The Clippers fell to 3-3 on Thursday with a 97-102 loss to the Heat in Miami, despite a monster night from Blake Griffin. He scored 27 points on 11-of-15 FGs and 4-of-5 FTs, with 14 rebounds, two assists and a steal, and even knocked down a 3-pointer for good measure. He's shooting 43 percent from mid-range (12-of-28), according to NBA.com/stats, compared to last season's 35 percent from the same distance. It's a very nice trend if it keeps up, as defenders are generally willing to sag off Griffin and dare him to beat them 15 feet away from the hoop.
J.J. Redick scored 15 points with two 3-pointers, two rebounds and one assist in the losing effort. He's averaging 16.8 points through six games and had his highest-scoring game (26 points) while Matt Barnes (thigh) was in the lineup on Monday vs. Houston. Given Chris Paul's aforementioned brilliance and Redick's career-long proof that he can shoot from outside, he's a good bet to maintain personal-bests in scoring and 3-pointers. He's even chipping in a would-be career-high 2.8 rebounds to go along with 2.8 assists this year.
Matt Barnes missed his second straight game for L.A. with a bruised thigh and Doc Rivers doesn't expect him to play Saturday. That gives a temporary boost to guys like Jared Dudley, Jamal Crawford and J.J. Redick, but it doesn't tip any fantasy scales. Fantasy owners interested in Dudley must solely be interested in his 3-point shooting, which makes his 0-of-4 mark from downtown in Thursday's loss even more painful (he finished with two points, two assists, two steals and three rebounds). We know from Dudley's stint in Phoenix that big minutes won't equate to fantasy production, and he's making it a maxim thus far in L.A. with 8.2 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 28.6 minutes per game. Apparently he's also playing through tendinitis in his knees.
Chris Paul had 11 points, five rebounds, 12 assists and two steals in the loss, to go along with subpar 3-of-11 shooting and a team-high five turnovers. He's had double-digit dimes in every game this season and at 12.5 assists per game he's miles ahead of Stephen Curry (himself dropping a ridiculous 9.2 per game), John Wall (8.8), Jeff Teague (8.8) and Ricky Rubio (8.6). Rajon Rondo might surface as a legitimate threat for the league-lead in assists this year, but right now the title is Paul's to lose.
CP3 is also third in the league with 3.0 steals per game, trailing usual suspect Ricky Rubio (3.4) while tying Mario Chalmers (3.0). As an aside, Chalmers recently told reporters that he's aiming to best Alvin Robertson's NBA-leading 3.7 steals per game, a record he set during the 1985-86 season. Erik Spoelstra shrugged off his PG's bravado, saying, "He's mentioned that to me before. As long as it's coming within the discipline and confines of our system. It's built to be active and to force turnovers. But it can't be mindless or gambling, or just on his own rulebook." Update: Chalmers actually fell to 2.5 steals per game after going swipe-less vs. the Clippers. He logged 23 minutes in the game while Norris Cole (zero points, three assists) played 27 minutes off the bench.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $25,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Friday, Nov. 8th games. It's just $10 to join and first prize is $3,500. Starts at 7pm ET on Friday. Here's the link.
Miami was fortune to escape with a victory on a night when LeBron James (18 points, six assists) was obviously laboring through back spasms. He's been dealing with them for a few weeks, apparently, which is scary given that he's still averaging 24.3 points on 56.4 percent shooting. LeBron doesn't expect to miss any time and Erik Spoelstra hasn't shown an inclination to rest him (38 minutes per game), so even as a multi-league LeBron owner I'm not concerned.
Apparently Shane Battier (seven points in 22 minutes) is participating in Movember, in which people, umm, grow moustaches for a month. If you didn't have a moustache in October you shouldn't have one in November (I hope my brother is reading this), but my objections to the whole event are overwhelmed by the terrific amount of money it raises for worthy causes...$23.7 million and counting.
Getting back to the court, one of the evening's nicest surprises was Dwyane Wade, who scored a season-high 29 points on 13-of-22 shooting with seven assists, four rebounds, three steals and one block. He also turned the ball over seven times but fantasy owners will gleefully overlook his errors (especially in eight-cat leagues) while reveling in his 59 percent shooting. Wade scored 20+ points for the fourth consecutive game and I'm willing to gently recommend him as a 'sell-high' candidate -- gently, because Wade's DNP in Miami's second game undercut his trade value and may cause opposing owners to include a steep 'back-to-back' discount. It's also a mild recommendation because the Heat have a dominant schedule during fantasy playoffs (four games each in Weeks 19-24). But if I can land Brook Lopez or Monta Ellis or another player of that caliber for Wade, as a risk-averse fantasy owner I'd take that deal.
