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It was a relatively busy seven-game Thursday night in the NBA and Victor Oladipo got hurt (again), Chris Boucher went off in a loss to the Bulls, and the Mavs won for their sixth time in seven games. Follow me on Twitter!
Bulls 122, Raptors 113 – Zach LaVine played through his tender ankle and racked up 22 points, six boards, a season-high 13 dimes, three steals, a block and two 3-pointers on 8-of-16 shooting in a relatively easy win over the Raptors. LaVine hasn’t exactly been killing it since the All-Star break and hadn’t had a steal in his previous nine games, so this was great to see. Hopefully, he’s ready to finish in a fury in Chicago. Lauri Markkanen played through his right leg injury and hit 8-of-10 shots and two 3-pointers for 18 points and four rebounds in just 18 minutes. Jimmy Butler scored 22 with a full stat line, Daniel Theis celebrated his return from a personal leave with 14 points and 10 boards in 27 minutes, and Coby White was solid with 15 points, three boards, one assist and three 3-pointers on 5-of-10 shooting off the bench. Don’t look now, but the Bulls have won three straight games, although I don’t see any hot pickups on the roster. Just keep an eye on Tomas Satoransky (9 points, 7 dimes) and Theis going forward.
For the Raptors, Chris Boucher made another start and went bananas, racking up a career-high 38 points, a career-high 19 rebounds, an assist, a steal, a block and three 3-pointers on 14-of-24 shooting. Nick Nurse can trash Boucher all he wants but I’m not buying any of it. Boucher did this against Nikola Vucevic and it certainly helps make up for Boucher’s struggles when Nurse has messed with his minutes this season. And the Raptors fell a little bit further out of the playoff hunt tonight, now sitting a full 3.0 games out of a play-in series. Malachi Flynn finally made the first start of career and had his most disappointing outing since emerging as a fantasy phenom. He hit just 3-of-11 shots but all three of his makes were from downtown and he finished with nine points, three boards, eight dimes and two steals, so it could have been worse. He had racked up four blocks over his previous two games so this is just a reminder that he’s probably not going to be a shot blocker every night, but it’s starting to look like Flynn is going to be a staple in the Raptors lineup the rest of the way. Especially if Kyle Lowry or Fred VanVleet is shut down at some point. The Raptors waived Patrick McCaw after the game.
Mavs 116, Bucks 101 – The Mavericks won for the sixth time in their last seven games and Kristaps Porzingis’ wrist injury looks like a thing of the past. He had 26 points, 17 rebounds, two blocks and four 3-pointers on 10-of-20 shooting in the win. Luka Doncic added a 27-9-9 line with three 3-pointers but hit just 2-of-5 free throws, putting my shirsey bet in serious jeopardy (he needs to shoot 76 percent from the line). Luka has also picked up 12 technical fouls this season and he’ll get a one-game suspension if he hits 16. As I’ve said before, I’d love to see him stop crying for calls and just play ball. And start making free throws. Josh Richardson bounced back from a goose egg with 14 points and a full stat line on 6-of-16 shooting, Maxi Kleber returned from his leg injury and had 12 points, five boards, two steals and four 3-pointers in a start, and Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 12 off the bench. Dorian Finney-Smith racked up nine points, 10 rebounds, three assists and three blocks in the win.
The Bucks were without Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee) for the third straight game and we don’t know if he’ll play on Friday against the Hornets. Bobby Portis filled in for him again and had 20 points, 14 rebounds, two assists, a steal and a 3-pointer on 8-of-19 shooting, and Donte DiVincenzo led the way with 22 points, six boards, two assists and two steals on 7-of-13 shooting with six 3-pointers. All five starters scored in double figures and they got nothing from their bench, while Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday combined to hit just 12 of their 43 shots and scored a combined 27 points. Ouch.
Cavs 129, Thunder 102 – All five Cavs’ starters scored in double figures and they got a season-high 22 points, six dimes and three 3-pointers from Taurean Prince off the bench in an easy win over America’s Favorite Tankers (the Thunder). Kevin Love had 18 points, 11 boards, two steals and three 3-pointers, Dean Wade had 12 points, two steals, two blocks and two 3-pointers, Isaac Okoro had 15 points, a couple threes and a steal, Collin Sexton led the way with 27 points and Darius Garland stayed hot with 21 points, three boards, five assists and three 3-pointers. And Isaiah Hartenstein added eight points, 12 boards, six assists and a block in 27 minutes. I have no idea what’s going on in Cleveland, but they’ve won two straight games and still have no shot at the playoffs. I have no idea how long they’ll keep going to Love but he’s worth using until they shut him down. It’s a “when, not if” situation, right? The double-double was his second of the season and he’s only played in eight games thus far. Wade has been playing relatively well for most of the season and is worth a deep-league look, Okoro has so much upside but consistently underperforms, and Sexton and Garland have been solid and should continue to play given their youth. Hartenstein could be fun if/when Love goes bye-bye and It looks like Prince should continue to be relevant as the team’s sixth man, at least as long as Larry Nance Jr. is out. Prince has played well in three straight.
