While the Final Four was being whittled down to two, there were five NBA games played on Saturday as well. The tag-team of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul put on a show in L.A., Elfrid Payton recorded yet another triple-double, Dennis Schroder shined, and Jimmy Butler put the Bulls on his back to carry them to a much-needed victory.
All that and more, including a quick recap of pertinent injury updates for Sunday’s games, in this edition of the Daily Dose.
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Clippers 115, Lakers 104:
After slumping earlier this month, the Clippers are getting hot at the right time. They have won three straight games and seven of their last nine. The Clips are now just a game back of the Jazz for the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. Unsurprisingly, the keys cogs in L.A.’s hot streak have been Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, who have each scored at least 25 points in three straight games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, over the last 10 seasons only one other pair of NBA teammates each scored 25-plus points in three straight games all won by their team (Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for the Thunder in February 2012). Both CP3 and Griffin were phenomenal on Saturday. Griffin poured in a game-high 36 points by shooting 12-of-15 from the floor and 8-of-9 from the free throw stripe. BG has scored more than 30 points in back-to-back games for the first time since January of 2015. He added eight rebounds, five assists, one steal, and he also set a career-high with four 3-pointers.
Not to be outdone, Chris Paul tallied 29 points, 12 assists and four rebounds. Like Griffin, Paul was also efficient offensively, knocking down 9 of his 14 field goal attempts and all 10 of his free throws. That’s now three straight gaudy double-doubles for CP3. He is averaging 28.3 points (on 60.9 percent shooting), 11.7 assists and 4.0 rebounds over his last three contests. The only bummer for Griffin and Paul owners in the midst of the fantasy playoffs is that the Clippers are the only team in the NBA that play just twice next week… DeAndre Jordan posted another double-double on Saturday, finishing with 11 points and 12 rebounds. He also chipped in three steals and two blocks… J.J. Redick scored 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting, with five rebounds, four triples, two assists and one steal in 38 minutes.
Brandon Ingram (right patellar tendinitis) had missed each of the Lakers last three contests but looked solid in his return to the lineup. He scored 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting and added five rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block and one trey in 24 minutes. It was also encouraging to see that Ingram apparently didn’t suffer any setbacks on Saturday. "I thought I was going to feel it after the game, but it still felt good," he said afterward. The only blemish on the outing was his continued free-throw issues. Ingram was 3-of-6 from the charity stripe and is now shooting just 61.7 percent from the line this season… The surprise of the night for the Lakers was rookie David Nwaba, who scored a career-high 19 points to go along with six rebounds and two steals in a career-high 35 minutes… Thomas Robinson also played well off the bench. He had 16 points, nine rebounds and three assists in 22 minutes.
The rest of the Lakers regulars struggled on Saturday. D'Angelo Russell was off all afternoon. He was 1-of-9 from the floor, including 0-for-6 from downtown, and finished with just two points, six assists, two steals and three turnovers… Jordan Clarkson (seven points on 3-of-12 shooting) wasn’t much better… With Ivica Zubac (ankle) sidelined for the rest of the season, Larry Nance slid into the starting lineup. However, Nance got into some early foul trouble and ended up with eight points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals in 23 minutes.
Nets 121, Magic 111:
Brook Lopez, who celebrated his 29th birthday on Saturday, gave his fantasy owners a nice present. BroLo scored 30 points and added seven rebounds, two blocks and two treys… Trevor Booker was nearly perfect in his 24 minutes of action. He scored a season-high 23 points on 11-of-12 from the field and added eight rebounds, a steal and one 3-pointer… Justin Hamilton, who was also celebrating a birthday (his 27th) scored 13 points and grabbed five boards off the Brooklyn bench… Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was quiet (two points, six rebounds, three assists) in his 25 minutes… K.J. McDaniels was slapped with a DNP-CD. His playing time went to Archie Goodwin, who had eight points and two assists in 16 minutes… Jeremy Lin was just 3-of-14 from the floor for eight points but did chip in eight assists, four rebounds, two steals, a block and two 3-pointers.
Some good news to pass along for Lopez and Lin owners. Nets coach Kenny Atkinson told reporters on Saturday he would not be resting his vets down the stretch. "We're not going to rest," said Atkinson. "I've been saying how important I think it is for us to finish this season strong and I do think seeing more of Jeremy [Lin] together with the group is helpful.”
Coming into Saturday, only four players had recorded five or more triple-doubles on the season: Russell Westbrook, James Harden, LeBron James and Nikola Jokic. Orlando’s Elfrid Payton joined that elite club on Saturday night. He recorded his fifth triple-double of the season, finishing with 20 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists… Nikola Vucevic had been in a bit of an offensive slump of late, scoring 12 points or fewer in three consecutive contests. However, he snapped out of it on Saturday, scoring 27 points with 11 rebounds, a block and a trey… On the opposite end of the spectrum, Terrence Ross had been hot but laid an egg (six points, two assists, two rebounds) against the Nets… Aaron Gordon has found a home at power forward. Let’s hope the Magic don’t try and get cute and move him around again next season. Air Gordon tallied 22 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, four 3-pointers and two steals on Saturday. Over his last five, he is averaging 19.8 points (on 51.9 percent shooting) and 8.4 rebounds.
