Thursday featured a rare overseas game between the Nets and Hawks in London, one game in the East between the Knicks and Pacers, and one in the West between the Thunder and Rockets. In addition to recapping those three games, today's Dose features another exhaustive injury report relevant to Friday's games. Follow me on Twitter @Knaus_RW.
Nets 'at' Hawks
The Hawks vs. Nets game in London on Thursday marked the fourth regular-season NBA game played in England, but any hopes of a memorable finish were dashed as the Nets expanded their lead to 25 points after three quarters. Suffice to say, the biggest crowd reaction came when Sir Paul McCartney was shown on the arena's jumbotron while people sang along to 'Hey Jude'. The Nets were without Deron Williams (ankle), who didn't make the trip, but they didn't need him thanks to a massive game from Joe Johnson. He finished with 29 points on 11-of-15 shooting, including 6-of-8 from downtown, and simply demoralized the Hawks while scoring 26 points in the first half. Johnson is now averaging 24.4 points in the Nets' past five games.
Paul Pierce continues to start at PF and given the Nets' recent success (they have a 6-1 record in January) there's no reason to think that will change. The Truth's fantasy owners should be thankful, as the lineup change has him averaging 15.9 points, 1.4 threes, 3.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks in 2014, despite shooting just 41.1 percent from the field.
Brooklyn's other noteworthy performance came from Andray Blatche, who piled up 20 points on 10-of-18 shooting, 14 rebounds (six offensive), six assists, one steal and one block in just 27 minutes. He had eight points, four rebounds and three assists to put the game out of reach in the final quarter and this serves as a reminder of his terrific upside with Brook Lopez (foot surgery) done for the year. Kevin Garnett scored 12 points in 18 minutes vs. the Hawks and he's susceptible to random DNPs, and Blatche's value shouldn't be obscured by his recent four-game personal absence, his muted play once he returned, or the Nets' lousy one-game schedule this week. If he's available on your waiver wire and you have a bench player you've been itching to cut loose, make the switch. It's worth mentioning that fellow big man Mason Plumlee, who logged 28 minutes with KG out of the lineup on Saturday, played only two minutes off the bench vs. the Hawks.
Deron Williams owners got some good news on Friday morning, when it was reported that D-Will hopes to return to action on Monday. "We’re going to wait and see how he feels when he gets back," GM Billy King said. "That was the goal to try to get him two weeks off to see how he feels. I know he’s been working back at home. That is the goal if he’s ready then."
The Hawks scored 110 points, led by 17 apiece from reserves Mike Scott and Shelvin Mack, but that's not as impressive when you realize they allowed the Nets to score 127 points on 58.2 percent shooting. As encouraging as the bench performance was, it shouldn't be taken as an indicator of rising value for Mack (three 3s, seven assists, two steals) and Scott (four rebounds, four assists).
For one thing, the lopsided score limited every Hawks starter to under 30 minutes, and neither Lou Williams nor Kyle Korver scored double-digit points. Korver did make a meaningless 3-pointer in the fourth quarter to keep his streak alive at 108 games, and coach Mike Budenholzer explicitly said that the only reason he kept Korver in was to make another 3-pointer. "To give him an opportunity to continue something that's very unique and special is important," Budenholzer said. "At some point the streak will come to an end, but it wasn't tonight." I don't fault his sentiment, but Korver already has the all-time NBA record and things like this will be judged much more harshly if he lands on someone's foot while extending his streak in garbage time.
Starting SF DeMarre Carroll didn't travel to London due to the recent birth of his daughter, which shifted Williams into the starting lineup and opened up extra playing time in the Hawks' second unit. Even Paul Millsap wasn't immune from the blowout-blowback, finishing with just 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting, three rebounds, three steals and one block. Starting center Pero Antic's back spasms have subsided and he scored 11 points with one 3-pointer and five rebounds, but once again played under 25 minutes (he hasn't played more than 27 in a game all season). Elton Brand swatted four shots in a reserve role and continues to earn just enough playing time to limit Antic to low-end value (as a source of 3-pointers if nothing else).
