Before recapping games and delving into each team's rest-of-season schedule, let's take a look at this year's All-Stars:
Eastern Conference starters: LeBron James, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Kyrie Irving, Dwyane Wade
Eastern Conference reserves: John Wall, DeMar DeRozan, Joe Johnson (!), Paul Millsap, Chris Bosh, Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert
Western Conference starters: Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Kobe Bryant*
Western Conference reserves: Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Damian Lillard, James Harden, Dirk Nowitzki, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard
Suns at Pacers
Goran Dragic led the Suns to a surprising road win with a team-high 28 points on 11-of-21 FGs and 5-of-7 FTs, despite wearing a sleeve to protect his recently injured left elbow. Gerald Green needed 15 shots to score his 16 points, though he made a few key buckets to keep his former team at bay. The Morris brothers were also solid off the bench -- Markieff Morris scored 15 points with two 3-pointers, three rebounds and one steal in 24 minutes, while Marcus Morris made 7-of-12 FGs for 16 points, six rebounds and two assists in just 21 minutes.
In general, however, this was a one-man show by Dragic. The southpaw PG had some trouble corralling George Hill, and he was quieter in the second half once Indiana switched Paul George onto him defensively, but the Suns' fourth consecutive victory crystallized all the reasons Dragic deserved to make the list of All-Star reserves.
His willingness to play hurt is second to none. His speed in the open court allowed Phoenix to open up a 19-point lead in the first half, and it helped to jumpstart the Suns in the second half when Indiana's defense began to clamp down. Even in the halfcourt his quickness and willingness to absorb contact were invaluable, as he routinely skirted defenders on the perimeter and threw himself into Roy Hibbert's body to either score on a layup, draw a shooting foul, or pull in the defense before passing to one of the Suns' copious perimeter shooters.
Damian Lillard and Tony Parker have both been excellent this season, and the Blazers' and Spurs' matching 33-13 record speaks for itself. I think Dragic deserved an All-Star nod over either player, however, as he's been the one constant for a Suns' team which is defying everyone's expectations by compiling a 28-18 record and installing themselves as a real playoff contender. Advanced metrics support the idea. Of the three guards, Dragic has the highest Player Efficiency Rating, Effective FG percentage, Total Rebound Rate, Offensive Rating, and Win Shares. He also tops Lillard in Assist Percentage and Defensive Rating.
Don't even get me started on Kyle Lowry. I don't have the space to adequately express my displeasure with his absence from the All-Star squad, and others have already done a fine job in the past 12 hours. Anthony Davis' exclusion is also indefensible, though he's a lock to replace injured Kobe Bryant on the team.
Speaking of All-Star snubs, Lance Stephenson celebrated his with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his league-leading fourth triple-double of the season. He's flirting with triple-doubles in every game, and tonight's gaudy line came despite a blow to the face which briefly sent him woozily toward the Pacers' locker room. It looked as though he would keel over at one point, but he quickly returned to action and seemed no worse for the wear, so it's safe to assume that he's healthy unless you see an update on the RW Injury Report.
Roy Hibbert racked up 26 points, six rebounds and two blocks as the Suns' frontcourt simply couldn't handle his size and strength in the paint, and ultimately Jeff Hornacek yanked Miles Plumlee (19 minutes) and went with a frontcourt of Channing Frye and the Morris brothers. Hibbert made 9-of-17 FGs (tying his season-high for attempts) and 8-of-11 FTs (his third-most attempts). He was joined in double-digits by Stephenson, Paul George (12 points, 12 rebounds), David West (18 points) and George Hill (17 points), but Danny Granger went scoreless and the entire bench combined for seven points on 3-of-15 shooting.
Cavaliers at Knicks
New York won by 31 points in a massacre at MSG on Thursday, despite playing without Kenyon Martin, Andrea Bargnani, Iman Shumpert, Amare Stoudemire or Beno Udrih. The injury-ravaged Knicks were led by 29 points apiece from Carmelo Anthony and rookie Tim Hardaway Jr., the latter of whom set a career-high by shooting 11-of-17 from the field, including 6-of-12 from downtown. He's averaging 2.6 triples over the past seven games and should be deployed until he cools off, but bear in mind that he doesn't contribute many rebounds, assists, steals or blocks.
J.R. Smith's play in 35 minutes as a starter was nearly as encouraging -- filling in for Iman Shumpert (shoulder), he scored 19 points with two 3-pointers, four rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block and zero turnovers. He also had a leg-buckling crossover which left would-be defender Tristan Thompson sprawled out on the court, to the delight of the home crowd and the Knicks' bench. Smith has now scored double-digit points in every game since Jan. 11, and he too is averaging 2.7 triples in the past seven games. The Knicks' small lineup with Melo at PF is having a terrific fantasy impact, needless to say, and Smith will remain a solid option when Shumpert returns.
The image of Tristan Thompson laid out on the court adequately summed up Thursday's game for Cleveland. The day began with a headline-grabbing rumor/report from ESPN's Chad Ford, who wrote in a live chat that Kyrie Irving has been "telling people privately he wants out [of Cleveland]." Irving responded by saying after the game, "Everybody is trying to antagonize this team and put it on me ... I'm still in my rookie contract and I'm happy to be here. And I'm pretty sure I'm going to be here for a long time." The Cavs can offer him a max extension this summer, and they probably will, so even if he's unhappy now (which is reasonable) there's a good chance that he'll stick around.
