The word of the day on Friday: injuries. Before the action started it was announced that Trail Blazers forward Zach Collins would miss the remainder of the season due to a stress fracture in his ankle, robbing Portland of a key member of its rotation. Wenyen Gabriel will likely remain in the starting lineup because the only other option would be to start Hassan Whiteside, which would leave the second unit at a major disadvantage.
And towards the end of the night Luka Doncic went down with a sprained left ankle in the third quarter, ultimately leaving the game for good in the fourth after returning briefly at the start of the period. While the All-Star guard became the fourth player aged 21 years or younger to post a triple-double in a playoff game, there’s concern that he may miss Sunday’s Game 4. Doncic will undergo an MRI on Saturday, and at that point a lot more will be known about his status moving forward. Below is a look at Friday’s games, with Toronto and Boston taking commanding 3-0 leads in their respective series.
Raptors 117, Nets 92 (Toronto leads, 3-0)
Brooklyn was forced to make a change to its starting lineup due to Joe Harris needing to leave the bubble to attend to a family matter, with Tyler Johnson filling the resulting void. And thanks to a third quarter explosion in which he scored 15 points Johnson had a solid game, scoring 23 points with one rebound, three assists and five 3-pointers in just 24 minutes. But the other starters struggled, with Jarrett Allen grabbing 17 rebounds but not attempting a single field goal (four points, all on free throws). Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot shot 3-of-18 from the field and Garrett Temple 2-of-12, while Caris LeVert wasn't much better at 6-of-14. Brooklyn’s lack of firepower has been problematic, as Toronto can focus its defensive efforts on the tandem of LeVert and Allen.
Chris Chiozza scored 14 points with one rebound, three assists, four steals and three 3-pointers in 23 minutes off the bench. Brooklyn continues to give what it can from an effort standpoint, but the lack of firepower has been a major issue in this series as many expected. Allen and LeVert are still worth using in Sunday’s lineups, and Johnson is worth taking a flier on since he’s in a position where he has to put up shots. But that may be the last time that fantasy players get to consider them this season.
Pascal Siakam (26/8/5/1 with two 3-pointers), Fred VanVleet (22/5/5/1 with six 3-pointers) and Serge Ibaka (20/13/2/1 with three 3-pointers) all scored at least 20 points on the day, with Ibaka more than making up for Marc Gasol shooting 1-of-7 from the field and scoring three points. Gasol did also account for five rebounds, six assists and two blocked shots in his 21 minutes, but his value within the Raptors rotation far exceeds what he brings to the table fantasy-wise. Ibaka is the better choice between the Raptors’ two centers.
Kyle Lowry (11/10/7/3/1 with two 3-pointers) and Norman Powell (11/4/2 with two 3-pointers) also scored in double figures for the reigning champions, who rolled with an eight-man rotation on Friday with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (knee) sidelined. Ibaka, Powell and Terence Davis were the three reserves that hit double digits in minutes, with the others getting their run once the game was no longer in doubt.
Jazz 124, Nuggets 87 (Utah leads, 2-1)
Mike Conley was out of quarantine and back in the starting lineup, moving Juwan Morgan back to the bench. And Conley had himself a day, hitting a playoff career-high seven 3-pointers and posting a line of 27 points, four assists and one steal in 25 minutes. Three Jazz starters scored at least 20 points, with Rudy Gobert (24/14/1 steal) dominating his matchup with Nikola Jokic and Donovan Mitchell (20/4/1/1/1 with two 3-pointers) filling the stat sheet. The player most impacted by Conley’s return is Joe Ingles, who isn’t under as much pressure to score. He attempted just two shots from the field, missing both, but led the Jazz with eight assists. Deeper in the playoffs, should Utah advance, there will be a need for more scoring from Ingles but that was not the case in Friday’s blowout win.
Going back to Morgan, the return to the bench does not mean that he is completely out of the rotation. He played 22 minutes Friday, finishing with one point, four rebounds, three assists and one steal. Morgan doesn’t offer much from a fantasy standpoint, but for this series at least he is a part of Quin Snyder’s game plan. Jordan Clarkson (11/3/4/2 with one 3-pointer) and Georges Niang (16 points, two rebounds and four 3-pointers) are also consistent rotation players, with the former being the top fantasy option in most games. That could change if Niang were to consistently scoring in double figures, but his 16 points Friday were two more than his tally in the first two games of this series combined. I’m taking the wait and see approach with Niang for that reason.
There’s no way to sugarcoat this; for as well as Utah played, Denver was brutal. Nikola Jokic (15/5/6/1 block with two 3-pointers) and Jamal Murray (12/5/6/1/1 with two 3-pointers) shot a combined 11-of-29 from the field, but they were the only starters to score in double figures. And even with the poor shooting, at least those two managed to produce some in other statistical categories. Denver’s third double-digit scorer: Bol Bol (11/2/1 steal and one 3-pointer in nine minutes), which shows how bad things were.
The last two games have shown just how much the Nuggets miss Will Barton (knee) and Gary Harris (hip). Mike Malone said before Friday’s game that Harris is making progress, but it remains unknown if he’ll be able to play on Sunday. And even if he can play, how much can Harris truly give Denver seeing as he did not play in any of the scrimmages or seeding games? Denver essentially goes nine deep on most nights, with Monte Morris, Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee and P.J. Dozier being the preferred options off the bench, with Grant and Morris being the best fantasy options for owners looking for low-cost options.
