Thursday featured nine games and a ton of stars sitting out while we got big performances from Damian Lillard, Chris Boucher and Michael Porter Jr. The All-Star Game is Sunday and the season will resume on Wednesday when the Grizzlies host the Wizards and the Spurs visit the Mavericks.
Celtics 132, Raptors 125 – Jayson Tatum led the way with 27 points and 12 boards and Tristan Thompson, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, Grant Williams, Robert Williams, Jeff Teague and Payton Pritchard all scored in double figures in the win. The Time Lord (Williams) played 23 minutes and had 10 points, seven boards and three blocks, and we’re simply hoping his minutes continue to ramp up over the rest of the season. As long as they do, patient managers who have been holding onto him may end up getting the last laugh.
For the Raptors, Chris Boucher finally broke out with a career-high 30 points, five boards and five 3-pointers on 11-of-15 because Nick Nurse allowed him to play 35 minutes. If Boucher’s minutes increase at all over the second half of the season he has the potential to be a monster. Terence Davis scored a season-high 22 points with three 3-pointers in 32 minutes so just keep an eye on him once the regular season gets back underway.
Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers with 22 points, five boards and three assists, Serge Ibaka disappeared with foul trouble and Patrick Beverley, Reggie Jackson, Ivica Zubac, Lou Williams, Terance Mann and Luke Kennard all scored in double figures for LA. This game was a fantasy wasteland for the Clippers, as Leonard’s line was pretty pedestrian given his pedigree.
Knicks 114, Pistons 104 – Julius Randle kept it going with 27 points, 16 boards and seven dimes, RJ Barrett came through with 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting, Nerlens Noel double-doubled and Elfrid Payton returned to action with 20 points, six rebounds, four assists, four steals, a block and a 3-pointer in the win. Payton looked good after missing his previous four games and Immanuel Quickley got just 13 minutes. The Knicks are 19-18 and in the playoff pack, so those of us waiting for the keys to be handed to Quickley may be waiting a bit longer. I’m going to hold onto IQ for a few more minutes, but if the Knicks are going to roll with Payton, we all might have to move on.
The Pistons played nine players and eight of them scored in double figures, but Wayne Ellington’s 17 points led the way. This is not a good thing and Josh Jackson missed another game with his mysterious illness. Mason Plumlee double-doubled but if you were hoping for a revenge game from Dennis Smith Jr., he was quiet with just 12 points and two assists after going for a surprising triple-double in his previous game.
Nuggets 113, Pacers 103 – Michael Porter Jr. led the Nuggets with 24 points, 11 boards, two steals, a block and five 3-pointers on 9-of-14 shooting and I feel like a proud dad watching his kid dominate in a little league game. I love MPJ and it looks like he should be ready to keep rolling through the second half of the season. Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic did what they always do and Will Barton graced us with 16 points, six boards and two 3-pointers on 7-of-9 shooting. However, I still don’t trust him, especially once the Nuggets get healthy after the break.
All five Pacer starters scored in double digits and Domantas Sabonis triple-doubled despite hitting just 5-of-15 shots, while Myles Turner was fun with 22 points, 12 boards, a steal, three blocks and three 3-pointers. Doug McDermott went off for 20 points, three steals and four 3-pointers on a night that saw Malcolm Brogdon struggle to the tune of 4-of-14 shooting. And Justin Holiday chipped in with 16 points and four triples in the loss. Both McDermott and Holiday are worth a look in all leagues, but they’ve had trouble putting together consistent streaks for much of the season. T.J. McConnell backed up his historic ‘steals triple-double’ with 10 points, five boards, four assists and a steal in 29 minutes, and I think he’s worth holding everywhere. Brogdon’s injury history is fairly significant and TJM could end up becoming a mini force at some point in the second half. Jeremy Lamb hit 1-of-9 shots in 16 minutes and I’m officially moving on.
Bucks 112, Grizzlies 111 – Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton both played well and Jrue Holiday came off the bench to hit the game-winning shot in this one. Pat Connaughton had a great fantasy line with 15 points, nine boards, a steal, a block and three 3-pointers, but isn’t really trustworthy enough to be rostered. But he is worth keeping an eye on in case he starts doing more with his 27 minutes a game going forward.
Kyle Anderson was back for the Grizzlies but had a quiet night, Jonas Valanciunas double-doubled, Dillon Brooks had a monster line of 23 points, four boards, seven dimes, three steals, three blocks and a 3-pointer, but hit just 7-of-20 shots, as usual, and Ja Morant exploded for a season-high 35 points, six boards, five dimes, a steal and three 3-pointers. Maybe Ja is going to surprise us with a big second half, but I’m not holding my breath. Then again, he has scored 35 points in back-to-back games and kicked off the season with a 44-point game, so there is some hope. Brandon Clarke had six points, eight boards and two steals and I still don’t get what all the hype is about, and Jaren Jackson Jr. is eventually going to come in and rain on his parade, although that parade hasn’t been all that entertaining to begin with. Justise Winslow had six points and 10 boards on 3-of-11 shooting in 24 minutes. He’s worth a look in most fantasy leagues, but still isn’t quite there.
