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The penultimate Sunday of the regular season didn't lack for matchups with playoff implications, including Miami's win in Boston and New Orleans' comeback to beat Charlotte. But the Daily Dose begins with the Lakers, who are in a fight to avoid the play-in tournament. The team's star big man stepped up in a big way, putting up a season-high 42 points in a win over the Suns.
Heat 130, Celtics 124
Knicks 106, Clippers 100
Pelicans 112, Hornets 110
Mavericks 124, Cavaliers 97
Timberwolves 128, Magic 96
Bulls 108, Pistons 96
Lakers 123, Suns 110
Kings 126, Thunder 98
1. Davis dominant as Lakers pick up a big win
Having lost to Portland Friday night, the Lakers entered Sunday's game against the Suns in dire need of a win. They were still without LeBron James, and Kyle Kuzma (back) was ultimately ruled out. Frank Vogel's team still managed to find a way to win, thanks in large part to the play of Anthony Davis. In 41 minutes, he put up 42 points (13-of-27 FGs, 15-of-17 FTs), 12 rebounds, five assists, three steals, three blocks and one 3-pointer, with the point total being a season-high. Over his last two games, Davis has been responsible for 78 points, 24 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals, four blocks and three 3-pointers, doing more than his share of the work for a shorthanded team that hopes to avoid the play-in tournament.
With Kuzma out Wesley Matthews moved into the starting lineup, but he didn't offer much, finishing with nine points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal and two 3-pointers in 33 minutes. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (17/2/2/3 with four 3-pointers) and Alex Caruso (17/3/8/3 with one 3-pointer) posted solid stat lines, while Montrezl Harrell (12 points, three rebounds in 15 minutes) was the most productive of the Lakers' non-Davis big men. Andre Drummond (6/10/2 in 20 minutes) managed to hit double figures in rebounds, while Marc Gasol contributed one point, six rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes off the bench.
2. Rose continues to bloom for Knicks
Since scoring a total of nine points in games against the Mavericks and Pistons at the beginning of April, Knicks guard Derrick Rose has failed to score in double figures just once. Sunday afternoon he had one of his best performances of the season, putting up a line of 25 points (11-of-17 FGs, 1-of-1 FTs), six rebounds, eight assists, one steal and two 3-pointers in 32 minutes off the bench. With Julius Randle (14/14/5) being limited by the Clippers, the production of Rose and Reggie Bullock (24/4/3/2/1 with five 3-pointers) was a big reason why the Knicks won the game.
Rose's play has led to more than a few asking why he isn't in the starting lineup, with Elfrid Payton (2/2/3 in 16 minutes) moving to the bench. In the short-term, New York's lack of bench scoring may have something to do with this, as the Knicks were once again without Alec Burks and Immanuel Quickley. But even before this road trip, which concludes Tuesday night against the Lakers, Rose was the preferred choice of the masses to run the show. But until Tom Thibodeau feels the need to make a change, Rose will continue to provide value as a reserve.
3. Boston's comeback falls short, but Fournier shines
Evan Fournier's first five games back after missing time due to COVID-19 were a struggle, as he posted averages of 4.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.4 blocks and 0.8 3-pointers in 25.9 minutes per. But he appears to be rounding into form, as the veteran guard accounted for 30 points (11-of-16 FGs, 1-of-1 FTs), three rebounds, eight assists, one block and seven 3-pointers in 35 minutes during Sunday's loss to the Heat. The eventual return of Jaylen Brown will move Fournier back to the bench, but the recent performances could prove valuable once the postseason rolls around.
Jayson Tatum (29/5/6/1/2 with two 3-pointers) and Aaron Nesmith (16/4/1/1 with two 3-pointers) had good afternoons, but Kemba Walker (18/2/6/2 with one 3-pointer) and Marcus Smart (16/2/4/2 with one 3-pointer) endured some struggles. Walker shot 5-of-12 from the field and committed four turnovers, while Smart was responsible for a team-high six turnovers on the day. Add in the fact that Boston gave up 79 points in the first half, and it's no mystery while they lost the game. The Celtics trail the Heat by two games in the race for sixth in the East, which makes Tuesday's rematch a game of high importance.
