Court Report: Let Love Rule

Kevin Love's(notes) massive Friday line has everyone wondering - yet again - if Kurt Rambis will finally see the light and give him his deserved minutes.

The Timberwolves were feeling the love after their victory over the New York Knicks on Friday, picking up their second win in a row. For the Timberwolves, a two game winning streak is a big deal. What is also a big deal is Kevin Love’s epic performance (31 points, 31 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 block, 2 turnovers). Love’s 30-30 performance was the first such game in 28 years. Do you think Kurt Rambis has gotten the memo that Love deserves 35 minutes a night yet?

Michael Beasley(notes) was completely overshadowed by Love’s historic performance, but was brilliant in his own right (35 points, 1 three, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block). Beasley is really starting to turn it on and is looking like a different player than the guy that was selected by Miami second overall in the 2008 NBA Draft.

Wesley Johnson(notes) played solid in his sixth consecutive start (15 points, 3 threes, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks) and it looks like he should stick with the starting unit. The rookie is worth an add in most standard leagues. Corey Brewer(notes) played solidly off the bench, finishing with 12 points, a three, eight rebounds, three steals and two turnovers. Nikola Pekovic(notes) injured his left foot and is scheduled for an MRI on Saturday.

The Knicks got solid production from the starters, but little else from the bench, as Mike D’Antoni limited his rotation to only eight players. Danilo Gallinari(notes) (25 points, 4 threes, 5 rebounds), Raymond Felton(notes) (22 points, 3 threes, 3 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 4 turnovers), Amar’e Stoudemire(notes) (14 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 blocks, 2 turnovers) and Wilson Chandler(notes) (17 points, 2 threes, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal, 5 blocks) were all extremely effective. Chandler made his second consecutive start, pushing Timofey Mozgov(notes) to the bench and into fantasy irrelevance. With Mozgov out of the starting unit, Stoudemire has slid over to the center position.

Landry Fields(notes) had the best game of his young professional career, with 16 points, one three, nine rebounds, two assists, three steals and two turnovers. Fields flashed some stat-stuffing potential here, making him worth adding to your watch list.

As difficult as it is for me to admit as an avid fan of his, it needs to be said. It is officially time to cut Anthony Randolph(notes) and move on in standard leagues. The guy has clearly worked his way into D’Antoni’s doghouse (very easy to do) and has been relatively ineffective in the few minutes he has received. While it is difficult to drop a guy with so much fantasy potential, at some point in the season potential has to be cut for production. I still believe that Randolph will have value at some point in the season, but he has become too much of a hindrance to hang onto at this point.

Kyle Lowry(notes) staked claim to Houston’s starting point guard spot in a feel good victory over the Pacers that bumped the Rockets to 2-6. Until Aaron Brooks(notes) returns from his ankle injury, Lowry should be universally owned (34 minutes, 13 points, 5-10 FG, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 4 turnovers). Ishmael Smith(notes) only played 13 minutes, despite starting, and should be dropped with extreme prejudice. The only real concern with Lowry going forward is the possibility that he aggravates his back injury. Houston’s most consistent backcourt player, Kevin Martin(notes), also continued to play well (20 points, 5 rebounds).

In other Rockets injury fill-in news, Brad Miller(notes) looks like a great short term plug and play option until Yao Ming(notes) returns. Miller gave Rick Adelman 35 quality minutes on Friday night, compiling 23 points, 9-16 FG, 3-3 3PT, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal and 1 turnover. Luis Scola(notes) also turned in a decent line (16 points, 9 rebounds) but definitely deferred to the hot hand in this one.

For all of those point-punting teams out there, Shane Battier(notes) provided quality defensive production (1 three, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 4 blocks) without much scoring ... Chase Budinger(notes) sprained his ankle on Friday night, putting the number of ankle sprains Houston’s key personnel have suffered at six since September. Groundhog Day, anyone? Courtney Lee(notes) likely stands to gain if Budinger ends up missing any serious time.

On the other side of the court, Darren Collison(notes) had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds, but his three-point attempt bounced off iron. Collison finished with a forgettable line of 13 points, three rebounds and zero assists. Chalk this game up to a hangover for Collison and the Pacers from the epic beatdown of the Denver Nuggets.

Danny Granger(notes) (17 points, 1 three, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 2 turnovers) and James Posey(notes) (19 points, 5 threes, 5 rebounds, 1 steal) played well for the Pacers and kept them in the game. A couple more performances like this from Posey and he will be worth a roster spot. Mike Dunleavy also played well (32 minutes, 15 points, 6-9 FG, 2-4 3PT, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 turnovers) and looked like the other wing player to own in Indy, while Brandon Rush(notes) floundered (26 minutes, 2 points, 1-7 FG, 0-2 3PT, 3 rebounds, 1 block) and looked like waiver wire material.

