Thursday was a busy day in the NBA, headlined by the trade of Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas, and including the announcement of the reserves for the upcoming All-Star Game in Charlotte. And then there are the six games on the schedule, including Philadelphia’s visit to the Bay Area to take on the reigning champions and a showdown of the top two teams in the East. But the recap of Thursday’s action begins with the battle of Los Angeles, thanks in large part to the returns of LeBron James and Kyle Kuzma.
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The day that Los Angeles Lakers fans (and many fantasy players) have long been waiting for finally came Thursday, as LeBron James made his return to the lineup after missing the prior 16 games due to a strained groin. Luke Walton’s team won just six of those games, and entering Thursday’s battle with the LA Clippers the Lakers were on the outside of the Western Conference playoff picture. Playing without a minutes restriction James played 40 of a possible 53 minutes, scoring 24 points (9-of-22 FGs, 5-of-6 FTs) with 14 rebounds, nine assists, one steal and one three-pointer in the Lakers’ 123-120 overtime win.
One assist short of a triple-double, James was one of two Lakers to tally double-doubles with Rajon Rondo (14 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists, one steal) being the other. James wasn’t the only player to make his return to the Lakers lineup Thursday, as Kyle Kuzma (hip) was also back on the court. Kuzma played just 23 minutes, finishing with 10 points (4-of-8 FGs), two assists, two steals and two 3-pointers.
Lance Stephenson played well in his 30 minutes, accounting for 20 points (6-of-10 FGs, 3-of-3 FTs), three rebounds, one assist, one steal and five 3-pointers.
With James back on the court the question is which Lakers player will be impacted the most, and it can be argued that the answer is Brandon Ingram. Ingram, who had a usage of at least 18% in 15 of the 16 games the Lakers played without James, had a usage of just 15.8% Thursday night with James and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope leading the team at 31.1%. But even with the low usage number Ingram was solid, playing 44 minutes and tallying 19 points (7-of-12 FGs, 5-of-5 FTs), four rebounds and four assists.
Over his last five games Ingram, who scored 36 points on 16-of-20 shooting from the field in Tuesday’s loss to the 76ers, is shooting 64.4% from the field and averaging 22.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists per. The question when it comes to Ingram’s production moving forward is whether or not he can be an efficient offensive option regardless of how much time he spends on the ball as a playmaker. Thursday’s performance was a good one, and he’ll be a key option when the Lakers visit the Warriors Saturday night.
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Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid lead 76ers past Warriors
The Golden State Warriors’ 11-game win streak came to an end Thursday night, as the reigning champions lost to Philadelphia by a 113-104 final score. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid led the way for the 76ers with 26 points apiece, with Simmons shooting 10-of-13 from the field, 6-of-9 from the foul line and adding eight rebounds, six assists, three steals and one blocked shot. Named an All-Star for the first time in his two-year career Thursday, Simmons is averaging 18.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 7.4 assists and 1.6 steals per over his last five. And for the month of January the second-year point forward accounted for 18.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 8.9 assists per game while shooting 55.0% from the field.
Embiid also scored 26 points Thursday night, shooting 8-of-24 from the field and 10-of-12 from the foul line, while also tallying 20 rebounds, five assists and two steals. Also an All-Star, the 7-footer has scored 26 points or more in five straight and six of his last seven appearances. For the month of January Embiid shot 50.4% from the field, 38.3% from three and 80.2% from the foul line, averaging 29.4 points, 13.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.2 blocked shots per game. Philadelphia’s two All-Stars served as catalysts during a third quarter in which the 76ers outscored the Warriors 42-26, and late in the fourth quarter JJ Redick (15 points, 4-of-10 3-pointers, three assists, two rebounds) hit a three-pointer that sealed the outcome.
Jimmy Butler didn’t have his best game, as he scored seven points on 3-of-12 shooting, but he did contribute nine rebounds, six assists and two steals. If there was a negative for Philadelphia it’s the fact that Wilson Chandler left the game in the first half with a strained right quadriceps muscle and did not return. That opened up some second half minutes for Mike Muscala, who finished the game with five points, three rebounds, two assists and one blocked shot in 21 minutes of action.
