Harden, Westbrook lift off in Houston

Raphielle Johnson

There were five games on the schedule Tuesday, headlined by the Clippers’ visit to Philadelphia and the Rockets hosting Boston. Both games lived up to the expectations, with the 76ers making a noteworthy change to their rotation and Russell Westbrook and James Harden combining to score 78 points to lead Houston to an 11-point win. Zion Williamson, Bradley Beal and Zach LaVine were among the other standouts Tuesday. 

Wizards 126, Bulls 114 — Not only did the Wizards pick up a win Tuesday night, with Bradley Beal scoring 30 points with four rebounds, seven assists, one steal and three 3-pointers, but they also received some good news regarding Thomas Bryant (foot). His re-evaluation went “great” according to Scott Brooks, and he could be back for Washington’s first game after the All-Star break. In his absence Rui Hachimura has stepped up, posting a line of 20 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks in 32 minutes. The rookie forward won’t lack for opportunities after the break, especially if the Wizards can’t get back into the race for a playoff spot. Ish Smith dished out nine assists to go along with 10 points, five rebounds, one steal, one block and two 3-pointers, while Shabazz Napier chipped in with 15 points, two rebounds, two assists, one steal and three 3-pointers in 19 minutes off the bench. 

Napier played better than he did in his Wizards debut, he did turn the ball over five times on the night. He has value in deeper leagues since the Wizards only have two point guards, but Napier isn’t a must-have since Washington can occasionally use Beal to initiate the offense. Troy Brown Jr. missed all five of his shots from the field, scoring two points, but he did account for four rebounds, three assists and five steals. He’s in the same category as Hachimura: already part of the rotation, and he should have even more opportunities to shine after the break. 

Zach LaVine went off for the Bulls, scoring 41 points (15-of-21 FGs, 3-of-4 FTs) with nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and eight 3-pointers. A high-level scorer on a bad team that lacks consistent offensive options? Sign me up, especially with the Bulls being the only team in the NBA that will play three games the week following the All-Star break. Tomas Satoransky, whose versatility preserves his fantasy value, added 19 points, two rebounds, eight assists and two 3-pointers, with Coby White (14/5/7/4 with two 3-pointers) and Thaddeus Young (10/5/1/1/2 with two 3-pointers) also scoring in double figures. 

Neither Daniel Gafford (right ankle) nor Denzel Valentine (left hamstring) played, with the former being a DNP-CD. Jim Boylen wasn’t too clear on Gafford’s place in the rotation when asked following the game, saying that it was a combination of things (including the ankle) that led to his not using the rookie center. But Gafford said that he's been a full participant in practice, so who knows what the deal is. Luke Kornet (eight points and seven rebounds) still has value for as long as Gafford isn't played and Wendell Carter Jr. (ankle) remains sidelined. One has to think that the Bulls will look to get Gafford and Carter the majority of the minutes in the frontcourt and Kornet’s fantasy value would take a major hit when that time comes. That being said, it is anyone’s guess what Boylen will do with his rotation on a nightly basis, as Cristiano Felicio is apparently ahead of Gafford in the pecking order right now. 

76ers 110, Clippers 103 — Philadelphia made a significant change to its starting lineup for this one, with Furkan Korkmaz replacing Al Horford. Horford, who had not come off the bench since his rookie season, played 28 minutes with only eight (all in the second half) alongside Joel Embiid. Horford finished with nine points, six rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one three-pointer, not a prolific line by any stretch of the imagination, but he can serve as an anchor for that second unit moving forward. As for Korkmaz he had a tough night, shooting 0-of-5 from the field and going scoreless with one rebound and one steal after scoring 30+ in each of the two games prior. 

Embiid (nine rebounds, two assists, one block and two 3-pointers), who had to deal with some early foul trouble, and Ben Simmons (12 rebounds, 10 assists and one steal) led the way with 26 points apiece, while Josh Richardson (five rebounds, one assist, two blocks and three 3-pointers) added 21 and Tobias Harris (12 rebounds, five assists and one three-pointer) 17.  Alec Burks made his Sixers debut, playing 14 minutes and finishing with two points and two assists. Mike Scott took the biggest hit, as he played just five minutes while Matisse Thybulle played 16 and Glenn Robinson III 12. Scott was already off the fantasy radar, and Horford’s move to the second unit combined with the deadline additions doesn’t help matters. 

To counter Embiid, Doc Rivers did his best to match Ivica Zubac’s minutes with those of the 76ers all-star. Zubac would play 20 minutes, finishing with seven points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Across the board he was slightly more productive than Montrezl Harrell, who played 24 minutes and tallied 10 points, six rebounds and one assist. Kawhi Leonard, returning to the lineup after sitting out Sunday’s game, pumped in 30 points to go along with four rebounds, nine assists, one steal, two blocks and three 3-pointers. His return moved Landry Shamet back to the bench, and he tallied 19 points, one rebound and five 3-pointers. In six games this month, Shamet’s averaging 11.7 points, 2.5 assists and 2.8 three-pointers per game. 

