I’ll never forget the moment I got the call. I’ll never forget exactly where I was—sitting inside the Atrium at the Isenberg School of Management—when I found out I’d be writing for Rotoworld. I was a college senior in my final semester before graduation, and Rotoworld had been my homepage since before my first day of freshman year. I didn’t know what my precise plan for after school was just yet, but I knew it would include Rotoworld. That day, I walked around campus taller, prouder, and more confident, validated that I was good enough to “hang with the pros.”
As the days turned into weeks, the weeks transformed into months, and the months transitioned into years, the surreal feeling of working on a product I’ve long loved has never stopped. Even in the craziest of times—from the 2013 draft when Paul Pierce and Co. were sent to Brooklyn to when Kevin Durant announced he’d be joining the Golden State Warriors on the same July 4th holiday (2016) we learned Tim Duncan was prepared to retire—it never stopped being fun. This opportunity has given me the chance to connect with hoop heads around the world, and the ball won’t stop bouncing just because this is my farewell.
For those who have opened doors: Thank you. You know who you are.
For those who have read with open eyes and full hearts because you’re curious about what I might say: Thank you. And for those who have read to criticize me: Thank you, too. I appreciate your commitment to my success.
And for those who might not read my work regularly—I’ve mostly hung out in the “Season Pass” section for a while now—let me be very clear: After seven years with Rotoworld, I’m moving in a different direction. If you’re interested in coming along for the journey, please follow me on Twitter. I’d love to have you on board.
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Pelicans 119, Warriors 100: Golden State Lead New Orleans, 2-1
The Warriors had an icebox where the basket used to be while the Pelicans were building brick city at the onset of the action, but New Orleans heated up shortly thereafter thanks to Solomon Hill providing a surprising source of both energy and production off the bench. Golden State was playing with the cockiness of champions when things first got started, and Draymond Green’s tired act was again apparent in another unnecessary back-and-forth with Rajon Rondo. Jrue Holiday was a driving force in the Pelicans jumping out to an early lead, and it’s nice to see him get the well-deserved national recognition that is overdue now that the Pellies are on the playoff stage. It’s hard not to imagine what this club could be with DeMarcus Cousins, and his absence is certainly giving everyone something to think about as free agency swiftly approaches.
The second quarter saw Klay Thompson drop his first playoff 20-piece within a single frame, and while the Warriors made a push to pull within six, an aggressive Nikola Mirotic helped New Orleans keep its positive momentum. Although the Pelicans lose the majority of individual matchups when comparing the two rosters, this is a New Orleans team that is capable of performing as greater than just the sum of its parts. And while Rondo might not like the nickname, “Playoff Rondo” it is both real and spectacular. The enigmatic point guard might not work on all rosters, but I’ve always felt it’s better to be loved by some than liked by all. Friday’s win saw Rondo drop the first game of 20 or more dimes since he did it back in 2011 vs. the Knicks.
Anthony Davis put his stamp on the game in the third quarter when it felt like he was everywhere on both ends of the ball. He certainly wasn’t alone as the Pelicans outscored the Warriors by an impressive 11 points, and it would have been more had Kevin Durant not been using a flamethrower as a hand toward the end of the 12-minute period. Ian Clark began cooking with gas in the second half en route to serving up a revenge game special against his former team, and the collective effort of everyone wearing a bright red uniform fueled the surge toward victory.
The final quarter would have been an appropriate time for a Stephen Curry surge, but he never really got it going in a game that was a wire-to-wire Pelicans win. Instead, Holiday, Rondo, and Davis continued to dominate the action, and a postseason crowd that can’t get enough of their team was treated to a brilliant Friday night special.
Rockets 113, Jazz 92: Houston leads Utah, 2-1
Joe Ingles canning the opening three was the highlight of Utah’s first quarter with the Rockets getting out to a quick 17-point lead. MVP frontrunner James Harden set the tone for his team with five dimes in a quarter that featured 10 total for Houston—and a whopping zero turnovers— but it was far from a one-man show as Harden had plenty of help from his supporting cast. Clint Capela will likely be one of the unsung heroes for Houston assuming the Rockets advance, but nobody should allow his performance to go under-appreciated nor overlooked as the big man continues to be a difference-maker at both ends of the court.
The second quarter saw the Rockets run away from the Jazz, taking the crowd entirely out of the game in the process with a 30-point halftime lead. Although Royce O’Neale—yes, the same Royce O’Neale who was nearly cut in favor of Joel Bolomboy—tried to bring them back with a frenetic run in the middle of the frame, that energy didn’t last long with the Rockets having an answer each time down the floor, and it certainly didn’t help that the usually sensational Donovan Mitchell had an absolutely horrific first half with a two-point showing on a forgettable 1-of-10 shooting. For all the talk of the Rockets looking vulnerable after the Jazz pulled off a surprise Game 2 victory in Houston, the conversation has quickly shifted back in the Rockets favor following a favorable Game 3. Eric Gordon, whose nickname had been dry ice coming into this one, found a good time to relocate his stroke in Utah, while Chris Paul came to play with one of his best postseason showings to date.
The second half didn’t get much better for Utah, and the Jazz also lost Derrick Favors to a left ankle sprain in the process. That makes Jae Crowder even more important than he already was, and moving forward, Favors missing time would really thin the Jazz bench with Ricky Rubio (hamstring) already out of the lineup. Although the club did show some signs of life late, finding a shovel after digging with a spoon is usually only going to yield frustration. Utah has to be happy with what O’Neale showed in this one, but there is no way the Jazz can compete in this series without their Rookie of the Year Candidate playing like a seasoned vet. Utah’s entire starting five was bad, but Mitchell was particularly ineffective with 10 points on 16 shots.
FYI: The Rockets are now 48-5 in games where Harden, Paul, and Capela suit up together.