Thursday was a rough night to be an NBA fan, as a three-game schedule resulted in three blowouts that were fairly boring to watch. The Celtics spanked the Knicks, the Blazers routed the Suns, and the Jazz destroyed the Rockets despite an early Rudy Gobert ejection and an off night by Donovan Mitchell. Follow me on Twitter right here!
Celtics 128, Knicks 100 – The Celtics welcomed back Jaylen Brown, who came off the bench after missing three games with a back injury, and he hit 7-of-10 shots for 21 points, three rebounds and two assists in 25 minutes. It looks like he’s fine, but we’ll have to wait and see if he’s going to reclaim his starting job from Marcus Smart. Smart hit just 2-of-8 shots for four points, but did have a couple boards, seven assists and two steals, and could hold onto the job. Brown’s a low-end hold and Smart’s a low-end add, especially if he can hang onto the starting gig.
Al Horford had a nice game with 19 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks on 8-of-12 shooting, while Kyrie Irving added 22 points, four boards, eight assists, a block and three 3-pointers on 9-of-15 shooting. It’s too bad they can’t face the Knicks every night. Jayson Tatum was solid with 17 points, five boards, two steals and three 3-pointers on 7-of-11 shooting, Terry Rozier came off the bench for 11 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals, a block and three 3-pointers, and it was nice to see Rozier, Smart and Brown all eating, despite the crowd. But it’s going to be hard for all three of them to produce sufficiently on a nightly basis as long as everyone’s healthy. Gordon Hayward continued his disappointing ways with eight points on 2-of-6 shooting, but did at least chip in with a couple 3-pointers, six rebounds and four assists. If you feel like you need to cut Hayward, I don’t necessarily hate the idea, and I’m just thankful I stayed away from him this year. Aron Baynes exited after just two minutes with a sprained ankle and didn’t return, leaving him day-to-day, which is part of the reason that Daniel Theis got loose for 10 points and three boards in 17 minutes.
The Knicks gave Emmanuel Mudiay another start and he hit just 5-of-15 shots, but hit a couple 3-pointers and came through with 17 points, two rebounds, six assists and a block. He’ll take a hit once Trey Burke is back from his knee injury, but with Mudiay starting and playing well, and Frank Ntilikina currently out of the rotation, Mudiay might be able to keep it going for another week or two. He’s averaging 20.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 5.7 assists and 2.7 3-pointers over his last three games. Tim Hardaway Jr. hit 7-of-19 shots and six triples to lead the way for the Knicks with 22 points, and added a couple assists and a steal to his line. Enes Kanter double-doubled in another start, as did Noah Vonleh, and both guys should be owned in almost all leagues right now.
Mario Hezonja started again, but hit just 1-of-4 shots for three points, three boards and two assists, and has scored in single digits in four of his last five games, while hitting just 39 percent of his shots. Kevin Knox hit just 4-of-12 shots and two 3-pointers for 11 points, four rebounds and two assists, and has really calmed down after his 26-point explosion last Saturday. But despite his struggles, it still feels like he’s going to figure it out and start producing, and the Knicks have no reason not to keep running him out there. Mitchell Robinson played 21 minutes and had seven points, eight boards and two blocks in 21 minutes. Stash him, but don’t expect much from him in the short term, especially with Kanter starting again. Damyean Dotson was one of the disappointments of the night, but he did play 20 minutes. He just couldn’t get his shot to fall, hitting 2-of-11 of them and finishing with five points, three rebounds and a steal. He was 0-for-6 from downtown, but I’m willing to give him another chance. He had scored between 17 and 21 points in his previous four games, and was hitting 3-pointers and grabbing steals in those. Hopefully, he bounces back against the Nets on Saturday, and the Hornets on Sunday. The odds are in his favor. Allonzo Trier has really cooled off and hit 2-of-5 shots for six points, two boards and two assists in 18 minutes, and I’d much rather roll with Dotson (or Mudiay, or Knox) than Trier right now.
Editor's Note: Looking for an edge when it comes to fantasy hoops? Our new NBA DFS Toolkit has a Lineup Optimizer, Customizable Projections, Next Man Up tool and more for FanDuel, DraftKings and Yahoo! And for season-long, the NBA Season Pass provides weekly projections, rankings, Pickups of the Day and more.
Blazers 108, Suns 86 – The Blazers racked up a 34-9 lead in the first quarter and Damian Lillard came out of the gates on all cylinders, essentially ending this game after just 12 minutes. Lillard finished with 25 points, five rebounds, eight assists, a steal, a block and three 3-pointers in just 28 minutes. Seth Curry started with C.J. McCollum out with an ankle injury, but hit just 1-of-6 shots for three points, a rebound, an assist, a block and a 3-pointer in just 17 minutes. The surprise of the night was Jake Layman, who hadn’t even played since November 23. Layman was on fire off the bench, hitting 10-of-13 shots and three 3-pointers for a season-high 24 points, seven rebounds and two steals, but only got this kind of run because A. he was on fire, B. McCollum was hurt, and C. the game was over after the first quarter. I tried to pick Layman up in my 30-team league, but was too late, and he’s simply a player to keep an eye on going forward in standard leagues. Lillard was the only starter to score in double figures, and Zach Collins was the only other Blazer to join him and Layman in that rare air with 10 points. The Suns are a joke and it’s almost impossible for us to learn anything in their games right now. They have been outscored 70-18 in their last two first quarters and McCollum is day-to-day with his injury. The Suns are the first team since 1954-55 to score fewer than 10 points in the first quarter of back-to-back games. Layman alone outscored them in the opening stanza.