In showing exactly how awesome his season has been to date, Roy Hibbert’s(notes) line of 18 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two blocks and four turnovers is a routine occurrence that doesn’t merit much fanfare.

Gerald Wallace(notes) was the story of the night in Charlotte’s victory over the Wizards, as he played his signature brand of hustle basketball on both ends of the floor. G-Wall turned in a vintage performance and rewarded his managers that have had to suffer through his (relatively) slow start to the tune of 25 points, 14 rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

D.J. Augustin(notes) (17 points, 3 threes, 10 assists) and Boris Diaw(notes) (19 points, 2 threes, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 turnovers) both played key roles for Charlotte as well. This marked Augustin’s first double-double of the season, and he remains an excellent sell high candidate. Diaw’s three late in the game started the rally that ultimately sealed Washington’s fate.

Noticeably absent from the top performers were Stephen Jackson(notes) and Tyrus Thomas(notes). Jax had 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and four turnovers, eclipsing Thomas’ four points and one steal (no rebounds, no blocks). As has been the case for his entire career, Thomas remains an unpredictable fantasy basketball player that is really frustrating to own in roto leagues. The phrase “if he ever figures it out” will continually be the mandatory qualifier that accompanies both Tyrus Thomas and Stephen Jackson in nearly every context.

For Ted Leonsis’ Wizards, it was another moral victory (and not an actual victory) for the newly-invigorated franchise. The face of the franchise and future All-Star, John Wall(notes), had a subpar shooting night but racked up the counting stats (13 points, 6-16 FG, 4 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 steals, 1 turnover). You only have to look at the 11:1 assist-to-turnover ratio to know that Wall is going to be an awesome point guard in his prime. He is also going to lead the league in steals one day very soon (sorry Mike Conley(notes) and Rajon Rondo(notes)), perhaps even this year.

Beyond Wall, Flip Saunders also got production out of the other two key members of his backcourt rotation, Kirk Hinrich(notes) (14 points, 2 threes, 8 assists, 0 turnovers) and Gilbert Arenas(notes) (5 points, 2-13 FG, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, 4 turnovers). Arenas, like Wall, struggled from the field but found other ways to contribute to the game. Hinrich continued to play the role of the calming veteran presence on the floor, whose stellar line whet largely unnoticed.

In the frontcourt, Andray Blatche(notes) played well, putting together a line of 22 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two steals in nearly 40 minutes of PT. JaVale McGee(notes) once again got the start, but got benched for his defensive lapses. In only 21 minutes, McGee scored ten points, collected two boards and blocked two shots. In contrast, Yi Jianlian(notes) collected eight points, four rebounds and six blocks. The blocks are certainly a fluke, but the jump in playing time might not be. Monitor Jianlian closely over the next couple of games.

Al Thornton(notes) felt a pain in his stomach and thinks he might have “pulled something,” explaining the 21 minutes of playing time he received on Friday night. Thornton’s considerable pain at the very least explains his poor numbers (2 points, 1-8 FG, 2 rebounds, 2 turnovers). Look for updates on the situation in the next couple of days.

The Utah Jazz are on an absolute tear after coming back from another double-digit deficit with last-second heroics. This is getting kind of ridiculous, and this group of Jazz players is either really, really lucky or simply thrives off of extreme pressure situations, which is a great attribute to have in the NBA playoffs.

All the right players are finally starting to put up numbers in Utah, with Friday night’s game being no exception. Deron Williams(notes) dropped 24 points, five rebounds, ten assists, two steals and four turnovers, as he orchestrated Utah’s latest offensive comeback. Al Jefferson(notes) accrued 15 points, ten rebounds and six assists and Andrei Kirilenko(notes) contributed a double-double 14 points, two threes, 12 rebounds, two assists and a steal. Paul Millsap(notes) showed his mortality, with a pedestrian 11 points, six rebounds, two blocks and two turnovers. Millsap was due for a slow night after his strong of breakout performances of late.

The only Jazz bench player worth watching in most formats is C.J. Miles(notes), who played a bench-high 26 minutes in this close game. In those minutes off the bench, Miles scored 13 points and added one three, two rebounds, one steal and two turnovers. C.J. is a pretty solid deep league prospect that is worth monitoring in standard leagues in case he warms up.

The Jazz’s latest victims, the Hawks, also got key contributions from their stars. Josh Smith(notes) continued filling up the stat sheet (20 points, 8-11 FG, 1 three, 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, 4 turnovers), proving why he is posting first round value in the first few weeks of the season. Joe Johnson(notes) turned in a typical line of 23 points, four assists, three steals and four turnovers. Al Horford’s(notes) 12 points and eight rebounds were nothing special, but it is exciting to see the five assists, which have been steadily improving throughout his career.