4. Luka gets tossed, but Mavericks roll anyway
Luka Doncic is one technical foul away from having to serve a mandatory one-game suspension, and that's a concern with Dallas still fighting to avoid the play-in tournament. Leading the 7th-place Lakers by two games (and they hold the tiebreaker), the Mavericks can ill-afford to have their star guard on the sideline during this stretch run. Dallas blew out Cleveland Sunday but Doncic (15/5/5/2 in 22 minutes) wasn't around for the end, as he was ejected after hitting Collin Sexton in the groin during the third quarter. If there's a positive, it's that the flagrant-2 did not count as a technical foul.
Doncic's ejection freed up more playmaking opportunities for Jalen Brunson, who finished with 13 points (5-of-5 FGs), one rebound, seven assists, two steals and three 3-pointers in 19 minutes. Brunson's scored 13 or more in four of his last five games, giving the Mavericks valuable production as they continue to play without the injured Kristaps Porzingis. Also stepping forward recently has been Tim Hardaway Jr. (25/2/3 with seven 3-pointers), who has scored 20 or more in four straight games (with 24 made 3-pointers). Maxi Kleber once again joined Porzingis on the sideline, and the hope is that they'll be able to return at some point this week. Dallas has a back-to-back scheduled for Tuesday (at Memphis) and Wednesday (vs. New Orleans), so we'll have to wait and see what happens there.
5. Heat's Butler runs the show in Boston
Miami scored 79 of its 130 points in the first half, and Jimmy Butler's fingerprints were all over the game. While he made just one field goal, Butler was responsible for seven assists in the first half. In the second half he was more aggressive in looking for his shot, ultimately finishing with a line of 26 points (9-of-14 FGs, 7-of-8 FTs), eight rebounds, 11 assists, two steals and one 3-pointer in 40 minutes. The 11 assists are the most that Butler's accumulated in a game since April 21, when he had that many in a win over the Spurs. While he isn't much of a perimeter shooter, everything else that Butler brings to the table makes him an extremely valuable player, regardless of league format.
Duncan Robinson (22/3/1/1 with six 3-pointers), Bam Adebayo (20/6/3/2) and Trevor Ariza (19/4/1/3/1 with two 3-pointers) also played well, and in the case of Ariza, he has proven to be a better fantasy option than anticipated when the Heat acquired him. Rostered in 18% of Yahoo leagues, Ariza has been a top-100 player over the last month. While the veteran forward wouldn't be labeled a star, his presence and its impact on the Heat shouldn't be overlooked. Thanks in part to his play, the Heat are well-positioned to avoid the play-in tournament.
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6. Hield makes the most of playmaking opportunities
Buddy Hield is best known for his perimeter shooting ability, but the absences of De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton have meant more opportunities for him to serve as a playmaker. And Hield did a good job of filling this role in Sunday's win over the Thunder, dishing out seven assists with just one turnover. He's had at least six assists in each of Sacramento's last three games, racking up 21 assists against ten turnovers. Hield was also responsible for 14 points, five rebounds, one steal, two blocks and four 3-pointers. He has provided top-50 value over the last two weeks, and while the Kings are still mathematically alive in the race for a play-in spot, the greatest value from these final games may come from Hield's growth as an all-around player.
Given his spot in the starting lineup, and salary, the Kings will need from from Buddy than perimeter shooting if they're to develop into a playoff team down the line. Delon Wright (15/7/5/1 with three 3-pointers), Moe Harkless (18/5/3/1 with three 3-pointers) and Terence Davis (18/4/7/2 with two 3-pointers) were among the other Kings who played well, while Marvin Bagley (13/9/2/0/1) just missed out on a double-double. Bagley played just 21 minutes, and did not see any action during the fourth quarter, as the Kings blew the game open in the third quarter.
7. Alexander-Walker plays 21 minutes in return vs. Charlotte
Having missed the 18 games prior with an ankle injury, Nickeil Alexander-Walker was back in the Pelicans rotation for Sunday's game against the Hornets. He was on a minutes restriction, and NAW was solid in his time on the court. Playing 21 minutes, he finished with 13 points (5-of-11 FGs, 1-of-2 FTs), four rebounds, three assists, one steal and two 3-pointers. Alexander-Walker played eight of those minutes in the fourth, sharing the court with Lonzo Ball (12/3/6 with four 3-pointers) and Eric Bledsoe (24/4/11/2 with three 3-pointers) in crunch time.
