Taking a look at the major storylines from Tuesday's games...
• Tuesday night's biggest story was Devin Harris'(notes) left knee injury, which occured when Kris Humphries(notes) landed on the back of Harris’ leg trying to block a Chandler layup. Harris limped off the court and will have an MRI on Wednesday to determine its severity. There have been mixed reports so far, from Harris saying he wasn’t worried and that it feels pretty stable to Avery Johnson saying he was concerned. I’m not going to go ahead and perpetuate the rumor mill and tell you what some of the Nets beat writers have speculated, because there’s no point. We’ll find out in a matter of hours. If it’s at least a multi-week injury then go ahead and add Jordan Farmar(notes). He’ll give you some good contributions in assists/steals/threes, but be wary of his largely negative field-goal percentage impact. He’ll still have more value than an Eric Bledsoe(notes) will, though.
• Three of the seven best lines of the day belonged to Knicks, as the trio of Raymond Felton(notes), Wilson Chandler(notes), and Amar’e Stoudemire(notes) accounted for 83 of their team’s 111 points. Felton logged his third double-double in four games (21 points, 10 assists, 3 steals, 10-for-15 FG) while Chandler got his second of the season (27 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks). Amar’e scored 30 points for the second straight game and fourth time this season (35 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block). Those three should remain very solid and consistent plays moving forward. Toney Douglas(notes) posted his fourth straight dud (3 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist) and should be dropped once again, though this time it may be for good with Kelenna Azubuike(notes) (knee) set to return in a week or two.
• For all the damage that Amar’e did on the offensive end, he mostly negated it with a lackluster performance on the defensive side (surprise, surprise) on Brook Lopez(notes). Lopez had his best game of the season, scoring a season-high 36 points (14-for-24 FG, 8-for-9 FT) to go along with five rebounds and three blocks. His rebounding average is still way down from last season (8.7 to 6.2) though, something that can attributed to the presence of Kris Humphries. Humphries is currently fourth in the league in rebound rate, sandwiched between the likes of Marcus Camby(notes) and Dwight Howard(notes).
• If seeing two hapless teams go at it is your thing, well then, the Blazers-76ers game was the Tuesday game for you. The Blazers have dropped their last four games and appear to be in complete disarray, lacking any sort of confidence or cohesion on both an individual and team level. LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) turned in a strong first half (18 points, 8 rebounds, 8-of-13 FG), but was completely shut down in the second half (2 points, 4 rebounds, 1-of-7 FG) when the 76ers focused more of their defensive efforts on him. Brandon Roy(notes) played a very uninspired and lifeless game, seeming content to let his teammates do the shooting with Andre Iguodala(notes) denying him the ball on many occasions. He only took nine shots all game, sinking three in what was a largely forgettable line (10 points, 0 assists, 2 turnovers). It wasn’t just Iguodala’s defense either. It’s still painfully obvious that Roy is hobbled by the knee injury, and there doesn’t appear to be some sort of resolution anytime soon. The Blazers play the second game of their back-to-back on Wednesday, and Roy’s status for that game will depend on how he feels. Consider him questionable for now.
• The only real story of note here is the one that involves Wesley Matthews(notes) and Nicolas Batum(notes). Batum came off the bench for the first time this season in favor of Matthews, and the difference in play between the two was stark. Matthews was aggressive and assertive for the majority of the game, getting to the line eight times while his teammates combined for nine attempts. He scored a team-high 26 points, his fourth 20-point effort in the last six games. Batum, on the other hand, was largely invisible. Half the time that Batum was on the court you didn’t even notice he was out there – obviously a bad thing. He only took four shots, missing them all, and posted the third-worst stat line of the night, ahead of Jeremy Lin(notes) and teammate Armon Johnson(notes). After Tuesday’s dud he has converted just 12 of his last 43 attempts. That’s just under 28 percent.
