. Chriss was hit with a technical foul and ejected. For the Jazz, both Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles picked up techs.
Look for more information tomorrow about what kind of fines will be assessed to both Dudley and Chriss. They will presumably be large given the nature of the altercation. Meanwhile, Ingles and Mitchell will probably also see fines for rushing into the scrum.
Utah beat the Suns, 116-88.
Projecting final standings in wild West playoff chase
It’s going to come down to the little things: a lucky bounce here, a sprained ankle there, a made three from the corner under pressure. Unpredictable things — but that’s not going to stop us.
And it’s going to take 46 wins to make the playoffs in the West (last season Portland got in at 41-41).
The West playoff chase is compelling because it is so deep and tight. Right now Houston and Golden State are playoff locks, but after that just 3.5 games separate Portland as the three seed and the Utah Jazz, currently 10th. With just under a month to go in the season, anything can happen.
I sat down and projected out the rest of the season, and here’s what I got, down to projected final record and remaining strength of schedule — it’s going to take those 46 wins to get into the dance (which may be too much for Los Angeles and Denver). But one bounce, one ankle could change this entire dynamic.
1. Rockets: 64-18 proj. record; .483 remaining opponent winning percentage. It’s going to be a coin flip at the end of the season between Houston and Golden State for the top record in the NBA. I’ve put Houston on top for a less-than-empirical reason: Houston wants the top seed, James Harden wants the MVP, and Mike D’Antoni will push for those things while the Warriors will not care about seeding. The Rockets will get what they want.
2. Warriors: 63-19 proj. record; .447 remaining opponent winning percentage. The Warriors have by far an easier schedule the rest of the way than the Rockets, however, they also care less about getting the top seed and will rest guys down the stretch (such as Curry with this ankle, Andre Iguodala with his wrist, and Kevin Durant will get some nights off, too). Coach Steve Kerr cares far more about getting Iguodala and Jordan Bell back healthy than he does the team’s playoff seed.
3. Portland, 48-34 proj. record; .538 remaining opponent winning percentage. The Trail Blazers are seventh in the NBA in defense on the season, and since the All-Star break they are second in the league giving up less than a point per possession — that (and the fact they have outperformed their point differential for the season) is why this team stays at the three seed. We know they can get buckets with Damian Lillard at the helm (especially in the clutch, where he’s been special), but it’s the other end of this floor that makes Portland more of a threat. This team not only gets home court in the first round, they could well win that and advance to the second.
4. Minnesota 47-35 proj. record; .474 remaining opponent winning percentage. One of the hardest teams to project from here on out because they don’t have Jimmy Butler, who got them buckets and solidified their defense. That said, in this scenario the T-Wolves get the four seed over OKC because they won the head-to-head tiebreaker (3-1). Butler or no there still a lot of talent on this roster — they need to keep feeding Karl-Antony Towns like they did Sunday against the Warriors — but the Timberwolves have a tough stretch coming up at the Wizards, at Spurs, then home to Houston. They lost two-of-three before the Warriors, if they struggle in the next three does it get into the head of a young team? Their schedule softens up after that.
5. Oklahoma City 47-35 proj. record; .556 remaining opponent winning percentage. It’s difficult to project where this team lands because they are so wildly inconsistent. Watch the Rockets destroy them as happened last Tuesday (attacking Carmelo Anthony mercilessly) and you think the Thunder will be in trouble against any team in the West in the first round, or just getting into the postseason. Watch them shred the Spurs as they did Saturday night and you’re reminded of the elite talent on this team and why they can be such a tough out in the playoffs. Oklahoma City is simply not as good as we thought preseason (especially without Andre Roberson), but they are good enough to make the postseason, and maybe make the second round depending on the matchup.
6/7/8. New Orleans 46-36 proj. record; .549 remaining opponent winning percentage. In a conference race this tight, why wouldn’t there be a three-way tie for the final playoff spot? There are too many scenarios to get into the three-way tiebreaker for this ending, so for the purposes of this projection, we will call them all even. Anthony Davis only missed one game with his tweaked ankle, this is a team that looks like its recent run was enough to get back to the postseason (the Pelicans are 7-2 since the All-Star break but only have outscored teams by 1.1 per 100 possessions, they’ve been a little lucky). They need a little more luck the rest of the way.