New Orleans has four games remaining on its schedule, which should mean more opportunities for Alexander-Walker, so long as his minutes limit is increased. Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram are both out indefinitely, and the absences have moved James Johnson (17/8/0/3 with two 3-pointers) and Naji Marshall (13/1/2 with one 3-pointer) into the starting lineup. Marshall has already earned himself a guaranteed contract; now he's in a position where he can continue to build on that progress before season's end. Terry Rozier scored a career-high 43 points (16-of-26 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs) to go along with five rebounds, four assists, one steal and seven 3-pointers to lead the way for Charlotte, whose magic number to clinch a play-in tournament spot stays at one.
8. Russell, Towns lead Timberwolves past shorthanded Magic
D'Angelo Russell was in the Timberwolves starting lineup for the third straight game, a move that was long overdue. He had his best game since the move back into the first five in Sunday's rout of the Magic, posting a line of 27 points, six rebounds, eight assists and five 3-pointers in 30 minutes. Minnesota's four best players all played well, hence the game getting out of hand by halftime. Playing with a heavy heart, Karl-Anthony Towns also scored 27 while also tallying nine rebounds, four assists, one steal, two blocks and two 3-pointers, while Ricky Rubio (18/2/2/1 with three 3-pointers) and Anthony Edwards (16/10/5/0/1 with two 3-pointers) were both efficient.
Turnovers have been an issue for the latter two players at times, and they combined for just one (Edwards) on Sunday. Edwards is clearly a candidate for Rookie of the Year with Charlotte's LaMelo Ball, and he has been a different player after the All-Star break. Edwards entered Sunday averaging 23.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.9 3-pointers per game post-break, with the scoring average improving by nearly nine points from his pre-break number (14.9 ppg). Ball being a part of a team that should, at minimum, be a part of the play-in tournament, may sway some voters. Others may be influenced by Edwards' much-improved play since the break. It feels safe to assume that the voting will be very close.
9. Pistons' Hayes offers up a mixed bag in defeat
Chicago managed to keep its slim hopes of getting into the East's play-in tournament alive with a win over the Pistons, with Zach LaVine (30/3/6 with three 3-pointers), Nikola Vucevic (29/16/2/0/1 with one 3-pointer) and Coby White (21/4/3 with five 3-pointers) leading the way. A positive for Detroit was rookie Killian Hayes hitting the 20-point mark for the first time in his NBA career, scoring 21 with seven rebounds, eight assists and three 3-pointers in 38 minutes. But it wasn't all smooth sailing for him, as Hayes was also responsible for seven turnovers. He's had at least five in three of his last four games, which is to be expected of a first-year player. Hayes is making strides, however, as are fellow rookies Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart.
With Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee and Cory Joseph among the players held out due to rest or injury, and Frank Jackson playing just eight minutes due to an ankle injury, Detroit's rookies were the team's top four scorers. Bey (20/7/1 with five 3-pointers), Stewart (19/7/3/0/2 with three 3-pointers) and Saben Lee (13/1/7/2) all scored in double figures, with each playing at least 32 minutes. They won't lack for opportunities this week, with the Pistons having three games left on the schedule. While the wins haven't been there, Detroit's rookie class has the look of a group that can help in the rebuilding process.
10. Pokusevski plays 26 minutes in return to lineup
Thunder forward Aleksej Pokusevski, who missed four of the five games prior due to a left knee contusion, was back in the starting lineup for Sunday's loss to the Kings. He was able to play 26 minutes without any issues, posting a line of 13 points, two rebounds, five assists and two 3-pointers. Oklahoma City has four games remaining on its schedule without any back-to-backs, and at first glance that would keep Pokusevski in the lineup. However, the Thunder haven't struggled to come up with reasons to sit rotation players (see: Luguentz Dort) down the stretch, so we shouldn't expect to see Pokusevski in all four games.
Darius Bazley (18/6/2 with two 3-pointers), Theo Maledon (13/2/2 with two 3-pointers) and Moses Brown (12/9/0/2/3) have been consistent presences in the Thunder rotation, so they would be the ones to consider in DFS.
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