The new-look Cavaliers won again, this time taking out the Thunder behind 37 points from LeBron James, while OKC welcomed back Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony. The Bucks and Raptors stayed hot, James Harden did work, and the Kings won a game by beating the Mavericks on Tuesday. Follow me on Twitter by clicking here!
Cavaliers 120, Thunder 112 – LeBron James and his merry gang of pranksters won their fourth straight game, this time knocking off the Thunder after beating Boston in their last one. I’m not going to declare the Cavs the winners of the East just yet, but their defense is much better, they have an offensive scoring punch off the bench, and look like a different team, mainly because that’s what they are. LeBron led the way with 37 points, eight boards, eight dimes and three 3-pointers, J.R. Smith scored 18 with six 3-pointers, and Larry Nance 13 points, 9 boards, 3 blocks), Jordan Clarkson (14 points, 4 assists, 1 3-pointer), Rodney Hood (14 points, 4 3-pointers) and Jeff Green (10 points, 4 boards) all contributed off the bench. I’d rank the Cavs pickups as follows: Nance, Clarkson, Hood, George Hill, J.R. Smith, Green, and Cedi Osman.
Smith is feeling it, averaging 14.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 4.0 3-pointers on 61 percent shooting over his last five. He’s worth using as long as he’s hot, but as we’ve seen in the past, every Smith hot streak is always followed by a cold streak, so you better hurry. Hill has been really quiet in his two games, averaging just 9.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 3-pointers in 23 minutes in his two Cavs’ games. Maybe he’ll get comfortable and start playing better, but I think he’s going to have a tough time scoring, or handing out assists, playing next to LeBron and with so much new firepower coming off the bench. And you can probably forget about Osman, who has been fading for three straight and played just 15 minutes last night.
Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony were back for the Thunder last night and Westbrook, Melo, Paul George and Steven Adams all played pretty well in the loss. Adams had one of the lines of the night with 22 points, a season-high 17 boards, two steals and a block in 42 minutes. It’s going to be tough for Adams to play this well on most nights and I’d consider selling high on him after this one, if you are strong at center. The Cavs are going to get torched by good centers and Adams took advantage of them tonight. Everyone for the Thunder should be good to go tonight against the Grizzlies. Lastly, Jerami Grant played 21 minutes for 14 points, six boards, a block and a 3-pointer, but I find it hard to believe he can stay relevant now that the Thunder are fully healthy again.
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Raptors 115, Heat 112 – Kyle Lowry bounced back from a couple tough games with 22 points, eight assists, two steals and four 3-pointers, DeMar DeRozan scored 27 points, and Serge Ibaka double-doubled with 14 points and 10 boards, although he didn’t have a block or a 3-pointer. The Raps went small in this one, especially late, as Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright were on the court with Lowry late, while DeRozan was playing power forward with Jonas Valanciunas (6 points, 10 boards, 1 steal, 1 block) at center. VanVleet had 10 points, five rebounds, six assists, two steals and two 3-pointers, and Wright had 10 points, one rebound, two assists, a steal, a block and two 3-pointers. Both of them are playing well, but VanVleet still looks like the pickup to me given his overall numbers and recent play. OG Anunoby returned from a sprained ankle, but lasted just 13 minutes, probably because the Raptors were going small so much.
Goran Dragic led the Heat with 28 points, four assists, a steal and three 3-pointers, while Josh Richardson and Hassan Whiteside each scored 10. Richardson filled the stat sheet and I’m not worried about him, while Whiteside sat out the entire fourth quarter again for the Heat. He’s getting frustrated with his minutes, but still had 10 points, 10 boards, two steals and a block in just 23 minutes. As long as he keeps his head in the game and doesn’t get too frustrated, he should be OK, but it’s frustrating to own him and watch him sit. The Heat bench went off tonight, as James Johnson had 16 points and seven boards, as he barely hangs onto fantasy value, Bam Adebayo had 11 points, five boards, three assists and a blocked (and finished), Dwyane Wade had 10 points, 11 boards and six assists for his third double-double of the season and first since before Thanksgiving, and Wayne Ellington hit 5-of-11 3-pointers for 15 points and seven boards.