For the Suns, Richaun Holmes started over Deandre Ayton, who reportedly wasn’t feeling well, but was quiet with just nine points and four rebounds in 21 minutes. He’s been hot, and is worth a look in most leagues if you need a big man, but didn’t do much last night. Then again, none of his teammates did, either. Troy Daniels was the high scorer off the bench with 15 points and two 3-pointers, Josh Jackson hit 6-of-14 shots for 14 points, seven boards, three assists, three steals and five turnovers, Elie Okobo, who was back in the starting five, had 11 points, five rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block and a 3-pointer in 28 minutes, and Ayton came off the bench for 11 points, eight boards, three assists, a steal and a block. I think the move to the bench was due to him being under the weather, so don’t panic if you own him.
Okobo got solid minutes and was decent, but the fact he’s been running the show the last two nights when they were blown out 70-18 in first quarters is a concern, even though he was guarding Seth Curry, who didn’t do anything. De’Anthony Melton, who went crazy on Tuesday, played 26 minutes, but hit just 3-of-12 shots (he started the game 0-for-7) for seven points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. These two are going to share minutes at point guard while Devin Booker (hamstring) is out, but Booker was able to go through the pre-game workout. Having said that, it does sound like Booker could miss more time. It’s hard to say what the Suns will do with Booker going forward, but it’s become pretty clear that if they want to continue to tank this effectively, having Okobo starting is the way to go. Melton is certainly worth a look in deeper leagues at this point, and Okobo is probably worth holding as long as he’s starting. But neither player is likely to win you a fantasy championship.
Mikal Bridges played 23 minutes and had seven points, a steal and a 3-pointer, but continues to struggle, despite getting run, and Jackson continues to be a 12-team option as long as T.J. Warren is out with his ankle injury. Bridges might be a big part of the reason the Suns have been so bad early, so you have to wonder if his starting run is coming to an end soon. Trevor Ariza is miserable in Phoenix and had just two points on 1-of-5 shooting. Daniels is worth watching after tonight’s line, but he’s going to be very hard to trust, and the Suns’ ship is sinking in both reality and fantasy. Right now, the only ones I’m somewhat comfortable starting in fantasy are Ayton and Jackson (while Warren is out), while Holmes, Okobo and Melton are at least worth a look. And things are so bad in Phoenix that even Dragan Bender got loose for a season-high eight points. Gross.
Jazz 120, Rockets 96 – Rudy Gobert was ejected after just three minutes after being called for a bogus foul on the opening tip, and then getting called on a James Harden flop. He slapped a water bottle on the scorer’s table on his way out, but the most that he’ll get is likely just another fine. And even without Gobert, the Jazz had no problems with the Rockets, as Thursday’s slate was tainted with three pretty boring blowouts. Jae Crowder started over Derrick Favors and had 12 points, five boards, two steals and a 3-pointer on 3-of-10 shooting, but Favors replaced Gobert at center and had a great game with a season-high 24 points, 10 rebounds, a steal and a block on 10-of-13 shooting. Don’t get too excited, as his line was directly tied to the ejection of Gobert. Joe Ingles was great with 18 points, six boards, three assists, two steals and four 3-pointers on 6-of-9 shooting, which was great to see. Make sure he’s not somehow available in your league, as his shooting slump is officially over.
Ricky Rubio had 13 points and six dimes, while Donovan Mitchell fizzled in his matchup against James Harden, hitting just 3-of-9 shots for six points, one rebound, two assists and two steals – yet the Jazz still blew out the Rockets. Dante Exum made some noise with 15 points, five assists and two steals in 22 minutes, but it was related to garbage time.
The Rockets have lost six of their last eight games and look like a mess right now, despite being pretty healthy. That’ll happen when James Harden is your leading scorer with a season-low 15 points, six rebounds, two assists and seven turnovers on 5-of-16 shooting. Clint Capela double-doubled and Chris Paul added 12 points and five assists, but starters P.J. Tucker and James Ennis combined to hit just 1-of-6 shots for two points, 10 rebounds and not much more. You can hold Ennis and Tucker if you want, and Tucker’s peripheral stats are particularly intriguing, but his low scoring is an issue for me. As for CP3, it’s starting to look like he’s lost a step and owners have to hope the Rockets start winning sooner than later. On a positive note, CP3 notched his 17,000th point, and is only 44 assists from joining Jason Kidd, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson and John Stockton as the only players to have 17,000 points, 9,000 assists and 4,000 rebounds in NBA history.
You know it was a bad night for Houston when Michael Carter-Williams was the second-leading scorer with 13 points, and the ancient Nene had 11 points and four boards in 13 minutes. I don’t know what Mike D’Antoni’s going to do here, but starting Tucker and Ennis isn’t working for him. Keep an eye on Gerald Green and Eric Gordon, who both scored eight points on 3-of-8 shooting, as one or both of them could be moving into the starting lineup at some point. The Rockets get the Mavericks on Saturday, but they look like the best team in Texas right now, winning 10 of their last 14 games.