Wednesday only featured seven NBA games, as the new NBA schedule continues to spread games out more evenly throughout the week, instead of going all in on every Wednesday and Friday. Anthony Davis went down, yet again, Dillon Brooks scored a career high 29, the Rockets won their 17th straight game, the Pelicans won their 10th straight, and the Jazz destroyed the Pacers as they continue to climb their way into the playoffs in the West.
There was plenty of injury news on Wednesday, starting with Anthony Davis, who landed on the foot of Kosta Koufos and sprained his left ankle pretty badly. He’ll likely have an MRI, but the only good news here is that the playoff race in the West is insane, and the Pelicans will need to keep winning games to make sure they stay in the game. But even though the Pelicans need AD out there, there’s a decent chance he could miss a couple games with this injury. And there simply isn’t anyone good enough to be considered an automatic pickup, although Emeka Okafor could be forced into heavy minutes if AD is going to miss time. Nikola Mirotic is the most likely candidate to step up his game with AD out.
Evan Fournier went down with a sprained left knee last night and didn’t return for the Magic. Mario Hezonja is probably the big winner if Fournier’s going to miss time, while Jonathan Isaac, who started, committed five fouls in 14 minutes and had another dud with two points, two rebounds and two steals. He’s playing solid defense, but Hezonja is the guy you want to grab in Fournier’s absence.
Otto Porter didn’t practice for the Wizards on Wednesday due to his hip injury and is iffy, at best, for Friday and Saturday’s back-to-back set. If he’s out, Kelly Oubre and Markieff Morris should have big weekends.
De’Aaron Fox left early with a lower back injury and didn’t return to the game. Frank Mason, who matched his career high with 16 points, six dimes, a steal, a block and a 3-pointer, should be the guy to own if Fox is going to miss time.
Pau Gasol has been ruled out for the Spurs on Thursday with a shoulder injury, while Rudy Gay is probable with an ear problem. Gasol’s injury doesn’t sound good and the Spurs will likely be ultra-cautious with him. Joffrey Lauvergne and Davis Bertans get a boost if Gasol’s going to miss time (he will), but both of them are tough to trust. LaMarcus Aldridge and Gay will be the guys to see the biggest boost in the absence of Gasol. And if you want to drop Gasol, you have my full blessing, not that you need it.
Delon Wright left Wednesday’s game with a toe injury and didn’t return. Norman Powell actually started this game over Malcolm Miller, and went off for 17 points, four boards, a block and three 3-pointers in 28 minutes. Powell, C.J. Miles and Fred VanVleet should see extra run if Wright’s going to miss time, but Powell’s the most intriguing one, especially if he sticks in the starting lineup.
Wayne Ellington is probable for Thursday after a thigh injury kept him out the last four games. Justise Winslow has been rolling in his absence, while Dwyane Wade has also been playing well. But given that Ellington’s been sitting and Winslow and Wade have been playing so well, I expect that trend to continue.
Stanley Johnson sat out with a sore back for the Pistons last night and Luke Kennard started in his place. Kennard played 31 minutes and had nine points, six rebounds, three assists and two 3-pointers, while James Ennis came off the bench for 14 points, five boards, four assists and a block in 36 minutes. If you’re in a deep league, both are worth a look any time Johnson is out.
Andre Iguodala and David West are doubtful for Thursday in order to rest, not that it has any fantasy implications.
Jarell Martin was out again for the Grizzlies with his sprained ankle and remains day-to-day, but JaMychal Green (11 points, 8 rebounds) has been playing well enough to make Martin an afterthought, at least for now.
Dillon Brooks got loose to hit 10-of-18 shots and five 3-pointers for a career-high 29 points, one rebound, two assists and two steals in 28 minutes for the Grizzlies. Brooks had 21 on Monday, scored 21 in the fourth quarter last night, and has played at least 30 minutes in six straight games. His two-game explosion is a small sample size, but there’s a pretty decent chance he could continue to go off the rest of the way. I say pick him up. Kobi Simmons started again at point guard and had 11 points and three steals, while Ben McLemore made another start and had 17 points, seven boards, two assists, three steals and three 3-pointers in 38 minutes. BMac sat out on Monday but had 20 points on Saturday. The Grizzlies are banged up and it looks like McLemore is going to continue to get heavy minutes, so I like the idea of picking him up, as well.