Irving scored 24 points in the drubbing and Dion Waiters (21 points) was the only other Cavaliers player in double-digits. The starting frontcourt was particularly atrocious without Anderson Varejao (knee) for a second straight game -- Tyler Zeller had two points and one rebound in 14 minutes, while Tristan Thompson had two points and two rebounds in 22 minutes. They combined for eight personal fouls and three turnovers, and had their shots blocked three times. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Jarrett Jack, who shot 1-of-8 and continues to struggle in Cleveland, averaging just 8.9 points on 39.7 percent shooting. With Mike Brown's offense scraping along and no personnel changes in sight, there's no reason to anticipate a bounce-back after the All-Star break.
I said this on Twitter the other day, but if you're not routinely checking our Injury page you're missing out on a terrific resource. We go a few steps further for anyone who signs up for the NBA Season Pass, providing a daily injury report which can now be filtered by 'teams playing today' to save you some effort. The season has just reached the halfway point, and the Season Pass remains a stellar value at just $14.99 for rest-of-season access to exclusive live chats, frequent Pickup of the Day articles, customizable rankings, projections, and much more.
Clippers at Warriors
Blake Griffin scored 27 points on 11-of-21 shooting, Darren Collison added 22 points and five assists, but Thursday's game slipped away when Golden State went on a 16-2 run after halftime to open up a huge lead. Among the notable causes for L.A.'s defeat, DeAndre Jordan grabbed a game-high 20 rebounds while the rest of the team added a combined 14 rebounds. The team's go-to scoring guards also flopped, as J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford combined to score 21 points on 5-of-20 shooting.
They'll look to get back on track vs. the Jazz on Saturday, which may be one of their final games without Chris Paul. CP3 is reportedly aiming to return from his Grade-3 shoulder separation on either Feb. 7 or Feb. 9, which would clear the way for him to start the All-Star game. The Clippers' offered a relatively vague timeline on Jan. 5, saying CP3 would be out "up to six weeks," and given his work ethic and toughness it's not surprising that he's aiming to return after closer to four weeks.
The Warriors cruised to a victory with a decisive edge in rebounds, limited turnovers, accurate shooting, and solid defense. David Lee double-doubled with 22 & 11, while Steph Curry scored 22 points on 8-of-10 shooting (4-of-4 from downtown), and Klay Thompson chipped in 16 points with three assists and three steals. The biggest difference-maker may have been Andrew Bogut, however, who controlled the paint and stifled the Clippers' offense on his way to 14 points, 17 rebounds (seven offensive), one steal and three blocks in just 28 minutes.
Bogut is having a tremendous 2013-14 season. He's been derided as injury-prone, and at least in fantasy circles he was all but written off as a lost cause prior to this season (I drafted him at No. 124 in the ultra-competitive 30-Deep league on CBSSports.com). And yet he's been a top-60 value in nine-cat leagues on a per-game basis, and vaults into the top-40 for cumulative value since he's missed exactly one game all season.
Bogut has also been one of the league's premier rim-protectors this season, according to NBA.com. When he's within five feet of the rim and the player attempting the shot, opponents are making only 44.0 percent of their attempts in the restricted area. That ranks fifth in the NBA among centers who play at least 25 minutes per game, trailing Robin Lopez, Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez and Larry Sanders. The Warriors are being rewarded for their faith in Bogut, as they gave him a $36 million extension in October, and their prudent decision to limit his minutes (27 per game) has kept him healthy through the halfway point of the season.
Rest-of-Season Games Played
I have posted another document on GoogleDrive which should be of particular interest to fantasy owners in head-to-head leagues, as it pertains to each team's rest-of-season schedule. Owners in roto leagues may also benefit from detailed schedule information, though in leagues that cap games-played for each position it's obviously not as vital.
Here is the link for my spreadsheet. Google's spreadsheet software doesn't mimic the at-a-glance usefulness of Excel's 'color coding', which enables you to quickly differentiate between abnormally low and high numbers in a data set, but I've applied some conditional formatting to mimic the effect. I hope you find it useful, and let me know if you have any questions. In case it's not clear, you should feel free to use, copy or download any of the docs I share on Google Drive. If you want me to send you the original Excel files, I can do that too. Just send me a Direct Message on Twitter. Although the schedule layout speaks for itself and contains more information than I can summarize here, I've pulled out some highlights below.
*The Celtics, Bobcats, Thunder and Magic are tied for the fewest remaining games (33) UPDATE: I forgot that the Clippers have the fewest games, with 32 remaining.
*The Nets and Nuggets have the most remaining games (37)
*The Heat are the only team with four games in every likely playoff week (Weeks 20-24). That gives them 20 total games in that five-week period, but the Hawks, Celtics and Raptors aren't far behind with 19 games each.
Lakers - Week 19
Bucks - Week 20 *This previously said Wolves, which was incorrect
Trail Blazers - Week 22
*Note that every single team plays either one or two games in Week 16 (All-Star Weekend) and Week 25 (end of regular season).
Bobcats - Week 15, Week 18
Rockets - Week 15
Clippers - Week 21
Lakers - Week 20 (followed by a five-game week...nice)
Heat - Week 18 (followed by five consecutive four-game weeks...nice)
Wolves - Week 18
Knicks - Week 24
Thunder - Week 17 (followed by four consecutive three-game weeks...yuck)
Magic - Week 19
76ers - Week 17, Week 19
Raptors - Week 19
Warriors - Week 22 (Thanks to reader Christopher Hauck for pointing out that they have a dud week in the heart of the playoffs.)