Warriors miss Klay Thompson despite Stephen Curry going off
With Klay Thompson ruled out due to illness, Alfonzo McKinnie made his made his first NBA start Thursday night. All things considered he performed well, making all five of his shots from the field and finishing with 11 points and four rebounds in 27 minutes. The issue for Golden State was that outside of Stephen Curry none of their other remaining stars could hit a three-pointer. Curry shot 10-of-18 from three and finished the game with 41 points (14-of-27 FGs, 3-of-4 FTs), six assists, four rebounds and one steal. The remaining Warriors combined to shoot 1-of-19 from beyond the arc, with Kevin Durant going 1-of-8.
Durant made up for that by shooting 10-of-16 from two on his way to a 25-point night, but DeMarcus Cousins (seven points, six rebounds, six assists, three steals and one blocked shot) and Draymond Green (four points, 10 assists, eight rebounds, four steals and three blocks) struggled to get much going offensively. And with Philadelphia getting star-quality efforts from Simmons and Embiid, this proved to be too much to overcome despite solid contributions from McKinnie and Kevon Looney (14 points, five rebounds, two steals, two blocks). This was a second straight quality performance from Looney, who accounted for 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal and one blocked shot in Monday’s win over the Pacers.
Lou Williams puts together efficient 24-point performance
In Monday’s loss to the Hawks, Clippers guard Lou Williams scored 21 points but did so due in large part to the fact that he shot 12-of-12 from the foul line. In that game the NBA’s top bench scorer was just 4-of-17 from the field, and in the two games prior to Thursday’s matchup with the Lakers he was a combined 6-of-33 from the field. The Clippers didn’t get the win, but the team did see Williams get back on track, as he scored 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting from the field to go along with six assists, three rebounds, three steals, two 3-pointers and just one turnover in 38 minutes. The negative for Williams was the fact that he was just 2-of-5 from the foul line, and as a team the Clippers were just 14-of-26 from the foul line. By comparison the Lakers, one of the NBA’s worst at the charity stripe, shot 28-of-35.
Patrick Beverley added 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals, one blocked shot and five 3-pointers, Tobias Harris scored 15 with eight rebounds, eight assists and one block, and Avery Bradley finished with 13 points, eight rebounds, two steals, one assist, one blocked shots and two 3-pointers. Bradley left the game during the second half due to a strained right quad but was able to return for action. The Clippers also received solid bench contributions from Montrezl Harrell (15 points, eight rebounds, two blocks, one steal) and Boban Marjanovic (11 points, five rebounds, one assist).
D.J. Wilson establishes new career-high in Bucks win
While the focus for many NBA fans Thursday was the trade market, the schedule was headlined by a matchup of the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee accomplished a lot in its 105-92 win over Toronto, as the Bucks clinched the All-Star head coaching gig for Mike Budenholzer (he’ll be leading Team Giannis) and wrapped up the season series between the two teams. The Bucks got past the Raptors with a balanced attack, with All-Stars Giannis Antetokounmpo (nine rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks) and Khris Middleton (six rebounds, four assists and two steals) leading seven double-digit scorers with 19 and 18 points, respectively. But the eye-opener for Milwaukee had to be second-year forward D.J. Wilson, who established a new career high point total.
In 22 minutes Wilson scored 16 points, shooting 6-of-10 from the field and 1-of-1 from the foul line, with five rebounds, two steals, one assist, one blocked shot and three 3-pointers. In his six games prior the reserve forward scored a total of 17 points. Thursday’s effort is unlikely to prompt a rush of fantasy players adding Wilson to their rosters, and due to his lack of consistency caution should be exercised here. But there’s no denying the fact that he had a good night in Toronto, with the Bucks hoping that this effort serves as a spark for him.