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Celtics 102, 76ers 94 (Boston leads, 3-0)
After starting the ineffective Matisse Thybulle in the first two games of the series Brett Brown made a change with offensive in mind, going with Al Horford instead. What Brown and the 76ers got was a rough night offensively, as the team shot 29.5 percent from the field and Horford accounted for just six points (1-of-5 FGs, 4-of-6 FTs), 10 rebounds, one steal and two blocked shots in 38 minutes. One cannot justify using Horford in any fantasy format, whether he starts or comes off the bench, right now. Through three games he’s scored a total of 16 points. Sure the rebounds and defensive stats are nice, but without the points Horford doesn’t offer much in the way of value in either fantasy leagues or his own depleted roster.
As for Thybulle he essentially dropped out of the rotation, playing just nine minutes. Off the bench Alec Burks played 22 minutes and Furkan Korkmaz 13, with the former accounting for nine points, three rebounds, two assists, one block and one 3-pointer. Joel Embiid (30/13/1/1/1 with two 3-pointers) did the majority of his damage at the foul line, where he was 14-of-16 (7-of-20 FGs). And Horford isn’t alone in his struggles either, as Tobias Harris shot 6-of-19 from the field. He finished with 15 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, one steal and one blocked shot, but with Ben Simmons (knee) done for the year he’s in a spot similar to Horford: more offense is needed. For the series, Harris is shooting 32.8 percent from the field and 0-of-10 from three. Simply put, that’s not going to get it done. Josh Richardson (17/3/3/2/2 with three 3-pointers) and Shake Milton (17/6/3/1 with three 3-pointers) also scored in double figures for the 76ers, who are now one loss away from heading home.
After shooting 1-of-10 from three in Games 1 and 2 Kemba Walker showed signs of snapping out of that slump in Game 3, as he made his first two attempts on the night. He finished 3-of-8 from three, but we’ll certainly take the overall line of 24 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and one blocked shot in 35 minutes. Jaylen Brown (21/7/3 with one 3-pointer) and Marcus Smart (14/8/3/3) also played well, while Jayson Tatum (15/6/1 steal/4 blocks and two 3-pointers) rebounded from early foul trouble to make some key plays down the stretch.
Brad Stevens made good use of his bench in this one, as ten players were used for at least 11 minutes. Brad Wanamaker (5/4/3/1 with one 3-pointer), Enes Kanter (six points and six rebounds) and Grant Williams (7/1/1/1 block with one 3-pointer) were the most active of the reserves, with Romeo Langford and Semi Ojeleye getting the call to help deal with Philadelphia’s decision to go smaller for significant stretches.
Clippers 130, Mavericks 122 (Los Angeles leads, 2-1)
Injuries were the storyline in this one, beginning with Patrick Beverley (calf) missing his second straight game and ending with the aforementioned Doncic (13/10/10/1/1 with one 3-pointer in 29 minutes) having to depart during the fourth quarter. Beverley’s absence did not mean another start for Reggie Jackson however, as Doc Rivers went with Landry Shamet instead. And Shamet came through with 18 points, three rebounds, one steal, one block and three 3-pointers in 27 minutes. Jackson wasn’t particularly effective coming off the bench, scoring six points with one rebound and two 3-pointers in 17 minutes.
Kawhi Leonard (36/9/8/2/1 with one 3-pointer in 39 minutes) did what he usually does this time of year, while Marcus Morris (14/8/3 with four 3-pointers) and Ivica Zubac (15 points, six rebounds and one blocked shot) also played well. But Paul George may be a bit of a concern, after he followed up his post-Game 2 social media post with a 3-of-16 night from the field. He finished with a line of 11 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, two steals and one 3-pointer, with those supplementary stats salvaging something for those who rostered him.
But after scoring 27 points in the series opener, over the last two games George has shot a combined 7-of-23 from the field overall and 3-of-18 from beyond the arc. To George’s credit he has contributed in other areas, but it would be nice to see him get back into a groove offensively. Montrezl Harrell (13/2/1 block in 18 minutes) and Lou Williams (10/4/5 with two 3-pointers) also scored in double figures, which along with the work of the other starters helped cover for George’s off night.
For the Mavericks, Doncic’s injury was the major storyline but Kristaps Porzingis was very good. He shot 11-of-18 from the field and 7-of-7 from the foul line, finishing with a line of 34 points, 13 rebounds, one assist, one block and five 3-pointers in 38 minutes. For the series Porzingis is averaging 23.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 3.0 3-pointers per game, while shooting 49.4 percent from the field, 51.9 percent from three and 87.5 percent from the foul line. I’d roster him every game, although for Game 4 it may be worthwhile to hold off until Doncic’s status is known. With Luka out late the Clippers used Kawhi Leonard on Porzingis, and that approach appeared to be a successful one.
Tim Hardaway Jr. (22/6/2 with four 3-pointers) and Seth Curry (22/3 assists/1 steal with four 3-pointers) also surpassed the 20-point mark, while Dorian Finney-Smith (11/7/4/1 with one 3-pointer) and Trey Burke (10/3 assists/1 steal and two 3-pointers) scored in double figures. Burke is the player who stands to benefit the most should Doncic be ruled out for Sunday, and that would also push J.J. Barea back into the rotation. And with Sunday’s game being an afternoon tip, Luka won’t have a full 48 hours to get treatment on his injured ankle.