The Thunder got a big game from Ty Jerome with a career-high 23 points, three boards, three assists and five 3-pointers on 9-of-16 shooting off the bench and he easily led the team in scoring tonight. Aleksej Pokusevski hit just 3-of-12 shots for 10 points (and some goodies) and Theo Maledon hit 6-of-17 shots for 14 points and four dimes. Both of them went nuts in their previous game and should be rostered everywhere despite the field-goal shooting roller coaster ride that will come along with them. Kenrich Williams bounced back from an off night with 12 points, seven rebounds, nine assists, two steals and two 3-pointers, and is worth a look as long as he’s starting. Moses Brown had 13 points, 11 rebounds, a steal and a block on 6-of-10 shooting, and Svi Mykhailiuk added 10 points and a couple threes as a starter. Jaylen Hoard scored in double figures in his third straight game and is suddenly worth a deep-league look. He’s only played in three games this season but has looked good in all of them. Here’s how I rank the Thunder players in order of pickup priority: Poku, Maledon, Moses, Jerome, Williams, Mykhailiuk, Hoard. Darius Bazley remains out with his shoulder injury but could easily pinch Williams if the Thunder decide to play him when he’s ready. I’m guessing Shai Gilgeous-Alexander might be done for the year with his right foot injury because the Thunder already know what he can do. Don’t cut him, but don’t count on seeing him again any time soon, if at all. Isaiah Roby sat out again with a concussion and Mike Muscala was out again with his sprained right ankle. The Thunder will waive Darius Miller to sign Real Madrid forward Gabriel Deck. And given how smart Sam Presti has been thus far, I wouldn’t be surprised if they turn Deck loose, so just keep an eye on him.
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Heat 110, Lakers 104 – The Heat have now won five of their last six games, but Victor Oladipo left this game with a right knee injury and while X-rays were negative, he’s scheduled for an MRI. And yes, this is the same knee he’s previously had problems with, so stay tuned. Jimmy Butler led the way with 28 points and a nice line on 8-of-11 shooting and Tyler Herro and Goran Dragic will see some extra run and responsibility if Dipo is going to miss time.
The Lakers got a season-high 28 points from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with six 3-pointers and all five starters scored in double figures. They’re 4-7 over their last 11 games and sit as the No. 5 seed, just 1.5 games up on the No. 6 Blazers. They need LeBron James and Anthony Davis back, but it doesn’t sound like they’re all that close to a return. Speaking of returns, Andre Drummond was back from his toe injury and had 15 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two steals, while Marc Gasol got a DNP-CD with his return. Dennis Schroder hit just 2-of-12 shots but still had 10 points, six boards and a season-high 14 assists (and seven turnovers) in the loss. Schroder’s career high is 15 dimes and he had his second double-double of the season last night. Kyle Kuzma sat this one out with a calf injury and Wesley Matthews had 14 points and three 3-pointers while starting in his place. Kuzma is day-to-day with his injury. Ben McLemore made his Lakers’ debut with six points in 17 minutes and Talen Horton-Tucker sat out with a one-game suspension for his involvement in a skirmish with the Raptors but will be worth keeping an eye on for as long as LeBron is out.
Jazz 122, Blazers 103 – Jordan Clarkson sat this one out with a sprained right ankle and Donovan Mitchell went off for 37 points, five boards, four assists, a steal and a 3-pointer on 14-of-25 shooting. He’s scored at least 30 or 40 points in seven of his last 12 games and is averaging 39 points over his last two. Mitchell took a knee to the shin tonight but played through it and should be fine. Rudy Gobert racked up 18 points, 21 boards and two blocks on 6-of-9 shooting for his fourth 20-rebound game of the season. Mike Conley played in a back-to-back but hit just 3-of-12 shots and two 3-pointers for 11 points, three rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes, and Joe Ingles hit 4-of-13 shots for 13 points, five rebounds, six assists and two steals. He was helped by the absence of Clarkson and hadn’t seen that many minutes since Feb. 9. If Clarkson remains out, Ingles and Mitchell both benefit.
