Nnaji & Portis shine, Celtics & Spurs win big

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  • Brooklyn Nets
    Brooklyn Nets
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  • Chicago Bulls
    Chicago Bulls
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  • Denver Nuggets
    Denver Nuggets
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  • Milwaukee Bucks
    Milwaukee Bucks
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  • Bobby Portis
    Bobby Portis
    American basketball player
  • Zeke Nnaji
    Zeke Nnaji
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Saturday's matchups weren't all thrilling, but we were still treated to a couple of exciting contests. Chicago came back in the fourth quarter to put away the Nets, while San Antonio won its fourth straight by upending the first-place Golden State Warriors. Among the blowouts and close calls, fantasy managers can still glean some useful tidbits. Bobby Portis dominated, Zeke Nnaji had a career night, and yes, apparently it's Dennis Smith Jr. time in Portland. Let's break down all of Saturday's action!

Nuggets 113, Knicks 99

The Knicks lost another ugly contest, dropping to 1-3 over their last four and going down by at least 20 points in each of their last two. The team is in a rut, but they’ve faced some quality opponents as of late, so there’s no reason to panic quite yet. One of the biggest reasons for the Knicks’ downfall in this one was Zeke Nnaji, who went off for a career-best 21 points to go with eight boards, five triples, and two steals in 34 minutes. The minutes were a season-best for the Arizona product, and he's worth an add in 12-team leagues to see how he performs moving forward. His playing time has been trending up as of late.

Nikola Jokic did what he usually does and dominated the boxscore. In just 27 minutes, he went for 34 points, 11 boards, and five assists, but he excelled in the decisive third quarter. Up just 69-63 midway through the quarter, Denver closed on a 23-8 run to go up 92-71, and Jokic scored 12 in that span.

Just as quickly as he arrived, Immanuel Quickley was gone. With RJ Barrett back in action, IQ managed just three points, a rebound, and an assist in 20 minutes off the bench. He’s a streaky shooter, so off nights are expected, but unless he can crack the starting five or earn 25 minutes or more per game, the fantasy upside is severely capped, even if you’re not concerned with field goal percentage.

Julius Randle had a typically-strong performance, while Alec Burks disappointed. Given his recent allotment of minutes and strong play, fantasy managers should consider this an outlier for Burks and continue starting him with confidence moving forward.

Bulls 111, Nets 107

Chicago earned an important victory Saturday, downing fellow Eastern Conference powerhouse Brooklyn in a closely-contested matchup. DeMar DeRozan led the way with 29 points and even made a three-pointer. His 26.4 points per game rank fourth in the NBA, and he continues to make a case for MVP consideration. [Editor's note: If you want to make that darkhorse wager, you'll enjoy +10,000 odds via PointsBet]. Lonzo Ball flirted with a triple-double, going 8/9/7 and adding elite defensive stats of two steals and three blocks. His fantasy value has gotten a major boost this season from his work on the defensive end of the court. Zach LaVine led all scorers with 31 points, adding eight boards and six dimes.

Alex Caruso exited early with a hamstring injury, and fantasy managers should keep a close eye on his status for Sunday. If he’s unable to go, Ayo Dosunmu is worth a speculative short-term add, as he could be in line for a major uptick in minutes with Coby White (COVID-19) still on the shelf.

Kevin Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer, did what he does best and dropped 28 points to go with 10 rebounds, four assists, and two blocks. James Harden went 14/14/7 and matched his season-high with 14 assists. His scoring is down this season, but his elite assist numbers have kept his fantasy value elite. The LaMarcus Aldridge comeback tour was in full promenade Saturday as the veteran went for 20 points and seven boards. Bruce Brown pulled down 12 boards, while Cam Thomas posted a fun 8/4/2/2 line. Brown remains a fine rebounds specialist, while Thomas is a deep-league guy or bench stash in 12-teamers.

Bucks 124, Heat 102

Max Strus went off for a career-high 25 points while stroking six triples, but it wasn’t enough for Miami. Over the last two weeks, Strus has returned 10th-round value, and he’s worth an add at least until Miami starts to get healthy. Caleb Martin posted a full 16/3/3/2/2 line, and he’s been just on the cusp of fantasy relevancy over the last week. He’s still not a guy to pickup in 12-team leagues, though. Duncan Robinson isn’t a must-roster guy in 12-team leagues, and he went just 11/3/3/1 in this one.