Tyler Johnson had just seven points, four boards, two assists and a steal in 22 minutes, and will take a hit from the return of Wade to Miami. Wade could also hurt Ellington, but he played 31 minutes tonight and the Heat still love his 3-point shooting, while Wade played 21 minutes and had one of his better games of the season. Here’s how I’d rank the Heat fringe players: Adebayo, James Johnson, Wade, Ellington, Ty Johnson. And if you want to flip Wade and Ellington, feel free to do so, because it’s close.
Nuggets 117, Spurs 109 – The Nuggets pulled away late and got strong play from nearly everyone in the starting lineup. Nikola Jokic (23-13-11) put up his fourth triple-double of the season, Jamaal Murray played through a chest injury and had 17 points, five boards, two steals and three 3-pointers on 6-of-9 shooting, and Will Barton stayed hot with 20 points, five boards, six assists, two steals and two 3-pointers. But it was Wilson Chandler who caught my attention with another big game. He had a season-high 26 in his previous game and then torched the Spurs for 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks, although he missed all five of his 3-point attempts. He’s averaging 37 minutes, 21.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 3-pointers over his last two games. He has been really bad all season, but has taken off in his last two games while Trey Lyles has seen his minutes drop severely over his last two. Look, I have no idea if Chandler’s going to stay hot and keep it going, but he’s been awesome in two straight, the Nuggets are in a serious dogfight for the playoffs, and they look hard to beat when Chandler, Barton and Jokic are all playing well. Pick Chandler up if you have someone to drop (he’s available in about 70 percent of Yahoo! leagues right now) and see what happens. And yes, I’d drop Lyles for him right now, only because there’s a chance Chandler stays hot going forward. Barton and Gary Harris should be owned everywhere right now.
Joffrey Lauvergne went crazy for the Spurs, dropping a career-high 26 points on 12-of-15 shooting with 12 boards, three assists and a block in just 24 minutes. He’d played 15 or fewer minutes in his previous eight games, so there was no way to see this one coming. Pau Gasol played in a back-to-back, but had just 10 points, seven boards and a block, while LaMarcus Aldridge was out again. Once he’s back and healthy, Lauvergne should crawl back into his hole, but he was great tonight and may have earned more minutes going forward. Just put him on your watch list. Dejounte Murray had 12 points, six boards, two assists, two steals and three blocks on 6-of-10 shooting and joined an elite group in the process. The last five Spurs to have at least 300 points, 300 rebounds and 150 assists in either their first or second seasons are Murray, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, Sean Elliott and David Robinson. If Murray was dropped in your league and you need a rebounding guard, he’s worth a look, as Gregg Popovich is locked into him as his starting point guard. Ginobili left with a right foot injury and is having X-rays, and Tony Parker got his minutes and scored 17 points with four dimes. If Manu’s going to miss time, Parker could get his minutes, but Pop probably isn’t going to give Parker a ton of run down the stretch, given his age. Danny Green might finally do something if Manu’s foot keeps him out. Generally speaking, Spurs should be avoided whenever possible.
Bucks 97, Hawks 92 – Giannis Antetokounmpo had 15 points and 15 assists, Khris Middleton went off, as usual, and Eric Bledsoe overcame a slow start for a solid stat line (with poor shooting) and had a monster dunk over Ersan Ilyasova late that changed the momentum of the game and helped the Bucks win. Thon Maker and Tyler Zeller are holding down the fort in the middle while John Henson is out with a hamstring injury and Zeller outplayed Maker tonight. But the reality is that it is tough to roster any of the Bucks’ bigs not named Henson, while even Henson is hard to stomach at times.