So Batum or Matthews? Matthews or Batum? Someone asked me that question in this week’s Tuesday chat and I said I’d stick with Nic. I have a feeling though that just as I needed a mulligan in the case of Rudy Fernandez(notes) vs. Matthews, I’m going to need one again here. And that’s not just because of Tuesday’s game or that I’m particularly worried about Batum’s long-term value. It’s more a vote of confidence for Matthews.
• The Magic bested the Pistons in two key areas (three-point shooting, bench impact) to notch their fourth straight win and eighth in their last nine games. Led by Rashard Lewis(notes) (20 points, 2 threes, 7-of-10 FG) and Mickael Pietrus(notes) (13 points, 3 threes, 5-of-11 FG), the Magic hit 10-of-24 threes (41.7%) to the Pistons’ 4-for-16 (25%). Keep in mind that Lewis was guarded by some combination of Jason Maxiell(notes) and Charlie Villanueva(notes) (meaning he wasn’t guarded at all), and that before Tuesday, Pietrus hadn’t scored in double-digits since Nov. 18. Dwight Howard scored just nine points but added 14 blocks, three steals, and two blocks, though much of that was negated by his turnover total (6).
• And maybe Stan Van is onto something here regarding his statement that the bench scoring stat is overrated – the Magic bench scored 35 points in 98 minutes compared to 31 points in 97 minutes for the Pistons bench, but the Magic bench players averaged a +/- total of +8.6 to the Pistons’ -10.8. The Magic won by 11 points. Difference maker? I think so.
• Rodney Stuckey(notes) (14 points, 5 assists, 3 steals) and Tayshaun Prince(notes) (16 points, 2 threes, 4 rebounds) once again led the way for the Pistons, while Charlie Villanueva posted a somewhat useful line (12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks). The Pistons, outside of Stuckey and Prince, remain a fantasy wasteland plagued by inconsistency.
• I am going to hammer this home every chance I get. Jason Maxiell is averaging 3.9 rebounds in seven starts this season (25 MPG). As a power forward. That puts him 61st in rebound rate amongst 69 qualified power forwards, and some of the guys ranked below him don’t even play the 4 full-time (Andres Nocioni(notes), Danilo Gallinari(notes), Gary Forbes(notes)). Why in the world is he still starting over Austin Daye(notes)? Can someone give me a legitimate answer? I get that there’s an occasional size mismatch that calls for a bigger 4, but Maxiell cannot play offense OR defense. And last time I checked there is no such thing as special teams in the NBA. Oh John Kuester, I hate so much about the things you choose to be.
• The Celtics cruised to a 19-point win against the Cavs, almost shooting better from the field (50.6%) than they did from the line (56.5%). The Cavs sorely lack an imposing interior presence (sorry Sideshow Bob) and it couldn’t have been more obvious as the Celtics torched them in the paint. Points in the paint: Celtics 60, Cavs 26. Good game.
• Rajon Rondo(notes) was the only starter to log 30+ minutes in this one and had a nice 23-point, 12-assist line to boast (5 turnovers though). I’m sure Rondo owners would love it if Doc could find a way to at least scale his minutes back a bit though, as he just got over a strained hamstring injury and is still dealing with plantar fasciitis in both feet (more so the left). Glen Davis(notes) and Marquis Daniels(notes) combined for 33 points off the bench in this one, while Shaquille O’Neal(notes) lost 1.5 percentage points off his field-goal clip with a rather quiet two-for-five, six-point, seven-rebound performance.
• Anderson Varejao(notes) delivered his third double-double of the year (16 points, 12 rebounds, 2 steals), inflicting most of his most of his damage off cuts and slashes with five of his seven field goals coming on layups. Anthony Parker(notes) (13 points, 6-for-6 FT) and Daniel Gibson(notes) (16 points, 5-for-5 FT) put in their work at the line, while J.J. Hickson(notes) posted another dud (1 point, 0-of-4 FG, 11 rebounds, 0 assists, 2 turnovers). Antawn Jamison(notes) didn’t fare much better (6 points, 3 rebounds, 3-for-10 FG), keeping Hickson’s starting job safe for now at least – not that he’s done a whole lot with it anyways.