Knicks at Pacers
Thursday's game in Indiana was no more competitive, unfortunately, as the Pacers led the Knicks by 15 points at halftime and cruised to a 28-point margin of victory. Lance Stephenson continued to garner votes for Most Improved Player, leading Indy with 28 points, three 3-pointers, four rebounds, four assists, one steal and zero turnovers in 35 minutes. He also boosted his odds of making the All-Star team, if only as a coach-selected reserve, and his campaign has gotten plenty of attention lately thanks to this fabulously off-kilter video. Paul George added 25 points, four 3s, seven boards, three assists and one block, and their chemistry and effectiveness has ensured that Danny Granger (11 points in 19 minutes) will have limited fantasy value as a backup.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel went deep into his bench as this game drew mercifully to a close, deploying 13 different players to the detriment of starters David West (27 minutes), Roy Hibbert (27 minutes) and George Hill (22 minutes). Hill dished out five assists without any assists but he only scored three points on 1-of-2 shooting, and his lack of offense is gutting his appeal in standard fantasy leagues (41.9 percent shooting on a mere 8.6 attempts per game). Indiana has the best record in the NBA at 31-7 and (as mentioned above) both Lance Stephenson and Paul George have done a phenomenal job this year, so there's no reason to anticipate a bounce-back from Hill.
The Knicks fell to 15-24 with the road loss, unable to overcome another top-heavy effort led by Carmelo Anthony (28 points, seven rebounds). Andrea Bargnani shot 3-of-9 from the field and was hopeless defensively, Raymond Felton had 12 points and five assists but also turned the ball over four times in 29 minutes, and Iman Shumpert only scored two points in 20 minutes before giving way to Tim Hardaway and J.R. Smith.
That's right, J.R. was back in the lineup after his latest punitive DNP-CD, scoring 12 points on 6-of-12 shooting in 28 minutes. It's anyone's guess how long he'll keep things together and I'm avoiding him as long as Iman Shumpert is healthy and starting at SG, but owners looking for a sneaky source of points and 3s may want to give him a look. Just be sure to take sea-sickness medication before you pick him up.
As if a blowout loss wasn't bad enough, New York lost Amare Stoudemire to an ankle injury during the game and he may need an MRI to determine the damage. Mike Woodson quickly ruled him out for a few games but Amare is hopeful that he can return in about a week, which gives a temporary boost to Bargnani. New York has a delectable four-game home schedule this week, playing the Nets, 76ers, Bobcats and Lakers, which may be enough to bump marginal options (read: Bargnani, Shumpert, Felton, etc.) into active lineups.
Thunder at Rockets
Thursday's third and final game, in which the Rockets hosted the Thunder, provided more drama. Houston took a double-digit lead into halftime and seemed on their way to a clutch win vs. OKC, but they left their offense in the locker room -- after scoring 73 points in the first half, they mustered a combined 19 points in the third and fourth quarters. That marks the biggest scoring disparity between the first and second halves in NBA history, and it resulted in a dispiriting 92-104 home loss.
The good news is that fantasy owners went mostly unscathed. James Harden shot poorly (6-of-16 FGs) but still finished with 16 points, two 3s, seven rebounds and eight assists. Dwight Howard had 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocks despite battling foul trouble, Chandler Parsons made three 3-pointers to finish with 14 points, and Terrence Jones double-doubled with 16 & 13, while adding three assists, two steals and one block.
None of those lines are very unusual, but there was one eyebrow-raising outcome -- Donatas Motiejunas recorded multiple season-highs with 15 points, three 3-pointers and seven rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench. Motie has publicly complained about his lack of playing time, and his agent has lobbied for a trade, so this could simply be a bit of 'showcasing' as the Feb. trade deadline creeps into view. On the other hand, Motiejunas represents the Rockets' only real frontcourt depth with Omer Asik (thigh/knee) and Greg Smith (knee) unable to stay healthy. No matter the cause of his sudden activity, his fantasy value is limited to deeper leagues.
Oklahoma City's record-setting defensive performance in the second half was led, as usual, by Serge Ibaka. He grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked five shots but didn't neglect the offensive end, scoring 21 points on efficient 10-of-13 shooting (with one 3-pointer). He's logged under 32 minutes just once in January and Thursday marked his highest playing time since early December, so hopefully Scott Brooks is easing up his restrictive rotation.
Reggie Jackson also turned in a defensive gem, holding Jeremy Lin to six points on 2-of-8 shooting, while racking up six steals. He also scored 23 points on 11-of-19 shooting with four assists and just one turnover in 35 minutes, and he's bounced back nicely since his two-point dud vs. the Bucks last Saturday. He's averaging under 30 minutes as a starter, vs. around 25 minutes as a reserve, and his stats in both roles are remarkably similar. Owners shouldn't panic when they hear that Russell Westbrook (knee) is nearing a return, in other words, even if a mild drop-off is inevitable.
In addition to Ibaka and Jackson, the only other Thunder player to score double-digit points was Kevin Durant, who shot just 8-of-21 but finished with 36 points courtesy of an 18-of-20 mark at the FT line. His left wrist, which he injured last week, didn't cause him any problems. He's seventh in the NBA in FT percentage (88.5) and easily leads all players in attempts per game (10.2), which as usual constitutes a big part of his league-leading fantasy value. I'm often asked about trades in which an owner will deal away Durant for 2-3 players ranging from 'good' to 'excellent', with the goal being to add depth, but I'm almost never in favor of such a deal.
