Court Report: The Clippers climb the power rankings

Wednesday was everything that Tuesday was not, providing us with a near-full slate of 12 games chalked full of close finishes and plenty of intrigue. We saw Tuesday’s average margin of victory nearly cut by two-thirds, from an obscene 21 points to a more reasonable eight. Let’s dive right into the notables…

The Clippers went on a 6-0 run about four minutes in and never looked back Wednesday, snapping the Heat’s road streak at 13, just three shy of a league record and one short of a franchise record. Save for their 1-13 start to the season, we could very well be looking at a playoff team here. The win marked their third straight and eighth in 11 games, providing us with a glimpse of how bright a future this team could have if they weren’t one of the most mismanaged franchises in all of sports. I’m still getting over a bout of nausea after seeing the influx of generic karma/God quips at LeBron James(notes) last night, so I’ll resist the smallest of temptations to pick the low-hanging fruit and make one myself.

Though this game lived up to all the hype (passed on Warriors-Lakers tickets to watch this one), there were only a few lines of particular interest for fantasy owners out there. Dwyane Wade(notes) led the way with the second-best line of the night (31 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks) and his fourth 30-point performance in the last five games. No player has posted higher per-game value than Wade over the past month and a half. Chris Bosh(notes) was more miss than hit from the field (6-for-17 FG, 1-of-3 3PT??), but double-doubled (26 points, 13 rebounds) for the fourth time this month and did plenty of damage from the line (13-for-14 FT) in the process. LeBron James couldn’t say the same (2-for-5 FT), and sprained his ankle on the way to a 27/8/6 line. X-rays were negative and showed no structural damage; consider him day-to-day and don’t be surprised if he sits out on Thursday. If LeBron can’t go it’ll be James Jones(notes) who would get the start, not Mike Miller(notes).

On the Clippers end there were a lot of incomplete/inefficient lines, with Eric Gordon(notes) (26 points, 6 points, 5 rebounds, 0 steals, 0 blocks) and Blake Griffin(notes) (24 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists, 6-for-9 FT, 3 turnovers) leading the way. Baron Davis(notes) showed some life with 20 points, nine assists, and five rebounds, but was a major drag otherwise (3 turnovers, 0 steals, 1-of-3 FT). Chris Kaman(notes) doesn’t expect to play until February. Get him off your rosters if you haven’t already.

Charlotte managed to come away with a narrow five-point win, despite missing all 11 of its three-point attempts in the second half and getting outscored 28-14 in the third quarter. It was the first time this season that Chicago has lost when heading into the fourth with a lead, and it moves the Bobcats’ record under Paul Silas to 6-2. They were led by the strong play of D.J. Augustin(notes) (22 points, 12 assists, 1 turnover (!), 2 threes) and Tyrus Thomas(notes) (17 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks). Augustin’s 12 assists were a career-high, and his insane assist-to-turnover ratio was instrumental as the team turned it over a season-low seven times. Tyrus got over 25 minutes of action WITH Gerald Wallace(notes) healthy for the first time since Nov. 24, a trend we can only hope to see continue in the future given Thomas’ well-documented per-minute potential.

Carlos Boozer(notes) continued his streak of double-doubles, putting up a game-high 23 points and 14 rebounds for his 15th of the season and 11th in his last 13 games. Derrick Rose(notes) (4 turnovers, 5-for-17 FG) had one of his more forgettable performances of the year, while Taj Gibson(notes) (4 points, 3 rebounds, 1-for-6 FG, 2-of-4 FT) put up the third-worst line of the night. It’s one thing to not be able to seize a starting spot with Joakim Noah(notes) (thumb) out, but a whole other thing to get outplayed by a 38-year old Kurt Thomas(notes).

The Mavericks need Dirk Nowitzki(notes) back, plain and simple. They dropped to 2-6 without their leading man with an embarrassing 13-point home loss to the Pacers. Dallas is 23 points better per 100 possessions with Nowitzki on the floor, the highest differential of any player getting regular minutes, so you can understand why. Jason Kidd(notes) put up the best line in this one (13 points, 7 assists, 4 threes, 3 steals, 2 blocks), with Tyson Chandler’s(notes) 13 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks the only other real line of note. Kidd passed Dale Ellis for third all-time in three-pointers made (1,722) and is now behind only Ray Allen(notes) (2,526) and Reggie Miller (2,560).