Marvin Williams(notes) returned from injury and played 30 minutes showing that he is healthy again and should be inserted back into fantasy lineups. However, he probably shouldn’t be started in rotisserie leagues until he improves upon his five-point, six rebound showing Friday night. Jamal Crawford(notes) posted a decent enough of a line in 22 minutes (14 points, 2 assists, 1 one steal). After a great 2009-10 season, it is becoming more and more clear that everything is not well between Crawford and the Hawks.

The Toronto Raptors upset the Orlando Magic on the road, getting key contributions from all of their starters, but especially DeMar DeRozan(notes) (26 points, 8-13 FG, 10-12 FT, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal) and Andrea Bargnani(notes) (27 points, 2 rebounds, 2 turnovers). Interestingly, Bargnani has now scored in double figures in all of Toronto’s nine games, but has yet to record a double-digit rebounding game. Perhaps it is the presence of Reggie Evans(notes), who is averaging 11.8 rebounds per game this season. Evans had a solid game (12 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals), despite being questionable with a sore hip leading up to tipoff.

The Jarrett Jack(notes)Jose Calderon(notes) drama continued unabated Friday night. Jack got the start, ending up with 13 points, five rebounds, two assists and four turnovers. However, he sat on the bench during most of the closing minutes in favor of Calderon, who was very effective in limited minutes, ending up with ten points, two threes, two rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two turnovers in only 22 minutes. Importantly, Calderon had a critical defensive play at the end of the game when he stole the inbounds pass and iced the game with a clutch three (followed up by two DeRozan free throws). Note the almost even split of minutes (Jack’s 26 minutes versus Calderon’s 22 minutes) in what is becoming a legitimate timeshare.

Toronto also got solid performances from other role players, including Sonny Weems(notes) (14 points, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers), Amir Johnson(notes) (fouled out with 12 points, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block) and Julian Wright(notes) (24 minutes, 7 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks). None of these players merit a roster spot in standard leagues yet, but are definitely deep league targets. Of particular interest is the rise of Julian Wright’s minutes.

Missing from Toronto’s lineup was Leandro Barbosa(notes) (shoulder, wrist) and Linas Kleiza(notes) (Achilles), who did not play due to nagging injuries. Both players are looking cuttable at this point if there is hot free agent sitting on the waiver wire.

Dwight Howard(notes) turned in another standard D12 line (25 points, 9-14 FG, 7-17 FT, 8 rebounds, 5 blocks, 4 turnovers), while Jameer Nelson(notes) (23 points, 2 threes, 2 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, 3 turnovers) had his best game of the season in his second game back from a sprained left ankle.

Vince Carter(notes) (10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) and Rashard Lewis(notes) (6 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) continued their disappointing seasons. Carter is currently posting seventh round value, while Lewis is posting 13th round value. Carter is providing value roughly equivalent to his ADP (85th), while Lewis has been under-performing relative to his ADP (75th).

Mickael Pietrus’(notes) stellar shooting night (30 minutes, 24 points, 8-11 3PT, 2 rebounds, 2 steals) was sullied by a critical defensive lapse late in the game, when Calderon stole his inbounds pass. Pietrus should be picked up in deeper formats but should remain on watch lists in standard leagues until he posts another solid line.

The Sixers lost a closely contested game to the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night. The Sixers went big to matchup with the Mavs, with Jrue Holiday(notes) (11 points, 3 rebounds, 13 assists, 1 steal), Evan Turner(notes) (5 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 2 turnovers), Andre Iguodala(notes) (13 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 2 turnovers), Elton Brand(notes) (8 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 turnovers) and Spencer Hawes(notes) (14 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists in 24 minutes) composing the starting unit. Andre Iguodala made his return to the starting unit after missing two consecutive games with Achilles tendinitis.

Off the bench, Lou Williams remains hobbled with a shoulder injury and only saw nine ineffective minutes of action. He could end up missing time with the injury if he continues to play so poorly. Thaddeus Young(notes) had the best game of his season with 17 points in 24 minutes. Andres Nocioni(notes) was also solid off the bench, with 14 points two threes and five rebounds.

Dallas got key contributions from the big men, Tyson Chandler(notes) (11 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks) and Brendan Haywood(notes) (6 points, 17 rebounds), who dominated Philadelphia’s frontline. The offensive rebounds were especially critical to Dallas’ eventual victory in this one.

The other Mavericks’ starters played reasonably well, albeit unspectacular. Jason Kidd(notes) had a solid game with ten points, two threes, two rebounds, eight assists and four steals. Dirk Nowitzki(notes) shot the ball poorly (5-15 FG), but still finished with 16 points. Shawn Marion(notes) even got involved, bringing back fond memories from the old days (16 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists). Off the bench, Jason Terry(notes) (13 points, 1 three, 3 rebounds, 4 assist, 1 steal) and J.J. Barea (19 points, 1 three, 2 assists) both gave Rick Carlisle quality minutes, with Barea leading the Mavs in scoring on their way to victory. Caron Butler(notes) also sat this one out with back spasms.