Chris Bosh returned to action after the birth of his daughter, scoring 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting with six rebounds and one block in 29 minutes. He shot an uncharacteristically poor 3-of-6 at the FT line but knocked down a 3-pointer to compensate, and aside from this quiet line and his fluke absence on Tuesday to be with his wife during childbirth, fantasy owners have to be pleased with his steady contributions early in the season. His return meant that everyone was available for Miami except for Greg Oden (knees). There's no indication when Oden will make his regular season debut. Michael Beasley sat out this game after briefly cracking the rotation on Tuesday -- he only played in that game because Bosh was absent, and with Bosh in uniform Erik Spoelstra made clear that, at least for now, Beas is out of the picture.
Shifting our attention to the west coast, Mike D'Antoni's rotations stayed chaotic vs. the Rockets in Houston on Thursday, but his team had six players with double-figure points and escaped with a dramatic 99-98 victory. With the Lakers trailing by two points with possession late in the game, Steve Blake said the plan was for he and Steve Nash to run a few curls around screens "see if [Houston] made a mistake...and they did." That defensive mistake resulted in a game-winning 3-pointer from Blake, who finished with 14 points, four 3-pointers, three rebounds and two assists in a team-high 34 minutes of action.
Blake and Jordan Farmar will both benefit from Steve Nash's expected absence in Friday's game vs. New Orleans, though it's worth mentioning that the Pelicans are giving up the fourth-fewest assist per game (10.4) to opposing backcourts through five games. Nash is still battling nerve damage from a leg fracture he suffered last year. Perhaps more importantly, he's 39 years old and faces the ravages of advancing age that can't be avoided by workouts, rest and fastidious dieting. As a fantasy owner thinking long-term, I'm inclined to keep Jordan Farmar tucked away on my bench -- he racked up 11 points, one 3-pointer, five rebounds, seven assists and one steal in a mere 20 minutes on Thursday, and has been L.A.'s best bet at penetrating defenses through six games.
The only other Laker to crack 30 minutes was Pau Gasol, but he shot just 1-of-10 from the field on his way to two points, 12 rebounds, two assists, and zero steals or blocks. He gets a freebie since he was facing Dwight Howard and Omer Asik.
Elsewhere for L.A., Nick Young started at SF but Mike D'Antoni's house of mirrors rotation rendered the promotion meaningless, and Young played just 22 minutes to finish with 11 points, four boards, two assists and two steals. Young has seven years of NBA stats which belie his apparently effective per-minute production in this game. Kobe Bryant (Achilles) has no return date but he will eventually poison Young's playing time/value, as a Black Mamba is wont to do, and in the meantime Nicky Boy is averaging sub-150 value in eight-cat leagues. I have zero sympathy for owners who drafted Young or plucked him off the waiver wire.
The Lakers leading scorer was Jodie Meeks, who drained 5-of-7 three-pointers on his way to 18 points and three rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench. The second-leading scorer was Wes Johnson, with 16 points in 28 bench minutes. L.A.'s rotations are simply insane right now, and when Kobe Bryant returns all bets are off for Meeks, Johnson, Nick Young, Steve Blake and any other Lakers player not named Pau Gasol.
Chris Kaman made his first start of the season to combat the Rockets' pairing of Dwight and Asik, scoring six points with 10 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Unfortunately, he played 19 minutes and has yet to crack 20 minutes in a game this season. If he couldn't do it vs. the Rockets' jumbo frontcourt, it might take an injury to Pau Gasol or Jordan Hill for Kaman to emerge with every-day value in standard leagues.
For the Rockets, Patrick Beverley returned to the starting lineup but only shot 1-of-10 to finish Houston's last-second home loss with three points, four rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block. The good news for fantasy owners is that Bev logged 34 minutes and his chest/rib injury is behind him. Even better, Jeremy Lin managed to score 16 points with three assists, three steals and two blocks in 31 bench minutes -- according to PopcornMachine.net's invaluable game flows, Lin and Beverley even shared the court for 17 minutes, including the final 6:10 of the game. Kevin McHale may simply have been matching up with L.A.'s lineup featuring both Steve Nash and Steve Blake, but it's an encouraging outing nonetheless for both Beverley and Lin.
The most delectable sub-plot of Thursday's three-game slate was Dwight Howard facing the Lakers, who have basically shrugged about Dwight scorning them in free agency, as though it was the inevitable outcome of his injury-plagued, chemistry-free, ego-laden debacle in L.A. last year. The incredible athlete we used to call Superman scored 15 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked one shot. He also turned the ball over four times.