The eventual return of Patrick Beverley (groin) will cut into Shamet’s value, as it would push Lou Williams back to the bench, but not by a significant amount. Williams shot 5-of-15 from the field, scoring 13 points to go along with two rebounds, six assists, one steal and two 3-pointers in 36 minutes. Paul George had an especially rough night, shooting 3-of-15 and finishing with 11 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, one block and one three-pointer. Thursday’s matchup with Boston will be a difficult one, but I expect George to bounce back. Marcus Morris, playing in his hometown, accounted for 13 points, five rebounds, one assist, one block and three 3-pointers. He’s the only non-Harrell power forward worth considering (Morris should be rostered, to be clear) in any league, as JaMychal Green went scoreless in 12 minutes and Patrick Patterson was a DNP-CD. 

Pelicans 138, Blazers 117Zion Williamson had another big night, shooting 10-of-17 from the field and 11-of-14 from the foul line and finishing with 31 points, nine rebounds, five assists and one steal in 28 minutes. The last time a rookie scored 20 points or more in seven of his first nine games was back during the 1986-87 season (Ron Harper) according to StatMuse. Over the last week he’s provided fifth-round value in nine-cat and third-round value in eight-cat, with turnovers being the reason for the disparity (3.5 tpg). Williamson finished Tuesday’s win with two, the fewest he’s had in a game since the January 31 win over the Grizzlies (one). 

Josh Hart (17/6/3/1 with two 3-pointers in place of the injured Brandon Ingram) and Jrue Holiday (16/4/10/2/2 with one three-pointer) both posted solid stat lines, with the latter also doing a good job of defending Damian Lillard, and Lonzo Ball finished with nine points, six rebounds, 10 assists, one steal, one block and one three-pointer. While J.J. Redick (20/2/2 with four 3-pointers) and Nicolo Melli (10/9/3 with one block and two 3-pointers) having solid nights off the bench shouldn’t come as a surprise, Frank Jackson gave the Pelicans good minutes for the second straight game. Jackson played 23 minutes, scoring 13 points with two rebounds, five assists and three 3-pointers. Ingram’s absence freed up additional minutes, and to Jackson’s credit he’s taken advantage. If Ingram doesn’t play Thursday, Jackson could be worth a short-term look in deeper leagues. 

Lillard (five rebounds, six assists) and C.J. McCollum (one rebounds, three assists and four 3-pointers) scored 20 points apiece to lead the Blazers, with the former shooting 6-of-16 from the field and failing to make a three-pointer for the first time since December 23 against…New Orleans. Lillard didn’t shoot as poorly Tuesday night (0-of-4) as he did in that meeting, as he missed all 10 of his attempts from deep in an eight-point loss. Hassan Whiteside added 17 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and one blocked shot, while Carmelo Anthony accounted for 18 points, one rebound, one assist and one steal. 

Gary Trent Jr. struggled in his 27 minutes off the bench, shooting 2-of-8 from the field and finishing with four points, while Wenyen Gabriel scored 12 points with two rebounds and one three-pointer in 14 minutes. A good night for Gabriel, but not enough to propel him past either Trent of Anfernee Simons (9/2/4 with one three-pointer) when assessing the fantasy value of the Blazers’ reserves. Trevor Ariza made all three of his shot attempts, posting a line of seven points, three rebounds, one assist, three steals and one block. Of course you’d like to see him scoring in double figures on a consistent basis, but the defensive production (sixth-round value in nine-cat over the last two weeks) makes him a worthwhile play in most leagues.  

Spurs 114, Thunder 106 — With DeMar DeRozan missing his second game in as many nights due to back spasms Lonnie Walker made another start, and unfortunately he wasn’t all that productive. Walker played 25 minutes, finishing with six points, four rebounds and three steals. The steals are certainly welcomed by anyone who picked up the second-year guard, however. With DeRozan out it was Dejounte Murray who took on the role of perimeter scorer, as he posted a line of 25 points (season-high), nine rebounds, three assists, one steal and one three-pointer in 27 minutes. LaMarcus Aldridge also scored 25 points, while also accounting for 14 rebounds, three assists, one steal and one blocked shot. Since scoring seven points in a February 4 loss to the Lakers he’s scored 20 or more in three of San Antonio’s last four. 