Pascal Siakam has a good night in defeat
Raptors forward Pascal Siakam may not have received the All-Star nod that some felt he deserved, but the third-year forward remains one of the top candidates for the league’s Most Improved Player award. And he had one of his best offensive performances of the season in Thursday’s loss to the Bucks, scoring 28 points (12-of-19 FGs, 2-of-3 FTs) with three rebounds, three assists, one steal and two 3-pointers in 38 minutes. Over his last five Siakam’s averaging 19.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 50.7% from the field, 43.8% from three and 93.8% from the foul line. The three-point shooting has been the biggest difference for him, as he’s just a 32.4% shooter from three for the season. If Siakam’s able to develop into a consistent perimeter shooter he’d been an even better complement to Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry that he already is.
Both Leonard and Lowry had relatively quiet nights offensively, with the former scoring 16 points on 7-of-20 shooting from the field and the latter scoring 10 points and dishing out three assists. And if you take away Siakam’s 2-of-3 night from beyond the arc, Toronto’s other four starters combined to shoot just 1-of-14 from three on the night.
Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin feat on shorthanded Mavs
Thursday was a busy day for the Dallas Mavericks, as the team made a trade with the Knicks that sent Wesley Matthews, DeAndre Jordan and Dennis Smith Jr. (and two draft picks) to New York in exchange for Kristaps Porzingis, Tim Hardaway Jr., Trey Burke and Courtney Lee. As a result of that trade and rookie Luka Doncic being ruled out due to a sore left ankle, Dallas was a bit shorthanded in Detroit. That worked to the advantage of Pistons bigs Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, who both posted double-doubles in Detroit’s 93-89 victory. While Griffin didn’t have his best night shooting the basketball, going 8-of-28 from the field, he managed to score 24 points (6-of-8 FTs) with 10 rebounds, six assists, one steal and two 3-pointers in 39 minutes of play. Over his last two games the All-Star forward is a combined 14-of-42 from field, maybe coming back to earth just a little bit after shooting 50% or better in four straight games (and scoring no fewer than 29 points in any of those outings).
As for Drummond the 7-footer had no such issues with his shot, as he scored 24 points on 11-of-13 shooting (2-of-2 FTs) with 20 rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot in 37 minutes with 12 of those points being scored in the fourth quarter. Having posted a double-double in each of his last three games, the seventh-year center now has eight 20/20 games this season. Reggie Jackson added 17 points, nine assists, seven rebounds, one steal and one three-pointer, and Langston Galloway scored 11 points off the bench to help account for the fact that Reggie Bullock and Bruce Brown combined to score four points on 1-of-11 shooting from the field.
Harrison Barnes scores 27 points in losing effort
With Dallas having a depleted lineup for Thursday’s game in Detroit, Harrison Barnes was well-positioned to be a beneficiary with regards to his individual stats. And in a starting lineup in which no other Maverick scored in double figures, Barnes put up a season-high 24 field goals (making ten) and finished the night with 27 points (5-of-5 FTs), seven rebounds, four assists and two 3-pointers in 39 minutes. Barnes hasn’t shot the ball particularly well of late, making 40.8% of his field goal and 25.0% of his three-point attempts over the last three games, but during that stretch he’s averaging 20.0 points per game.
Barnes is due to impacted by the arrivals of the newest Mavericks, as he’s unlikely to get 24 field goal attempts in a game on a consistent basis. There’s also the return of Doncic to take into consideration, especially with the departure of Dennis Smith Jr., as the rookie already boasted a team-high usage of 27.7%. Dallas’ other four starters combined to score a total of 23 points Thursday night, with reserves Devin Harris (15 points, four rebounds, three assists, one three-pointer) and Dwight Powell (ten points, five rebounds, two blocks, one assist and one steal) helping to keep the team afloat. Also, Dirk Nowitzki (seven points, two rebounds, one three-pointer) played in both ends of a back-to-back for the first time this season.
Terrence Ross lights up the Pacers for 30 points
In Orlando the selection of center Nikola Vucevic as an All-Star reserve was celebrated with a 107-100 win over the Pacers, with veteran wing Terrence Ross being the star. In 27 minutes he scored 30 points, shooting 11-of-18 from the field, 3-of-3 from the foul line and 5-of-8 from three while also accounting for four rebounds and three steals. The point total is a season-high for Ross, who aver his last five is averaging 17.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 3.2 three-pointers per game. Ross can be a tough player for some to roster in fantasy leagues, given the fact that he generally doesn’t provide much outside of points and three-pointers, but he has managed to grab four rebounds or more in five of his last six games. That it’s much, but it is better than what he tends to produce (3.3 rpg) in that statistical category.