Deep-leaguers should keep an eye on Paul George(notes), who is 10th in per-minute value amongst players averaging at least 10 minutes per game. George put up the best overall line for his side in this one (16 points, 4 threes, 4 rebounds, 2 steals) and should be rostered in 14-team leagues if he continues to get regular rotation minutes. Darren Collison(notes) (17 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals) turned in another solid performance, while Danny Granger(notes) followed a strong two-game showing (16-for-29 FG) with a reversion to the shooting woes that plagued him all of December (5-for-13). Brandon Rush(notes) scored a game-high 20 points, but took 16 shots to get together (making only 7) and did very little else (0 assists, 0 steals, 0 blocks). Tyler Hansbrough(notes) posted the 189th-best line of the night. I would list his totals, but I don’t know binary code.

The Pacers turned the ball over just five times all game … with a small lineup in there for a large portion of it. The second part is worth monitoring because it means less Roy Hibbert(notes), who saw just 16 minutes of action (though he was productive in his limited stint). If a smaller lineup means more Hansbrough and less Hibbert, then maybe we’ve managed to give Jim O’Brien even more credit than he actually deserves.

It was an inside-outside game between the Hawks and Raptors, as the Hawks attempted a season-high 30 threes while the Raptors boasted a 60-38 advantage in the paint. In the end it was Jamal Crawford(notes) (36 points, 4 threes, 8-for-8 FT) that out-dueled Leandro Barbosa(notes) (26 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 11-for-16 FG) as the two sixth men posted the best lines of either side. Al Horford(notes) picked up his 20th double-double of the season with a solid 10/13/2 line.

The short-handed Kings (Tyreke Evans(notes) – ankle) dropped their 12th straight road game to a balanced Celtics attack that featured a season-high eight players in double figures. Paul Pierce(notes) led all scorers with 25 points, with 15 of them coming in the first quarter. He’s now shooting a career-best 51 percent from the field. Ray Allen was the other notable, hitting four threes on his way to a balanced 14/5/2/1/1 line. Kevin Garnett(notes) (calf) is expected to return from a seven-game absence for Monday’s game against Orlando. Coach Paul Westphal is optimistic Evans will be able to go Friday as the Kings take on the Knicks.

Quote of the night: Tayshaun Prince(notes), on Richard Hamilton’s(notes) DNP-CD: “Buffoonery. Do you all know what that means?” It was his first DNP-CD for reasons other than late-season rest – his last came during the final game of the 2008-2009 season when the Pistons had clinched a playoff spot.

Zach Randolph(notes) feasted on the Pistons’ collection of big men (Chris Wilcox(notes), Greg Monroe(notes), Charlie Villanueva(notes)) to put up a massive line of 34 points, 17 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block. He has averaged a silly 25.9 points and 14.1 rebounds in seven games this month, and now has 25 double-doubles on the season. Monroe posted his fourth-straight double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds, 2 steals), while Ben Gordon(notes) responded to his demotion back to the bench after a 10-game starting stint with 25 points and four threes. He had scored just 17 points over the past three games. Tayshaun Prince has made just nine of his last 30 shots (30% FG), but is still shooting a career-best 49 percent on the season. Ben Wallace(notes) (ankle) and Tony Allen(notes) (knee) were both scratched.

The Spurs relied on the trio of Manu Ginobili(notes) (23 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 threes, 8-for-15 FG, 5-of-5 FT), Tim Duncan(notes) (16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, 7-of-14 FG), and … wait for it, Matt Bonner(notes) (17 points, 3 threes, 2 blocks, 7-for-12 FG) to overcome an eight-point first half deficit en route to a seven-point win over the Bucks. Drew Gooden(notes) returned from a nine-game absence (plantar fasciitis) to score eight points in 10 minutes of action. Andrew Bogut(notes) was the only real notable from his side, with 15 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocks in 38 minutes of action.