The Blazers have lost three of their last four games and while Norman Powell played through his toe injury, he hit just 4-of-10 shots and two 3-pointers for 13 points after going off for 32 points on Tuesday when Damian Lillard couldn’t buy a bucket. Jusuf Nurkic returned from a one-game absence due to knee inflammation and had 10 points, six boards, four assists, a steal, a block and a 3-pointer on 4-of-8 shooting in 22 minutes. Enes Kanter took a hit and played just 20 minutes with eight points, seven boards and two dimes on 3-of-4 shooting. Lillard and C.J. McCollum both hit just 8-of-21 shots for 23 and 19 points respectively in the loss. The bench was disappointing and Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Jones Jr. are both drop candidates with the arrival of Powell.
Clippers 113, Suns 103 – Paul George is officially hot and hit 12-of-19 shots and 7-of-9 3-pointers for 33 points, seven boards, three assists and two steals after going off for 36 points and six triples on Tuesday. He was slumping before the two-game explosion but is clearly feeling it right now. Kawhi Leonard was poked in the eye early in this game and had four first-half turnovers, but still finished with 22 points, five boards, five assists and three 3-pointers on 10-of-20 shooting. Rajon Rondo somehow had 15 points and nine dimes in just 19 minutes, but I don’t trust him any further than I can throw him. Patrick Beverley started and played just 17 minutes before being ejected and Reggie Jackson had eight points and three dimes in 24 minutes off the bench. The point guard situation in LAC is anything but fantasy friendly. Terance Mann played just five minutes and didn’t score, so drop him for a hot free agent if you’ve got him. Marcus Morris joined Beverley with an ejection.
The Suns had their seven-game winning streak halted last night although starters Mikal Bridges, Deandre Ayton, Chris Paul and Devin Booker all played well. Jae Crowder somehow played 30 minutes and missed both of his shots, failing to score. He did still manage to fill the stat sheet and the key is the minutes he got. He’ll bounce back in the next one. The Suns’ bench was basically useless last night. Ayton has quietly been playing much better and had his third straight double-double in the loss.
Pistons 113, Kings 101 – The Pistons started a makeshift lineup last night with Mason Plumlee (concussion) and Jerami Grant (knee) both out. Isaiah Stewart started for Plum and went off for 16 points, 13 rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block on 8-of-10 shooting, and Cory Joseph started for Grant. CoJo had a fun revenge game against his former team and went off for 24 points, four boards, seven assists, a steal and a block on 10-of-14 shooting. Dennis Smith Jr. started over Saben Lee, who got a DNP, and had eight points and four assists in 27 minutes, but CoJo and Killian Hayes (11 points, 3 boards, 2 assists, a block and a 3-pointer in 21 minutes) both outplayed him. I thought Sekou Doumbouya might go off without Grant around, but he played just 13 minutes and scored six points. Eventually, the 16-win Pistons are going to have to turn things over to the kids but last night wasn’t the night. Hamidou Diallo played just 17 minutes for the second straight game and had 10 points, three rebounds, one assist, a steal and a block on 4-of-9 shooting. Saddiq Bey, Stewart, Doumbouya, Hayes and Diallo are the guys who should eventually emerge down the stretch for the Pistons, but I’m still not sure when it’s going to happen. I think all of them, with the exception of Doumbouya, should be held until further notice, while I’m also in favor of picking up Joseph as Grant could miss more games. Josh Jackson started and played 26 minutes for 10 points, seven rebounds, two assists, a steal and two 3-pointers and just keeps clinging on to fantasy value. But if the Pistons ever turn to Diallo, Jackson could disappear. Jahlil Okafor returned from an extended absence after knee surgery and had 11 points, three boards, three assists and a 3-pointer in 15 minutes, but Stewart and Plumlee should make him a non-factor the rest of the way.
Tyrese Haliburton was benched in favor of Moe Harkless after starting the last dozen games or so. He still played 31 minutes and hit 4-of-10 shots for nine points, seven assists and two steals. I don’t really care if he’s coming off the bench or starting, as long as he’s getting 30 minutes a night. He’ll be fine. Harkless had four points in 20 minutes and is not a fantasy factor. De’Aaron Fox scored 23 points with nine boards, seven dimes, two steals and zero 3-pointers, Buddy Hield and Richaun Holmes scored 15, and Harrison Barnes had 13 points in the loss.