Vucevic added 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, with D.J. Augustin scoring 20 points with three rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers, and Jonathan Isaac posted his second career double-double with 13 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots. The rebounds are a career-high for the second-year forward, who’s averaging 11.0 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.4 assists per over his last five games. Isaac hasn’t shot the ball well (40.0% FGs over the last five) but he is hitting the boards at a higher level than he has for most of this season.
Myles Turner scores career-high 27 in loss
With Victor Oladipo out for the remainder of the season, the Pacers need other options to step forward if the team’s to end its current losing streak. While he doesn’t play the same position as Oladipo, center Myles Turner is at the top of that list. And in Thursday’s loss to the Magic the big man had his best offensive game as a pro, scoring a career-high 27 points (10-of-16 FGs, 6-of-6 FTs) with seven rebounds, one assist, one steal and one three-pointer. To say the least this was a nice bounce-back performance for Turner, who scored just nine points in Wednesday’s loss to the Wizards in Washington. Prior to Thursday Turner, who missed four games in early January due to injury, last scored at least 20 points in a game on New Year’s Eve. While he’s shooting better than 50% from the field and from three in January, the fourth-year pivot is averaging just 11.4 points per game this month. The All-Star break is only two weeks away, and the Pacers will need more performances like the one Turner put forth Thursday night as the fight for a playoff spot intensifies.
Bojan Bogdanovic added 21 points, four rebounds, two assists and one three-pointer, and Thaddeus Young (16 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals) and Darren Collison (16 points, 10 assists, four rebounds, one steal and one three-pointer) both posted double-doubles. But it wasn’t enough to prevent the Pacers from losing their fourth straight game, and the team also has another injury to deal with as Doug McDermott had to leave in the fourth quarter due to a rib injury. Indiana is also without Tyreke Evans, who’s been out of the lineup due to a lower back injury.
Derrick White scores career-high 26 points
San Antonio’s 117-114 over Brooklyn did not lack for drama, be it the tight nature of this game of the fact that bats flew around the AT&T Center court during the first half. DeMar DeRozan posted a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds, four assists) in his return to the lineup, and LaMarcus Aldridge celebrated his All-Star selection with a double-double of his own (20 points, 13 rebounds, two assists) for the Spurs. But the star for the home team was guard Derrick White, who led the way with a career-high 26 points to go along with six assists, three rebounds, two blocked shots, one steal and three 3-pointers in 25 minutes of action. White, who’s reached double figures in four consecutive games, is averaging 16.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.6 per over his last five. During this stretch the second-year guard boasts solid shooting splits as well, as he’s making 58.5% of his shots from the field, 45.5% from three and 85.0% of his free throws.
D’Angelo Russell fills stat sheet
Nets guard D’Angelo Russell wasn’t one of the seven Eastern Conference players selected to be reserves in the All-Star Game, but there’s still a chance that he could go as an injury replacement is needed for Victor Oladipo. The point guard had a solid Thursday night in San Antonio, scoring 25 points (10-of-26 FGs, 3-of-4 FTs) with nine assists, five rebounds, one steal, one blocked shot and two 3-pointers in 33 minutes. Russell’s certainly had better nights shooting the basketball, but he’s now scored 25 points or more in six of his last seven games. For the month of January he averaged 23.7 points, 7.1 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 48.9% from the field, 42.0% from three and 86.7% from the foul line.
Will Russell be Adam Silver’s choice when the time comes to fill Oladipo’s spot on the All-Star team? We’ll have to wait and see, but there’s no denying that the point guard has done enough to make himself part of the conversation.
Friday’s Schedule (all times Eastern)
Memphis at Charlotte, 7 PM
Boston at New York, 7:30 PM
Oklahoma City at Miami, 8 PM
Atlanta at Utah, 9 PM
Houston at Denver, 10 PM