Marcus Thornton(notes) came off the bench to score a team-high 22 points to lead the Hornets to a three-point win over the Magic, putting an end to their nine-game win streak. Coach Monty Williams deserves none of the credit here, as a first quarter ankle injury to Marco Belinelli(notes) essentially forced his hand as he admitted after the game that he didn’t even plan to play Thornton at all on Wednesday. More on why Williams’ decision to continue to play Belinelli over Thornton makes no sense to me here. Go ahead and add Thornton in deeper formats, but Williams’ reluctance to give him the starter’s minutes he deserves should keep him off standard-sized leagues for now. The Magic were led by the trio of Dwight Howard(notes) (29 points, 20 rebounds, 2 blocks, 13-for-19 FG, 3-of-7 FT), Jason Richardson(notes) (21 points, 7 rebounds, 5 threes, 8-for-16 FG), and Ryan Anderson(notes) (14 points, 8 rebounds, 4 threes, 2 blocks, 5-of-9 FG). Anderson should be rostered in almost every standard league by now, and though their minutes/role may say otherwise, has substantially more value than Brandon Bass(notes).

The Thunder snapped an 11-game drought at the Toyota Center with a six-point win against the Rockets, led by 30 points from Kevin Durant(notes) and strong efforts from Thabo Sefolosha(notes) (6 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3-of-5 FG) and Russell Westbrook(notes) (23 points, 13 assists, 8 rebounds, 2 steals). Sefolosha put up the best overall line in this one, his first useful line in nearly a month. He has shown the ability to be a sneaky across-the-board contributor earlier in the year and should be back on radars now with what was the 16th best line of the night. Courtney Lee(notes) (19 points, 3 threes, 8-of-14 FG) and Kyle Lowry(notes) (18 points, 4 assists, 8-for-14 FG) led the way for the Rockets. Luis Scola(notes) came through with a big double-double of his own (31 points, 11 rebounds), but provided nothing else and had some efficiency issues of his own (5-of-8 FT, 3 turnovers).

The Nets got 19 points, five treys, and three steals off the bench from Sasha Vujacic(notes), but that wasn’t enough for the Nyets as they surrendered a 15-point fourth quarter lead and lost by nine to the Suns in overtime. Steve Nash(notes) (23 points, 16 assists, 7 rebounds) had one of the best lines of the night, while Channing Frye(notes) stepped up with a strong line of his own (21 points, 7 rebounds, 2 threes). Mickael Pietrus(notes) has completely fallen out of the rotation, which is just another reason for me to continue endorsing Jared Dudley(notes) moving forward.

10 of the night’s top-50 lines came from the Knicks-Jazz game, as both teams shot over 50 percent from the field and 45 percent from distance. Shawne Williams(notes) (25 points, 7 threes (!!), 8-of-12 FG), Raymond Felton(notes) (23 points, 11 assists, 10-for-10 FT), and Amar’e Stoudemire(notes) (22 points, 5 assists, 5-for-11 FG, 11-of-12 FT) led the way for the Knicks, while the Jazz got big lines from C.J. Miles(notes) (24 points, 5 rebounds, 4 threes, 10-of-16 FG), Deron Williams(notes) (24 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds, 13-for-15 FT), and Raja Bell(notes) (18 points, 4 threes, 5-of-6 FT).

Kobe Bryant(notes), now having played eight more games in his career than Michael Jordan, showed no signs of slowing down against the Warriors as he dropped a cool 30 points in the second half on his way to the third-best line of the night (39 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 2 threes, 13-for-21 FG, 11-of-11 FT). The Lakers also got solid efforts from Lamar Odom(notes) (20 points, 9 rebounds, 8-of-13 FG, 4-of-4 FT) and Pau Gasol(notes) (24 points, 11 rebounds, 8-of-14 FG, 8-for-9 FT), as the Warriors continue to slip in the defensive efficiency rankings and now find themselves at 27th.

The best line of the night belonged to Dorell Wright(notes) though (27 points, 5 threes, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 0 turnovers, 11-for-24 FG), as he continues his push towards the fantasy elite. Over the past month, he has posted top-12 per-game value and is now ranked 21st on the season.

Wednesday’s top performers (per-game value): Dorell Wright (+1.02), Dwyane Wade (+0.81), Kobe Bryant (+0.79), Paul Pierce & Zach Randolph (+0.73)

Wednesday’s worst performers (per-game value): Gordon Hayward(notes) (-0.85), James Jones (-0.77), Taj Gibson (-0.76), DeMarcus Cousins(notes) & J.J. Redick(notes) (-0.75)

Follow Justin on Twitter @jphanned

photos via Getty Images

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