6/7/8. San Antonio 46-36 proj. record; .566 remaining opponent winning percentage. If the Spurs don’t make the playoffs, does the league even still hold them? This is the hardest team to project for a couple of reasons. First is they have the toughest schedule of any West team chasing the postseason, including two more against the Rockets and one against the Warriors. Second is Kawhi Leonard. He is reportedly going to return on Thursday vs. New Orleans, but for how many minutes? And how long does it take him to shake off the rust? If he gets back to form, both the Warriors and Rockets would like to avoid the Spurs in the first round, Leonard is that good, he changes everything. But the Spurs have to make it first, and that’s far from a given.
6/7/8. Utah 46-36 proj. record; .489 remaining opponent winning percentage. The Jazz grab one of the last spots thanks to a soft schedule the rest of the way — although they do have two against the Warriors remaining — and the fact they have had the best defense in the NBA since the All-Star break, allowing well under a point per possession. Rudy Gobert would be the clear Defensive Player of the Year if he wasn’t going to have missed 25+ games this season due to injury. So long as Donovan Mitchell and Ricky Rubio can generate just enough offense, the Jazz will make the cut.
9. Clippers 45-37 proj. record; .553 remaining opponent winning percentage. That the team who lost Chris Paul last summer and traded Blake Griffin in the middle of this one is still in the playoff conversation is a testament to what a good job Doc Rivers has done as coach this season. Lou Williams is going to win Sixth Man of the Year going away, and DeAndre Jordan is still a force inside. But the Clippers have a tough schedule the rest of the way — two each against the Trail Blazers and Pacers that will be key — and almost no margin for error.
10. Denver 44-38 proj. record; .553 remaining opponent winning percentage. Denver has found a nice young core in Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Gary Harris, and their offense is top 10. However, their 23rd ranked defense (once you remove gargage time stats, via Cleaning the Glass) is going to leave them on the outside looking in when all is said and done. They have two games against Minnesota and one against Portland remaining, win those and the dynamic changes.
Three Things to Know: Young Lakers figuring it out
LOS ANGELES —Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) While we were busy trying to tune LaVar Ball out, young Lakers have developed into a quality team on the rise. Heading into this season, reasonable Lakers fans (there are a few) had goals for their team of mid-30s in wins, improvement and growth as the season wore on, and building the kind of foundation that will attract free agents because they see they can win there down the line.
Since Jan. 8, the Lakers are 18-9, with the ninth best offense and 11th best defense in the NBA, and they have outscored teams by 3.1 points per 100 possessions in that stretch. Los Angeles is on pace for about 38 wins, Brandon Ingram has emerged as a reliable scorer, Kyle Kuzma surprised everyone with a strong rookie season, Julius Randle is a beast, and Lonzo Ball has found his shot (39.7 percent from three in his last 20 games) and brings the intangibles needed to push this team to new heights.
Through all the distractions and drama, the Lakers are right on schedule.
It all came together Sunday night as the Lakers ran past the Cavaliers 127-113, a game where Isaiah Thomas got a little revenge on his old team with 20 points and nine assists. A couple of things were clear sitting at this game. First, the Lakers thrive playing up-tempo, something that left the Cavaliers defense scrambling. It’s not just Lonzo Ball (although he is a catalyst), the Lakers play at the fastest pace in the league for the season and guys like Kuzma, Randle, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope thrive in it. Cleveland was cross-matching and lost in transition defense, the Lakers were moving the ball, attacking the rim and all of that led to good looks.
“We knew if we got out in transition on this team, we could have some success,” Randle said. “So that’s what we tried to do.”
The other thing evident on Sunday: Julius Randle is going to get PAID this summer. Sources say are multiple teams have set their targets the restricted free agent big man (Dallas is near the front of that list), and his play is forcing the Lakers to reconsider their plans. Los Angeles has hoarded cap space to go after two max salaries this summer, but to do so meant letting Randle walk (or he would have to resign for far less than he’s worth). That two max guys strategy has risks, starting with can the Lakers land two guys worth that money? But Randle’s play has raised the question, should Los Angeles go after one max player and then use that money to re-sign Randle?
Sunday night Randle showed exactly why other teams are getting in line to make offers in July.