Just as important as the contributions of Murray and Aldridge were those of Patty Mills and Derrick White, with the former scoring 20 points with three 3-pointers and the latter 17 points, four rebounds, eight assists, one steal, one block and one three-pointer. Mills is the pick for those who simply need points and threes, while Walker is the better option for those hoping for more well-rounded stat lines. Trey Lyles finished with eight points, five rebounds, one assist, one steal and a season-high four blocks in 31 minutes, and over the last two weeks he’s been a 10th-round player in nine-cat. One could argue that the All-Star break is coming at the wrong time for Lyles, who’s currently rostered in just two percent of Yahoo leagues. What makes pulling the trigger on him difficult is the fact that he hasn’t consistently put up defensive numbers, but Lyles is averaging 0.9 blocks and 0.7 steals per game in February (seven games). 

Chris Paul continues to let people know that he’s still got it, as he dropped a season-high 31 points (12-of-18 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs) to go along with two rebounds, seven assists, one steal, one block and five 3-pointers in 34 minutes. He’ll be playing in Sunday’s All-Star Game, and rightfully so. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (17/5/2/1 with two 3-pointers), Dennis Schroder (14 points, three assists and one three-pointer) and Steven Adams (10/10/2/4/1) also scored in double figures, while Danilo Gallinari salvaged a rough shooting night (4-of-16 FGs) by supplementing his 15 points with eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and two 3-pointers. 

Meanwhile Luguentz Dort shout 2-of-5 from the field, finishing with four points and two rebounds in 21 minutes. Like Terrance Ferguson before him, the rookie’s role as Oklahoma City’s fifth starter is more about defense than scoring. But in the five games since he scored a career-high 23 in a win over the Kings, Dort has tallied a total of 21 points. Abdel Nader contributed eight points, four rebounds and one steal in 16 minutes off the bench, and he may be the one most likely to benefit from Darius Bazley being lost for 4-6 weeks due to a bone bruise in his knee. But that isn’t enough to justify adding Nader in any league right now. 

Rockets 116, Celtics 105 — This game was fun to watch, with the Rockets tandem of James Harden and Russell Westbrook leading the way. Harden posted a stat line of 42 points (9-of-19 FGs, 17-of-18 FTs), eight rebounds, seven assists, one steal, one block and seven 3-pointers, with Westbrook adding 36 (13-of-23 FGs, 10-of-13 FTs), 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals. There are still questions as to whether or not the Rockets will look to add a big via the buyout market between now and the playoffs, as some cover will be needed for certain matchups. But the spread look has opened things up for Houston’s two best offensive weapons, and those who have Harden and Westbrook rostered have benefitted greatly. If there’s a concern it’s the left thumb of Westbrook, which he appeared to re-injure during the second quarter. He refused any medical attention at the time, however. 

Danuel House (17/9/1 with three 3-pointers) and Robert Covington (12/7/3/3/4 with two 3-pointers) also scored in double figures, with the latter racking up a combined seven steals/blocks. Covington was already well-respected for his ability as a defender, but his fit in Houston’s system is perfect. For those who are looking to pull off a trade for him in order to fortify their fantasy rosters for the stretch run, be prepared to pay a high price. P.J. Tucker had a quiet night, scoring four points with six rebounds and two steals in 36 minutes. 

Boston finished the game with six double-digit scorers, led by Gordon Hayward (20/8/6 with one block and two 3-pointers). Jayson Tatum shot just 5-of-15 from the field (0-of-7 3-pointers), but fantasy-wise his stat line of 15 points, nine rebounds, four assists, four steals and one block is one that you’ll take when a player of his caliber struggles to make shots. Jaylen Brown (19/3/1/1/1 with four 3-pointers), Kemba Walker (14/4/4/1 with one three-pointer) and Daniel Theis (11/9/1/1) also scored in double figures, as did reserve Brad Wanamaker (11/1/3/2 with one three-pointer). 

The Celtics essentially went with a seven-man rotation in order to match up with the Rockets, with Wanamaker playing 20 minutes and Marcus Smart (8/5/4/1/1 with two 3-pointers) 30 off the bench. Enes Kanter, whose defensive issues have been acknowledged for quite some time, played just eight minutes and went scoreless with three rebounds. Houston isn’t a good matchup for him, so it comes as no surprise that Kanter was on the outside looking in Tuesday night. 

Wednesday’s Schedule (all times Eastern) 

Atlanta at Cleveland, 7 PM 

Detroit at Orlando, 7 PM 

Washington at New York, 7:30 PM 

Milwaukee at Indiana, 7:30 PM 

Toronto at Brooklyn, 7:30 PM 

Portland at Memphis, 8 PM 

Charlotte at Minnesota, 8 PM 

Sacramento at Dallas, 8:30 PM 

Miami at Utah, 9 PM 

Golden State at Phoenix, 9 PM 

LA Lakers at Denver, 10 PM 

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