Is bubble Jamal Murray finally back to form?

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Sandeep Chandok
·7 min read
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Scoring 50 points in an NBA game isn’t as easy as one might think it would be. I mean, look at the Minnesota Timberwolves who as a team only scored 81 points in four quarters against the Raptors.

By the way, that’s probably the first time the Raptors were on the right side of a scenario involving the words “81 points.” RIP Kobe!

On Friday night, however, Jamal Murray and Joel Embiid both racked up a career-high 50 points and by doing so, they joined Stephen Curry and Nikola Jokic as the second set of players to reach the half-century mark on the same day. It's the first time that's happened multiple times in a season since 1962-63, per ESPN Stats and Info.

And remember those Timberwolves I mentioned? They dropped their third straight game and remain the NBA worst team with a 7-23 record. It didn’t help that they shot less 39% from the floor, but the one positive in the loss was this thunderous dunk by rookie Anthony Edwards:

Did someone say dunk contest?

As for the nightcap, the Clippers held off a late surge by Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz to secure a 116-112 victory, ending Utah’s nine-game winning streak on the night when their two stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George returned from injury.

Here’s the best and the worst from the association on Feb. 19.

The Good

Joel Embiid - Years ago Embiid told us to “trust the process” and we should’ve listened. He dropped a career-high 50 points vs. Chicago on Friday, becoming the first Sixers player since Allen Iverson in 2005 to do so. The MVP-candidate knocked down 17-of-26 shots, 15-of-17 free throws while adding a whopping 17 rebounds, five assists, two steals and a season-high four blocks in just 35 minutes. He absolutely obliterated the Bulls which impressively battled Philly from start to finish, coming up short 112-105. But seriously, Embiid has been unstoppable this season and has his squad atop the Eastern Conference with a 20-10 record, making him the leading candidate for MVP this season, if you ask me. He’s now scored 25+ in 13 straight contests and is the fourth-best scorer in the league at 29.7 points a night, adding 10.8 boards, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.2 blocks. Arguably the best big man in the NBA right now, the seven-footer ranks second in 9-cat this season, 11th in Yahoo leagues and for those who play points, Embiid had 94 fantasy points with his performance on Friday.

Mason Plumlee - He ranks 93rd this season in 9-cat format but over the past two weeks, Plumdog Millionaire has produced top-50 numbers, averaging 13.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 6.4 assists, one steal and 1.4 blocks in five games. He tallied a 10/15/6/1/2 line in a loss to the Grizzlies on Friday, had a lovely triple-double on Valentine’s Day and has four double-doubles in February. The Pistons center has also scored 10+ in all seven games this month and in 10 of his last 11 games. I certainly didn’t think he would be a fantasy-relevant player coming into the 2020-21 campaign but I’m glad he was sitting on waivers in one of my leagues early on. I picked up him and have kept diamond hands since as Plumlee’s stock has continued to rise all season long. He’s still available in 30% of Yahoo leagues.

Jamal Murray - Bubble Murray is back and I’m not afraid to say it. The Nuggets guard was a flamethrower on Friday night against the Cavs, recording a career-high 50 points with six rebounds, two assists and two steals in their 120-103 victory. He shot 21-of-25 (84%) from the field and 8-of-10 (80%) from distance. But what’s mind-boggling is that Murray didn’t even attempt a single free throw in the game, becoming the first player in NBA history to notch 50 points without doing so, per Elias Sports. Can the man get a call?! He ranks fifth in 9-cat over the past week with averages of 33.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists with 5.3 triples on nearly 62% shooting in four games. It’s the best four-game stretch of the season for a guy who’s been a bit inconsistent after putting on a dazzling display in the bubble where he recorded 27/5/7 on 50/45/90 shooting splits in 19 playoff games. We know Murray can hoop, he just needs to bring it every night. But in his defense, having a long run in 2020 followed by a short turnaround can take a toll on you, and though it took a couple of months, Murray has returned to form.

Jae Crowder - After starting on Tuesday vs. Brooklyn, Crowder came off the bench on Friday against the Pelicans but still had a solid night. He scored 20 points and made six 3-pointers in 29 minutes of action in the Suns’ 132-114 win and also made some history. Crowder posted a +30 plus-minus rating in the fourth quarter, and according to ESPN Stats and Info, the only player with a higher plus-minus in a fourth quarter over the last 25 seasons is Shaquille O'Neal in 2002 (+32). Analytics nerds are salivating. Over his last three games, the Suns forward has totaled 47 points, 18 rebounds, eight assists, four steals, two blocks and 13 made triples. That’s pretty good considering he only had 19/22/5/1/2 in the four games prior. But whether he’s in the starting lineup or not, Crowder will get plenty of minutes and is capable of putting quality fantasy numbers, and he’s only rostered in 40% of leagues at the moment.

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The Bad

John Collins & Cam Reddish - The two forwards were pretty damn bad on Friday against the Celtics, as they each shot 3-of-13 from the floor and combined to score just 17 points in the Hawks’ 121-109 loss. They went 0-of-7 from deep and grabbed a total of eight boards in 61 total minutes. Reddish did tie a career-high with five steals but that was the lone bright spot between the two in the game. For Collins, it was the second time this month he’s shot less than 30% with at least 10 field goal attempts and for Cam, he’s now failed to score in double-digits in half of Atlanta’s games in February despite De’Andre Hunter (knee) being sidelined. Believe it or not, Danilo Gallinari was had a worse game than Reddish and Collins, however, as he went 2-of-14 and managed to score just nine points in 24 minutes off the bench. Can Trae Young and Clint Capela get some help?

Nicolas Batum - It’s been a lousy month of basketball for Batum and things didn’t get better at all on Friday vs. the Jazz. For the first time this season, he failed to make a basket, going scoreless on 0-of-2 shooting in 31 minutes with three rebounds, a steal and a block. He’s scored 16+ twice in February but hasn’t notched more than eight points in the other six contests and has just 10 points over his last three. What sucks about this too is that he couldn’t produce better numbers while both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were sidelined, and they were back in the lineup against Utah. The recent rise of Marcus Morris has diminished Batum’s fantasy value, too. Since Feb. 1, Morris is posting 15.8 points and 4.2 rebounds on 48/56/86 shooting splits in just 27 minutes a night off the bench. It’s safe to drop Batum and smart to pick up Morris. Don’t fall in love with your lower-tier fantasy players.