Randle has limitations to his game (no jumper, for one) but Luke Walton has done an excellent job at putting him in spots to play to his strengths — playing downhill attacking the basket, being physical, and getting rebounds. With teams switching everything on picks, it creates mismatches for a physically strong player to attack one-on-one. Randle just powered through Jeff Green multiple times Sunday night, and the small-ball Cavaliers had no other answer, so Randle racked up a career-best 36 points.
“Everybody’s had a hard time with him of late,” LeBron James said of Randle.
That’s true of the entire Lakers team.
2) Kyrie Irving misses second half with knee soreness, Pacers beat Celtics, move ahead of Cavaliers to three seed. The biggest news to come out of Sunday was this: Kyrie Irving did not play the second half against Indiana due to general knee soreness, and it sounds like he is going to get some rest down the stretch. Irving has had concerns about his knee since breaking his kneecap in the 2015 NBA Finals, and now he needs to get it some rest. We’ll see if he plays Wednesday for Boston vs. Washington, but the Celtics need him at full power for the playoffs — Boston’s already pedestrian offense is 7.6 points per 100 possessions worse when Irving sits this season.
Without Irving, the Celtics shot 38.9 percent in the second half and could not hold off Victor Oladipo (27 points) and the Pacers Sunday, falling 99-97. Combine that with the Raptors rolling the Knicks, and the Celtics are now 3.5 games back of Toronto and not likely to make up that ground for the top seed in the East heading into the playoffs.
However, if getting the top seed to avoid Cleveland in the second round is the goal, the Raptors may be in trouble. With Indiana’s win and the Cavaliers getting swept in Los Angeles over the weekend, the Pacers are now the three seed in the East and Cleveland has fallen to fourth. We’ll see if that lasts, the Pacers have the toughest remaining schedule of any team in the NBA, but the idea of the Cavaliers as the four seed is not out of the question.
3) Out West, Anthony Davis returns to starting lineup, posts a triple-double with 10 blocks, and it’s not enough vs. Jazz. Also, the Timberwolves beat the Warriors. Out West, things got a little tighter on Sunday. If that’s even possible.
It was good news for the Pelicans that Anthony Davis only missed one game with a sprained ankle, and he returned with a vengeance scoring 25 points and blocking 10 shots.
But that wasn’t enough — Utah’s defense held New Orleans down and Ricky Rubio had 30 points on the way to a 116-99 win. That win kept the Jazz in a virtual three-way tie with the Clippers and Nuggets for the final playoff slot in the West. All three of those teams are just 3.5 games back of Portland in the three seed.
The other big game in the West was Minnesota getting 31 from Karl-Anthony Towns and beating the shorthanded Warriors 109-103. That moved Minnesota up to the five seed, in a virtual tie with New Orleans for fourth.
Jeff Teague ejected for hip check on Ricky Rubio, Jimmy Butler likes it
Minnesota was already behind and had a real problem: Karl-Anthony Towns had been ejected in the first half for a couple of technicals (the second one for arguing a non-call), and that left nobody who could slow Utah’s Rudy Gobert, who was dominating inside and finished with 26 points and 16 boards.
The Timberwolves were behind and shorthanded, point guard Jeff Teague was frustrated, so he hip-checked Ricky Rubio coming down the court.
Teague deserved to be ejected for that one, there wasn’t even a play on the ball. You know coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t like it (this game mattered in the standings), but Jimmy Butler — injured and watching at home — did.
haven’t used Twitter in years. But yeah Jeff that’s what I like to see. Rubio getting up quick for no reason.
It was a wild night. After the game, Thibodeau chose his words carefully to avoid a fine but said he was “disappointed” in the referees.
Oh, by the way, Utah won the game 116-108. The loss dropped Minnesota into a four-way tie with Portland, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City for seeds three through six in the West (and Minnesota trails all of them in the loss column). Without Butler until around the end of the season (by Butler’s estimates) the Timberwolves can’t afford to have its best player and point guard getting tossed in key games. They need wins or they could slide back to the seven or eight seed and have to face Houston or Golden State in the first round.
Utah still wants into the dance, they remain two games back of Denver and the eight seed (Denver won Friday night, too, as did the Clippers). The Jazz have the easiest remaining schedule of any of these teams.