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Heat 103, Pelicans 93 – Jimmy Butler hit 10-fo-14 shots for 29 points and nine dimes and it was good to see him out there on a night many stars were sitting. Kelly Olynyk, who I stubbornly stand behind for reasons unknown to me, hit 7-of-8 shots and four 3-pointers for 18 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and a steal, and Kendrick Nunn started, but hit just 4-of-13 shots for a 13-point game. Goran Dragic is back from his ankle injury, but Nunn has continued to start. We’ll see if that trend continues after the break. Bam Adebayo sat this one out with knee tendinitis, which helps explain the Olynyk mini explosion. Tyler Herro hit just 1-of-6 shots for two points and it will be interesting to see if any impatient owners toss him to the waiver wire. He’s really been struggling, hitting just 10-of-33 shots over his last four games.
Zion Williamson sat out Thursday night with a toe injury but is expected to play in the All-Star Game. The Pelicans’ box score is not an impressive one and Brandon Ingram’s 17 points and nine assists led the way. J.J. Redick sat this one out with a right heel injury but should be fine and was really heating up over his last few games. Keep an eye on him after the break and if he plays big minutes in his next game or two, he might be worth a deep-league look.
Thunder 107, Spurs 102 – Al Horford sat this one out and Darius Bazley, Luguentz Dort and Theo Maledon combined to hit just 10-of-32 shots. However, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander bounced back from a couple duds to hit 11-of-19 shots for 33 points, three boards and eight dimes in the win. Isaiah Roby started for Horford and had 12 points, six boards and two steals, but I still think he’s only worth using on nights when Horford is sitting. Mike Muscala got loose for 18 points, seven boards and four triples, and it was because Horford was out. Both Muscala and Roby are worth plugging in on nights when Horford’s not playing.
There wasn’t a lot to love about the Spurs’ box score, either, as DeMar DeRozan led the way with 20 points in a somewhat empty stat line, and Trey Lyles, Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker and Patty Mills all scored in double figures. Lyles is an interesting watch right now, scoring in double digits in four straight games and going for his first double-double of the season last night. He’s worth a flier any time LaMarcus Aldridge is sitting, which was the case in this one. Jakob Poeltl was invisible in 23 minutes last night but did have a steal and a block to go along with his two points and five boards. He just had an off night.
Blazers 123, Kings 119 – Damian Lillard went nuts with 44 points, seven assists and eight 3-pointers on 13-of-26 shooting and is in the mix for the NBA MVP Award. He has four 40-point games and 16 30-point games this season and hits seemingly hits big shots every game. He’s got stiff competition in Joel Embiid, LeBron James, Nikola Jokic and Steph Curry, while Luka Doncic could throw his name back in the hat if Kristaps Porzingis can stay healthy and the Mavs can keep winning games. But Lillard is a freak. Robert Covington continued to bring smiles to our faces with his seven points, six boards, three steals, three blocks and a 3-pointer, while Enes Kanter went off for 22 points, 21 boards and a block in the win. Kanter’s March numbers are crazy, as he’s averaging 14.7 points, 15.3 rebounds and a block over his last three. As I wrote in his blurb, he doesn’t do much outside of points, boards and field goal percentage, but he’s really good at all three of them. Kanter has double-digit boards in 24 games this season, but Jusuf Nurkic is eventually going to come back and hurt him. This might be a nice sell-high moment on Kanter.
De’Aaron Fox had 32 points, eight boards, 12 assists, a block and two 3-pointers but hit just 6-of-10 free throws. His free throw percentage has dropped in three straight seasons and he’s hitting just 67 percent this year, but if he ever gets that worked out, he could be a monster. Buddy Hield played again through his ankle issue and hit five more 3-pointers on his way to 21 points. Hield is on a burner right now, scoring 21, 29 and 30 points with 20 3-pointers over his last three games and he gets my respect for playing through an injury he clearly didn’t have to. Richaun Holmes double-doubled and Nemanja Bjelica had 12 points, nine boards, a steal and two 3-pointers in 27 minutes. He was once out of the rotation and is on the trading block, so maybe the Kings are showcasing him now. The Sixers, Heat, Warriors, Bucks and Celtics have been linked to Bjelica and he’s simply a guy to keep an eye on going forward.
Suns 120, Warriors 98 – This game felt like a preseason affair as Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Kelly Oubre (wrist) rested as the Suns blew the Warriors away. Cameron Payne led the way with his first double-double of the season with 17 points, 10 assists, three steals, a block and two 3-pointers in 27 minutes off the bench. But as long as Chris Paul is healthy, CamPayne is an afterthought.
Jordan Poole led the short-handed Warriors with 26 points and five 3-pointers and James Wiseman played a career-high 35 minutes for 11 points, 11 rebounds and a block on 5-of-14 shooting. Steve Kerr has said that he needs to get Wiseman more minutes, so this was a step in the right direction. But we’ll have to see how it goes when Curry, Green and Oubre are back.