The Suns came out ahead in a Pacific Division matchup of 3-4 teams, improving to .500 in the process. Steve Nash(notes) played brilliantly (28 points, 7 rebounds, 14 assists, 2 turnovers) and was unstoppable offensively on the day of the birth of his son, Matteo. Nash did some serious damage below the free throw line and failed to hit his only attempt from behind the three-point line. Jason Richardson(notes) cooled off a bit (14 points, 1 three, 8 rebounds) and Robin Lopez(notes) was nearly invisible in 19 minutes. Grant Hill(notes) (4 points, 4 rebounds) and Hedo Turkoglu(notes) (6 points, 4 rebounds) were both quiet as well.

The Suns bench, however, showed up to play with Hakim Warrick(notes) (18 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals), Josh Childress(notes) (10 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block) and Goran Dragic(notes) having key contributions (7 points, 1 three, two rebounds, 4 steals). Channing Frye(notes) continued his disappointing season with eight points, two threes and two rebounds.

Sacramento got a quality night from Tyreke Evans(notes) (18 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists, 3 steals), Beno Udrih(notes) (17 points) and Carl Landry(notes) (20 points, 11 rebounds). Landry notched his second 20-10 game of the season and is primed for a nice run. Omri Casspi(notes) also played well and finished with 11 points, three threes, seven rebounds and three assists. Samuel Dalembert(notes) was quiet, with only five points and nine rebounds. Francisco Garcia(notes) also had a disappointing game (7 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal). Jason Thompson(notes) registered a DNP-CD, meaning he is clearly the big man not to own in Sacramento.

Brandon Roy(notes) lived to play another day in a tough loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who continues to play through considerable pain with no meniscus left in either knee. For Portland fans, any loss to the Thunder has to be absolutely devastating, as the sight of Kevin Durant’s(notes) dominance summons thoughts of what might have been. Roy led the Blazers with 24 points but not much else, while Nicolas Batum(notes) (21 points, 2 threes, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers) and Andre Miller(notes) (19 points, 4 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers) also provided key contributions. LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) (10 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists) and Marcus Camby(notes) (6 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks) were both relatively quiet in this one.

Rudy Fernandez(notes) played very well off the bench (15 points, 3 threes, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) despite missing the potential game winner with 2.9 seconds left to go. Rudy stands to gain tremendously if Roy misses serious time or shuts it down with his chronic knee problems. Wes Matthews only saw 13 minutes of action in this one and has taken a backseat role to Fernandez.

The Thunder got strong games from their alpha dogs, Kevin Durant (34 points, 3 threes, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 3 turnovers) and Russell Westbrook(notes) (career-high 36 points, 11-12 FT, 1 three, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers). Honestly, Westbrook’s improvement at the free throw line from average to stellar this season came as a total surprise, and is partly responsible for his leap up the per game rankings this season. Serge Ibaka(notes) also stayed hot (12 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 4 blocks) in his start in place of Jeff Green(notes), who missed his third consecutive game with a sprained left ankle.

Another game and another loss for the hapless Clippers, with this one coming in overtime. Baron Davis(notes) sat, while Eric Bledsoe(notes) played very well (18 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 3 turnovers). Eric Gordon(notes) also had a good game after returning from a shoulder injury (28 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 6 turnovers). Craig Smith(notes) (14 points, 6 rebounds) and Rasual Butler(notes) (12 points, 2-10 3PTM, 2 rebounds) also scored in double figures off the bench for the Clippers.

Notably, Blake Griffin(notes) started at center and notched 18 points, 18 rebounds, four assists, one steal, two blocks and three turnovers. Griffin’s start kept DeAndre Jordan(notes) on the bench and limited to only 16 minutes, who was speculatively picked up in many leagues with the news of Chris Kaman’s(notes) ankle injury. This may have been for matchup purposes so give Jordan another game before dropping him.

Charlie Villanueva(notes) led the way to victory for the Pistons, with 30 points and five threes off the bench. Rodney Stuckey(notes) contributed 17 points, three rebounds, six assists and a steal to lead all starters.

Richard Hamilton(notes) (12 points, 1 three, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 5 steals, 3 turnovers), Tayshaun Prince(notes) (10 points, 8 rebounds) and Austin Daye(notes) (12 points, 2 threes, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 turnovers) also contributed. However, I’m not running out to grab any of these guys off the waiver wire ... Ben Gordon(notes) only saw 20 minutes in this one and his line reflected that (8 points, 2 threes, 3 assists, 2 turnovers).

Photos via Getty Images

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