It wasn't Dwight's finest hour, but the real problem was his 5-of-16 FT shooting. The Lakers intentionally fouled Dwight down the stretch and he missed six of his seven freebies, leading to some delicious post-game quotes from Mike D'Antoni, who has admitted that intentional fouling is "not entertaining for anybody."
"That doesn't mean you're not gonna use [intentional fouls]," said D'Antoni. "I'm not crazy. But if I were to change it, I'd probably change the rule ... I mean down there somewhere, yeah, I'm human, and it's great." The Lakers without Kobe Bryant are overachieving with a 3-3 record which includes wins vs. the Clippers, Hawks and Rockets, and it's hard to blame him for not-so-subtly smirking in the face of Dwight's crunch-time failures. D'Antoni's strategy heaped pressure on Dwight's broad shoulders at the FT line, but just as importantly it took the ball out of James Harden's hands -- Harden was single-handedly crushing L.A. with 35 points, three 3-pointers, nine rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks, and it's safe to say that his myriad bumps and bruises aren't a concern for Saturday's game vs. the Clippers.
I stumbled across a throwaway line at the end of a game preview in the Atlanta Journal Constitution on Thursday, which read, "[Paul] Millsap has been suffering from a sore right elbow injury but [it] has not prevented him from playing." He put any potential concerns to rest with a season-best 29 points on 10-of-15 shooting in a road loss to Denver, adding 10 rebounds, five dimes, two steals and one block without any turnovers in 34 minutes of action. He even drained two 3-pointers, something he hadn't done in his past 79 games but has now done twice in a row. He's shooting a ridiculous 59.1 percent from the field and the best is yet to come, as he's still on the upward slope of a learning curve inherent to joining a new NBA team after seven years in Utah. In other words, Millsap's big night isn't a sell-high opportunity -- it's a sign of things to come.
Dennis Shröder was suspended for Thursday's game for delivering a full-on forearm to DeMarcus Cousins' groin on Tuesday. If you haven't seen the rookie's brazen nut-punch, check out this link. Now try to match up those images with this quote from Shröder: "I didn't try to do it but when the NBA decided [to suspend me], I have to live with that." In any case, he's served his suspension and is averaging 6.3 points on 39.3 percent shooting this year, with an admirable 4.3 assists vs. 1.3 turnovers. His fantasy upside is tempered by Lou Williams' eventual return from knee surgery, as well as the Hawks' playoff hopes (i.e. lack of desire to develop young players at the cost of winning games), so he can be left on the wire in average leagues.
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Random Thought #1: Through five games, Monta Ellis is averaging 24 points on would-be career-best 51.9 percent shooting from the field. He's chipping in 3.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.8 steals per game, though his 4.4 turnovers put him in the NBA's top-seven in that dubious category (he trails league-leader Derrick Rose, as well as Eric Bledsoe, Stephen Curry, Josh Smith, James Harden and Victor Oladipo). Most importantly, Ellis is attempting 7.2 free throws per game, far better than his previous career-high (6.1) which he set in 2009-10. Whether he can keep up such a furious pace and remain healthy is another question, but Ellis didn't have a single DNP while playing 38 minutes per game in Milwaukee last year. He's averaging just 35 per game thus far under coach Rick Carlisle.
Random Thought #2: I'm fascinated by the NBA's new publicly-available SportsVU data which tracks player movement and spits out detailed information the likes of which basketball fans have never seen before. Check back in future weeks for some discussions about the newly-available data and what it means for fantasy owners. Just 10 days into the 2013-14 season, however, the sample size is too miniscule to draw meaningful conclusions. Follow this link to browse through the numbers.
And finally, here's a quick-hit injury list for Friday. For the full rundown, read our player news page and browse the comprehensive Injury Report.
Out: Wilson Chandler (hamstring), Ryan Anderson (toe) Update: Anderson has been upgraded to day-to-day but remains unlikely to play on Friday, J.R. Smith (final game of suspension), Tyson Chandler (leg), Tobias Harris (ankle), C.J. McCollum (foot), Vince Carter (suspended one game)
Doubtful: Al Jefferson (ankle), Steve Nash (rest)
Questionable: Stephen Curry (bone bruise in ankle) Update: Curry missed shootaround and Toney Douglas is expected to start in his place, George Hill (hip), Reggie Jackson (hip), Goran Dragic (ankle), Matt Bonner (calf), Trevor Booker (finger)
Probable: Paul Pierce (flu), Anthony Randolph (ankle), Kyle Lowry (chest)