Nikola Mirotic had 26 points, 10 rebounds and four 3-pointers on 10-of-12 shooting for the Pelicans on Wednesday night. That was his high as a Pelican and it was also his first double-double as a Pel. They’ll need a scoring boost if Anthony Davis is going to miss time, and Mirotic will likely step up in his absence. Make sure he’s not available in your league.
Justin Holiday started for the Bulls after sitting out three of his previous four games for the tankers, despite being healthy. He had 14 points, four boards and four 3-pointers, and should start again on Friday, but minutes are a problem. He played just 17 of them last night and is probably looking at a similar number on Friday. Leave him on waivers.
Norman Powell – see above under Delon Wright.
A whole slew of Kings - Justin Jackson hit 5-of-9 shots and two 3-pointers for 14 points, three boards and three assists in 30 minutes for the Kings. He had 12 points on Sunday and might finally be ready to start turning it on. He’s worth a look in deeper leagues. Bogdan Bogdanovic played 26 minutes, but missed all six of his shots and failed to score for the first time this season. He had 22 in his previous game and had scored in double figures in six straight, so he should bounce back on Friday against the Magic. Skal Labissiere hit 6-of-12 shots for 14 points, four rebounds, three assists and a block in 28 minutes, and has now scored in double figures in four straight games. Buddy Hield also stepped up with 20 points, and I’d rank the Kings pickups as: Bogdanovic, Labissiere, Hield, Frank Mason, Jackson. See the De’Aaron Fox take above for more information on Mason, who tied his career high with 16 points. And no, I don’t know when we’ll see Willie Cauley-Stein again, who has missed two straight games with a back injury. Kosta Koufos had six points, 10 boards and a block in a start in WCS’s place and is worth streaming for as long as WCS is out.
Brook Lopez matched his season high in minutes (35) and came through with 27 points, three assists, a steal and a 3-pointer. And yes, he managed to avoid a single rebound, despite being the biggest guy on the floor. And believe it or not, it wasn’t a season high for him. He shouldn’t be available in most leagues, but he might be in yours. He’s hit double figures in scoring in six straight games, but had three or fewer rebounds in five of them.
Sterling Brown came off the Bucks bench and had a career-high 15 points with five boards and three 3-pointers in 27 minutes. He’s had a few interesting lines this season, but isn’t a guy you’ll want to try to rely on in most leagues.
Wilson Chandler hit just 1-of-8 shots for three points, seven boards, three assists and two steals in 36 minutes. Ouch. Chandler’s shot it lights-out in three of his last five games, but just didn’t have it tonight. He’ll be fine.
Serge Ibaka only played 12 minutes, but it was because he was ejected after getting into it with Blake Griffin. Hopefully he’ll come back with a vengeance on Friday.
Studs Who Went Off
LeBron James went off for 39 points, eight rebounds, 10 assists, a steal and five 3-pointers, and says he’s playing the best ball of his career. I’m not going to argue with him, and he simply took this game over in the fourth quarter, when the Cavs put the Nuggets away for a 113-108 win.
DeMar DeRozan hit 16-of-28 shots and two 3-pointers for 42 points, four boards and six assists, as well as one of the dunks of the week.
Nikola Jokic hit 12-of-14 shots, two 3-pointers and 10-of-11 free throws for 36 points, 13 rebounds and six assists a night after he was benched in the fourth quarter. Jamaal Murray, who was also benched on Tuesday, added 11 points, seven boards and three assists, so I guess you could say the message was received.
Aaron Gordon went off for 28 points, 14 boards, a block and four 3-pointers on Wednesday. He’s double-doubled in three of his last five games and his hip injury looks like it’s behind him. Sometimes patience pays off.
Larry Nance hit 6-of-10 shots for 13 points, 13 rebounds and four steals for the Cavs. He’s starting and playing well, averaging 14.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 0.8 blocks over his last five, so make sure he’s not available in your league.