Bulls 106, Hawks 104:
The Butler did it all for the Bulls on Saturday. Jimmy Butler poured in a game-high 33 points and scored Chicago’s final nine points, including the game-winning free-throws with two seconds left on the clock. Butler was 11-for-20 from the field and 10-for-10 from the stripe. It was the ninth time this season he has attempted at least 10 free throws and made all of them. Per Elias, that ties the franchise record for the most such perfect games from the foul line. (Michael Jordan was 10-for-10 or better from the charity stripe nine times during the 1987-88 season.) Butler also tacked on eight assists, five rebounds and a block. It was a huge with for the Bulls, who moved into seventh place in the Eastern Conference with the victory. Chicago is now tied with Miami and Indiana, but the Bulls own tiebreakers over both teams. Butler has been a beast for the Bulls since Dwyane Wade (elbow) went down. Chicago looked dead in the water when they lost Wade but have gone 5-3 in the eight games since. Butler is averaging 27.3 points (on 54.4 percent shooting), 8.5 assists, 6.0 rebounds and 2.1 steals in those eight contests.
The resurgence of Rajon Rondo has also been a major reason why Chicago is back in the playoff picture. After dishing out 15 assists on Thursday, Rondo scored a season-high 25 points on Saturday, along with 11 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three 3-pointers. Over his last three games, Double R is averaging 16.7 points, 10.0 assists, 9.7 rebounds and 2.0 steals, while shooting 52.4 percent from the floor and 50.0 percent from downtown… Nikola Mirotic came back down to earth on Saturday, but still posted a solid line: eight points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and two 3-pointers in 31 minutes… Denzel Valentine (13 points, three triples, two boards) continued his solid play off the Bulls bench.
The Hawks have lost eight of their last 10 games, but this slump can’t be pinned on Dennis Schroder. Atlanta's point guard stayed scorching hot on Saturday, tallying 29 points, seven rebounds, six assists, a block and a steal. He has scored at least 24 points in four of his last five games and is averaging 24.4 points, 7.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds over that stretch. In addition, backup PG Malcolm Delaney (back spasms) was unable to play on Saturday and is expected to miss Sunday’s contest as well, which means the Hawks will have to continue to rely on Schroder… Tim Hardaway Jr. (20 points, five rebounds, five assists and three 3-pointers) cracked the 20-point plateau for the 20th time this season. THJ will hit free agency this summer and Hawks are going to have a make a tough decision figuring out how much they are willing to pay to keep him in Atlanta… Dwight Howard scored 13 points with 12 rebounds, three assists and a block. It was his 11th double-double in Atlanta’s last 12 games… With Paul Millsap (knee) missing his eighth straight game, Ersan Ilyasova drew another start and finished with 13 points, four rebounds and four assists. However, Millsap is inching closer to a return and may play as soon as Sunday, which would greatly reduce Ersan’s fantasy value.
Kings 123, Timberwolves 117:
Sacramento is determined to get a look at their young guns late in a lost season, and they have to like what they have seen from Buddy Hield. With Tyreke Evans, Kosta Koufos and Garrett Temple all ruled out due to planned rest, Hield logged a team-high 34 minutes and matched his career-high with 22 points on Saturday. He was 9-of-15 from the field and added four boards and four triples… Willie Cauley-Stein finished with 15 points, 10 boards, three assists and two steals in 27 minutes. It was his fifth double-double since the All-Star break… Skal Labissiere (six points and six rebounds in just 20 minutes) had a disappointing night.
The Kings got some surprisingly solid contributions from their bench. Ty Lawson scored 21 points and dished out 11 dimes in 25 minutes. Arron Afflalo (personal) returned to the Kings lineup and tallied 16 points, two rebounds, two assists and four triples. Langston Galloway finished with 17 points, three rebounds and three treys in 15 minutes off the bench.
Red hot Ricky Rubio stuffed the stat sheet once again on Saturday. He was just 1-of-10 from the floor but finished with 11 points, 13 assists, six rebounds and two steals. Rubio has recorded a double-double in four of the Wolves last five games. He is averaging 20.0 points, 10.6 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.2 treys over this current five-game stretch. Shrewd fantasy owners who scooped him off the wire when he was struggling back in December are reaping wonderful rewards right now. Also, the Wolves play five times next week, so fantasy teams with multiple Minnesota players will have a huge advantage… Karl-Anthony Towns totaled 26 points, 11 rebounds, two assists and a steal. It was his 56th double-double of the season. Russell Westbrook and James Harden are the only two NBA players with more double-doubles in 2016-17… Andrew Wiggins scored 32 points with three rebounds, three assists and four triples… Kris Dunn didn’t bring much to the table (four points, three assists, three rebounds) in 19 minutes of action… Gorgui Dieng (11 points, eight rebounds, two assists, three steals) had another solid all-around game.