• Marc Gasol(notes) and the Grizzlies may have come away with a narrow two-point win, but Pau Gasol(notes) clearly out-dueled him in the process, finishing with one of the best overall lines of the day (15 points, 14 rebounds, 4 blocks, 4 assists, 5-for-5 FT). As a Gasol owner I’m ecstatic with these massive lines that currently have him second in per-game value, but I have to say that I’d welcome an Andrew Bynum(notes) return (eventually) with open arms. Gasol is averaging a career-high 39 minutes a game right now, and is in danger of breaking down if he continues to log heavy minutes. For all the talk about Danny Granger’s(notes) propensity to miss games, he’s actually played in 20 more games since ’06 than Pau.
• Opposing point guards have torched Derek Fisher(notes) and the Lakers all season, and Tuesday was no different as Mike Conley(notes) put up a season-high 28 points (second highest output of his career) on a very efficient 10-for-13 from the field and 4-of-5 from three-land. This game is indicative of the major strides Conley has made this season, particularly with respect to spot-up shooting, decision making, and execution.
• The Kings had no answer (or perimeter stopper) for Danny Granger, as he fought through the flu to score a season-high 37 points (12-of-19 FG, 10-for-11 FT) while adding seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block in 40 minutes. Darren Collison(notes) (17 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals) and Josh McRoberts(notes) (7 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, 5-for-6 FT) also put up useful numbers.
• It was a very bizarre game for the Kings overall, with Beno Udrih(notes) (24 points) and DeMarcus Cousins(notes) (20 points) coming out of nowhere to lead the team in scoring. This is apparently life under Paul Westphal though, to expect the unexpected (and irrational) at all times. At least under Nellie we had a general idea of who the team’s top producers would be on a given night. Udrih scored a total of 22 points in his last four games before putting up a season-high 24 on Tuesday, while Cousins was kicked out of practice just a day earlier. It’s impossible to make any predictions with much certainty given how erratic players’ numbers have been under Westphal thus far, but I would say that I buy Udrih’s chances of a bounce back and sell on Cousins. Cousins still leads the league in foul rate amongst qualifiers (10 GP, 15+ MPG), averaging 7.3 fouls per 40 minutes.
• Tyreke Evans(notes) continues his mission to obliterate the efficiency stats of teams everywhere with another miserable shooting performance (4-for-14 FG) on top of six turnovers. He has developed an inexplicable tendency to disappear in the second half. His splits the past two games…
First half: 24 points, 14 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 turnovers, 8-for-18 FG (44.4%)
Second half: 9 points, 4 assists, 8 rebounds, 7 turnovers, 1-for-13 FG (7.7%)
• In what was just one of an unending list of career benchmarks given up to opposing players, Tim Duncan(notes) achieved something he hadn’t done in nearly eight seasons: a regular season triple-double. It was the seventh of his career (four came in the playoffs) and included a career-high in assists (11) to go along with 15 points and 18 rebounds. Sell high or a sign of things to come? I’d lean towards the former.
• Duncan’s triple-double overshadowed what was the best overall line of the day – Manu Ginobili(notes) and his 27 points, six rebounds, five steals, and three treys. Add his sparkling efficiency (8-for-13 FG, 8-of-9 FT, 2 turnovers) and you’ll see why. There’s a big three atop the fantasy ranks right now and Manu is one of them, along with Chris Paul(notes) and Pau Gasol. And you know what? I’m totally on board.
• Stephen Curry(notes) paced the Warriors with 32 points, five assists, and three treys on 13-of-22 shooting (59%), while Monta Ellis(notes) and Dorell Wright(notes) both struggled to find their shot. They each went 6-for-16 FG from the field and combined to go 1-of-8 from deep. There will be much better games ahead for both.
Tuesday’s top performers (per-game value): Manu Ginobili (+1.39), Danny Granger (+1.30), Wilson Chandler (+1.22), Amar’e Stoudemire & Pau Gasol (+1.02)
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