The rest of OKC's lineup combined for 24 points on 9-of-29 shooting, with nobody scoring more than five points. That includes Jeremy Lamb, whose susceptibility to duds was never more obvious -- he shot 1-of-6 from downtown and had just one rebound, zero assists, zero steals and zero blocks in 22 minutes. He's flirting with 12-team value on the season but has been boom-or-bust most evenings, and his 38.9 percent FG shooting is a mortal sin in roto leagues.
Friday’s Injury Updates
UPDATE: Dwyane Wade is a game-time decision due to his knees.
Rajon Rondo (ACL) remains on pace to make his season debut on Friday. He'll start at PG but will play a maximum of 18-20 minutes. UPDATE: Rondo is officially ready to make his season debut (!)
Avery Bradley (hand) sat out Thursday's practice but it was believed to be a precaution, and he should be starting alongside Rondo on Friday.
Keith Bogans remains out for personal reasons. As far as I've heard, he complained enough about his lack of playing time that the Celtics sent him away from the team.
Devin Harris (foot/toes) won't play at Phoenix on Friday, but he'll address the media on Saturday and could return for the Mavs' home game vs. the Trail Blazers.
Darrell Arthur (groin) and Anthony Randolph (ankle) are both questionable for Denver on Friday. Andre Miller could also return to the lineup after sitting out while the Nuggets tried (unsuccessfully) to find an appropriate trade.
Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) could return in 2-3 weeks.
Nick Young won't play on Friday as he serves a one-game suspension for shoving Alex Len and quasi-punching Goran Dragic. The rest of the Lakers' injury report reads as usual, with Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar and Xavier Henry all on the sidelines. Henry is the closest to returning of the bunch, and he may play next week. L.A. signed SG Manny Harris to a 10-day contract for depth.
Updates have been scarce for Tony Allen (hand), who remains questionable for Friday's home game vs. the Kings. Courtney Lee has played well as the starting SG in his absence. UPDATE: Allen has been ruled out for Friday's game.
Greg Oden (knee) made it through his season debut unscathed, but he'll be listed as day-to-day for the foreseeable future. With Chris Andersen (soreness) possibly returning on Friday, it wouldn't be surprising to see Oden rested. Mario Chalmers (Achilles) looked fine during Thursday's practice, but he too remains questionable. UPDATE: Andersen is out, but Chalmers said that he'll play.
Amare Stoudemire (ankle), Kenyon Martin (ankle), Pablo Prigioni (toe) and Metta World Peace(knee) are all out vs. the visiting Clippers on Friday.
UPDATE: Amare and Kenyon are both out two weeks with ankle injuries.
Arron Afflalo (strained foot) is expected to return to action vs. the Bobcats. Jameer Nelson is a bit iffy after battling cramps during a 54-minute performance on Wednesday, but he should be fine. Nikola Vucevic(concussion) remains without a return date. UPDATE: Afflalo will start at SG, likely sending Victor Oladipo back to the bench despite his career-high 35-point game on Wednesday. Also, backup PG Ronnie Price won't play after hurting his foot during practice.
Lavoy Allen (calf) and Arnett Moultrie (ankle) are both questionable vs. the Heat on Friday. Jason Richardson (knee) is out, though he reiterated this week that he will play at some point this season. UPDATE: Allen won't play.
Leandro Barbosa (shoulder) didn't practice Thursday but he's hopeful to return for Friday's matchup with the Mavs. He should get solid playing time in the Suns' backcourt until Eric Bledsoe returns from knee surgery. UPDATE: Barbosa is doubtful.
Danny Green (hand) and Tiago Splitter (shoulder) are both out for the Spurs.
Ben McLemore (ankle) will be ready to go on Friday, but Carl Landry (hip) still isn't ready to make his season debut.
Tyler Hansbrough (ankle) is questionable to return on Friday. He's missed seven straight games, during which time Patrick Patterson may have supplanted him in the rotation.
UPDATE: Tony Parker (leg) is expected to play Friday.
Gordon Hayward, who has missed the past three games with a hip injury, remains questionable for Friday's road game in Detroit. Consider him a game-time decision.
And finally, Trevor Ariza is questionable for Friday after battling a fever and illness for the past few days. Glen Rice Jr. (wrist) has been cleared to shoot and he's getting "closer" but he won't play on Friday. Neither will Al Harrington (knee). UPDATE: Ariza participated in shootaround.