Blazers 130, Suns 117:
With the win, Portland is back at .500 for the first time since early December. They are also now 2.5 games ahead of the Nuggets for the final spot in the West with less than two weeks remaining. Damian Lillard led the way on Saturday, finishing with a game-high 31 points and five rebounds, seven assists, one steal and four 3-pointers. It was the 26th time this season Lillard has scored at least 30 points, which ties the franchise record (held by Clyde Drexler and Kiki Vandeweghe) for the most 30-point games in a single season. Dame’s backcourt mate, C.J. McCollum was unsurprisingly spectacular as well. McCollum scored 29 points with five rebounds, seven assists and five 3-pointers. He was 10-of-19 from the floor, including 5-of-6 from downtown, and 4-of-4 from the stripe. C.J. is on pace to become just the third player since 2010 to shoot above 48 percent from the floor, 42 percent from 3-point territory and 90 percent from the free throw stripe in the same season.
With Jusuf Nurkic (leg) ruled out of the remainder of the regular season, Meyers Leonard started at center on Saturday Leonard finished with seven points, four rebounds, one steal and one 3-pointer in 22 minutes… Although he isn’t starting, Noah Vonleh will still soak up plenty of minutes at center with Nurk sidelined. Vonleh had 12 points, 13 rebounds, two assists, two steals and two turnovers in 35 minutes on Saturday. He the Blazer big you want to add in the wake of the Nurkic injury… Al-Farouq Aminu (12 points, six rebounds, three steals in 26 minutes) and Moe Harkless (13 points, four rebounds, two assists in 26 minutes) both had solid lines… Evan Turner scored 18 points with two assists and two steals off the Blazer bench.
Devin Booker poured in 31 points and added seven assists, three rebounds and three steals. While not quite 70, that’s back-to-back 30-point outings for Mr. Booker… Tyler Ulis logged plenty of minutes (38) as usual but finished with just 11 points (on 4-of-11 shooting), five assists, three boards and two turnovers… Another strong double-double for Marquese Chriss, who scored 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting with 13 rebounds and two blocks. Those of you who own Chriss in keeper leagues have to love what you’ve seen from this young guy over the second half of the season… T.J. Warren, who had 25 points, five rebounds and two treys on Saturday, has been arguably the most underrated fantasy player in the league this year. He is one of only five players averaging at least 17 points and seven rebounds while shooting 50 percent or higher from the floor since the All-Star break. The other four are LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic and Anthony Davis.
Injury Updates for Sunday’s Games:
* LaMarcus Aldridge (left thumb sprain) will not play against the Jazz.
There’s not one clear-cut pickup here. Pau Gasol, David Lee, Dewayne Dedmon and Davis Bertans will all likely divvy up Aldridge’s abandoned minutes.
* Danny Green (quad) and Manu Ginobili (rest) have also been ruled out against Utah.
Jonathon Simmons and Kyle Anderson will see extended minutes with Manu and Green sidelined.
* George Hill (groin) will not play on Sunday vs. the Spurs.
Dante Exum and Shelvin Mack will continue to share the point guard responsibilities, especially with Raul Neto (groin) also sidelined.
* Kevon Looney (hip) will not play against the Wizards.
If you have Kevin Looney on your roster, there is very, very little chance you are still alive in the fantasy playoffs. Moving on…
* Paul Millsap (knee) will be a game-time decision against the Nets.
As noted above, Millsap did not play on Saturday but is very close to returning. He reportedly went through about 70 percent of practice on Friday.
* Will Barton (foot), Jameer Nelson (calf), Darrell Arthur (knee) and Mason Plumlee (abdominal contusion) are all listed as questionable for the Nuggets matchup with Miami.
If Nelson can’t play, Jamal Murray will pick up most of his minutes. If Barton can’t go, Kenneth Faried and Juancho Hernangomez will likely see additional run.
* Marc Gasol (left foot strain) has been ruled out of Memphis’ matchup with the Lakers.
It will be the fifth straight game Gasol has missed. Brandan Wright will likely draw the start, but Zach Randolph is the most appealing short-term add.
* JaMychal Green (left shoulder soreness) will not play vs. L.A.
Again, Z-Bo benefits with the Grizzlies frontcourt shorthanded.
* Vince Carter (rest) will not play against the Lakers.
Troy Daniels, James Ennis and Tony Allen will split the extra minutes, but this is a situation to avoid from a fantasy perspective.