The Hawks, for some reason, still are giving Ersan Ilyasova 28 minutes a night and starting him over John Collins, but you have to believe the end is near. Ilyasova had 15 points, seven boards, two steals and a 3-pointer, while Collins played 23 minutes for four points, five rebounds, a steal and four blocks. Collins will likely get destroyed by bigger and more experienced players if the Hawks ever turn him loose, but he’s got to learn and they have no interest in winning games, so I’m still not sure why it hasn’t happened yet. Dewayne Dedmon was awesome again for the Hawks and it looks like Miles Plumlee is a goner, so Dedmon should be a hot pickup. He had 13 points, 10 rebounds, a steal, a block and two 3-pointers in his second straight start. He’s got back-to-back double-doubles and has hit a 3-pointer in nine straight games. Go get him. Dennis Schroder and Kent Bazemore were both solid, but Taurean Prince had a fairly empty 11 points with two steals and a 3-pointer on 4-of-12 shooting. Prince could turn it around and finish strong, but I get it if you’re done and need to cut him. I’m right there with you. And as for Ilyasova, I say ride him until the wheels fall off and then be ready to bail as soon as it happens.
Rockets 126, Timberwolves 108 – James Harden had a typical Harden line with 34-6-13 and six 3-pointers, Clint Capela double-doubled with a block, and Chris Paul had a quiet 13-8-7 line with a steal, a block and a 3-pointer in a blowout win. It was Ryan Anderson who shocked the world, hitting six 3-pointers and seven shots for 21 points and four boards. The last time he hit six triples in a game was on Nov. 16 and he had scored a total of 13 points over his last three games played. He’s impossible to figure out, but if you used him tonight, or picked him up for this one, congratulations are in order. Anderson could take a hit once the Rockets sign Joe Johnson.
Karl-Anthony Towns torched Capela for 35 points, 12 boards, three assists, a steal, three blocks and two 3-pointers, hitting 12-of-16 shots and 9-of-9 free throws. Hopefully you’re feeling better if you drafted him No. 1, or somewhere close to it in fantasy this season. He still hasn’t missed a game (knocking on wood). Jeff Teague came through with 25 points and eight assists on 10-of-15 shooting, and is shooting 55 percent over his last five games. Hopefully he’s going to finish up strong. He also has a pair of double-doubles over his last four games. Andrew Wiggins hit just 2-of-14 shots for seven points, but had been shooting it lights-out recently, but just didn’t have it going last night. And Jimmy Butler also had an off shooting night, hitting 5-of-13 shots with 15 points, seven rebounds, six assists and nothing else. The Wolves bench did next to nothing, although Jamal Crawford did have 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
Kings 114, Mavericks 109 – Now that the trade deadline has passed, it appears the Kings may have ditched their ‘benching-vets program,’ as Zach Randolph led the way with 22 points, seven boards and two 3-pointers in 26 minutes. He’s played in nine straight games and has been playing very well, so maybe he’s safe going forward? We’ll have to see what happens after the break. Bogdan Bogdanovic had a 19-5-4 line with three 3-pointers, Justin Jackson had 12 points, six boards, three assists and a 3-pointer (maybe he’ll finish strong?), De’Aaron Fox had 11 points, four boards, seven dimes, a steal and a 3-pointer, and Willie Cauley-Stein added 10 points, four boards, a steal and two blocks. I’d rank Kings pickups as follows: WCS, Fox, Randolph, Bogdanovic, Jackson, Kosta Koufos, Buddy Hield. Hield had just eight points in 17 minutes, and it just looks like it’s not going to happen for him this season. And maybe Jackson can get hot like Josh Jackson has in Phoenix (except for his last game).
J.J. Barea started after a day of rest and went off for 19 points, a season-high 13 assists, five rebounds, one steal and five 3-pointers in 32 minutes. This appears to be fluky and came at the expense of Yogi Ferrell, who moved to the bench, while Wesley Matthews was back in action after a day off. Barea’s probably worth an add in case he can stay hot, while Dwight Powell came off the bench for 18 points, six boards, five assists and a 3-pointer on 6-of-9 shooting. Powell’s feeling it, averaging 16.2 points, 8.2 boards and 0.8 steals on 64 percent shooting over his last five, and should be a very hot pickup right now. Go get him.
Wednesday’s Dose should be a doozy, as there are 14 games on Valentine’s Day. Hopefully, my wife allows me to survive it.