1. Raptors (9-1 in last 10)
2. Celtics 2.5 (Should have No. 2 seed locked up)
3. Cavaliers 9 (Tough win at Denver Wednesday and will keep winning)
4. Wizards 10.5 (Otto Porter injury, combo’d with John Wall's hurts)
5. Pacers 10.5 (7-3 over last 10, but lose too many games against dogs)
6. Sixers 11.5 (7-3 over last 10, easy remaining schedule)
7. Heat 13.5 (5-5 in last 10, but too far ahead of Pistons and Hornets to be scared)
8. Bucks 13.5 (3-7 over last 10, but healthy and a big cushion should hold)
9. Pistons 18.5 (2-8 over last 10 and the party’s over)
10. Hornets 19.5 (6.0 games is too much to overcome)
I don’t expect any movement in the Top 3, as they appear to be locked in. And yes, I think the Cavs are going to continue to win and finish easily as the No. 3 seed. The most interesting team in the East is the Sixers, as they’ve won seven of their last 10 and have recent wins against big guns like the Cavaliers, Pelicans, Wizards and Heat. And the schedule works heavily in their favor, as they still have games remaining against the Nets (twice), Knicks (twice), Hornets (twice), Grizzlies, Magic, Hawks (twice), Pistons and Mavericks. That’s 12 of their remaining 19 games against tanking dogs, and they should win most of those, and they also have 11 home games remaining, which is another plus. If they can beat the Heat on Thursday and the Pacers on Tuesday, they could easily sneak into the No. 4 seed and have homecourt advantage in the first round. And even if they lose those two tough ones, the schedule is easy enough for them to still get to No. 4. And I don’t think any team in the East wants to face a healthy and motivated Sixers team featuring Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Robert Covington and J.J. Redick. And if Covington can stay hot, he’s a big-time game changer for the Sixers. And lastly, there’s a benefit to not knowing what it’s like, or how, to lose in the playoffs.
1. Rockets (Winners of 17 straight, and it should be 22)
2. Warriors 1 (They’re 50-14, but Rockets look too tough to catch)
3. Blazers 12.5 (Red hot and winners of 9 of last 10.
4. Pelicans 13 (Winners of 10 straight, but Anthony Davis injury a huge concern)
5. Spurs 14 (So banged up, so weird, and simply can’t afford to rest)
6. Wolves 14 (4-6 over last 10 and missing Jimmy Butler badly)
7. Thunder 15 (Russell Westbrook probably needs to go into beast mode)
8. Clippers 16.5 (Zipped passed the Nuggets Wednesday, but it’s going to be tough)
9. Nuggets 16.5 (6-4 over last 10, but Jokic looks awesome)
10. Jazz 16.5 (8-2 over last 10 behind Rudy Gobert’s defense and Ricky Rubio coming on)
This thing feels like the Rockets will be No. 1 and the Warriors will be No. 2, but you have to think the Rockets will eventually lose a game. But after those two, the West is completely up in the air.
I outlined how bad the Thunder’s (just 1.5 games from being out of the playoffs) schedule is the rest of the way in Wednesday’s Dose, but do you know who else has a potentially even worse schedule? The Spurs (shout out to reader Casey Fleming), who are only 2.5 games from being bumped from the playoffs. Their next three games? @ Golden State, @ Oklahoma City and @ Houston. Ouch. The number of non-playoff teams still on their schedule the rest of the way? THREE. And seven of their eight remaining road games are against playoff studs, with the Lakers being the only exception. And how much would the Lakers love to play spoiler against the Spurs when they visit L.A. on April 4? A lot. Kawhi Leonard is still MIA and Pau Gasol now has a potentially “serious” shoulder injury. And despite all of that, I bet Gregg Popovich will still rest his guys occasionally, even though every remaining game is a must-win game.
Maybe Kawhi will come back and save his team, leading them to the playoffs and one of the most unlikely championships ever. And maybe Russell Westbrook will turn into a one-man wrecking crew and triple-double machine to overcome the awful schedule and get his team into the playoffs. But based on the schedules, not too mention the fact that the Nuggets and Jazz look kind of awesome right now, my prediction is that the Spurs and Thunder will be on the outside looking in at the end of the regular season. And yeah, that felt weird to write.
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