Tyler Herro’s campaign for Most Improved Player has been successful thus far, and he added another strong showing with a 15/9/6 line to go with two steals. Kyle Lowry contributed 10/7/2 with a block, but his fantasy appeal has been less than thrilling so far. Dewayne Dedmon remains a fine streamer in the absence of Bam Adebayo, as he went 8/13/2 with a block over 24 minutes. Keep an eye on Omer Yurtseven, who went 4/4/2/1 in 23 minutes. He’s not worth adding yet, but his time may be coming.

Bobby Portis continued his strong play, as he powered the Bucks to victory with Giannis Antetokounmpo out of action. Portis’ massive double-double and strong defense were the catalyst for this big win. He went 19/16/3 with two steals and two blocks, much to the delight of fantasy managers. Pat Connaughton led the team in scoring with 23, and he’s been a top-100 player this season. DeMarcus Cousins went 11/5/2 in 11 minutes, but you don’t need to boogie down to the waiver wire to pick him up. Rookie Sandro Mamukelashvili drew his first career start and went 5/7/3/1 in 21 minutes.

Grizzlies 97, Mavericks 90

Memphis won another one against a shorthanded squad, as Dallas fell in the absences of Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis, and Willie Cauley-Stein. It was a well-balanced effort, as all five Memphis starters scored in double figures, as did De’Anthony Melton. Steven Adams enjoyed a double-double, going 11/13/3, while Tyus Jones provided an unusually robust 16/7/6 line with two steals. He’s a streamer for assists and steals for as long as Ja Morant is out, though his scoring and rebounding aren’t typically this strong.

De’Anthony Melton led the Grizz in scoring with 29 points and came just shy of a double-double, adding nine boards, two dimes, a steal, and a block. He’s been a top-90 player this season, and don’t expect his production to slow down any time soon. Dillon Brooks did what he does best - score inefficiently. He finished the game with 11 points on 12 shots. After a dominant stretch, Jaren Jackson Jr. took a breather and went just 13/5/2 with two triples, letting the rest of the team pick up the slack.

With Luka out, Jalen Brunson reclaimed a spot in the starting five, going 15/8/3/1 and tying Dorian Finney-Smith for team lead in minutes. DFS went 14/6/4 with three steals and a block, and despite his low usage, he’s been a top-150 player this season thanks to his defense and low turnover rate. Maxi Kleber went for seven points, nine boards, and a steal and Dwight Powell posted five points, five assists, and four rebounds. Even with extra opportunities in the starting lineup, neither did much to get fantasy managers excited, and their upside is limited.

Tim Hardaway Jr. led the Mavs in scoring with a season-high 29 points to go with five triples. He hasn’t been relevant in 12-team leagues this season, and he provides fantasy managers with nothing more than scoring and threes. NBA fans were treated to a Boban Marjanovic sighting, as Bobi went for two points and seven rebounds in 11 mins.

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Spurs 112, Warriors 97

Just one night after ending the Suns’ 18-game win streak, the Dubs took a surprising L against a Spurs team that has now won four straight. This was the most exciting game of the night, as San Antonio went up big early before Golden State rallied late to make it a game. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Spurs were up 99-88, but the Warriors brought it down to the wire. Curry scored on back-to-back possessions to go up 106-103 with two minutes left, but after that, it was all Spurs. San Antonio closed on a 9-1 run to seal the victory.

Jakob Poeltl went 6/9/5 with three swats, and now that he’s back, Thaddeus Young’s fantasy value has gone into the toilet. Thad went for no points and five rebounds across 14 minutes in this one. He’s a clear drop. The Spurs were led by Derrick White’s season-best 25 points, and White has now scored at least 24 points in two of his last three. Dejounte Murray added another double-double to his resume, with a 23/12/7 line that included two steals. Lonnie Walker IV matched a season-high with 21 points, but he hadn’t hit that mark since Oct. 26, so fantasy managers shouldn’t get too excited about this performance.

For Golden State, Draymond Green put up a very Draymond stat line of 9/9/8 with a steal and a block. Stephen Curry led the team in scoring and dropped in five triples. He’s only 22 away from tying Ray Allen’s all-time mark of 2,973 made triples, and given his pace, Curry should tie and eclipse that mark before the new year. Juan Toscano-Anderson went 13/7/3 in 32 minutes and is worthy of a speculative pickup in 12-team leagues after his recent string of solid performances.

Kings 104, Clippers 99

The Clippers went with a jumbo starting lineup that included Serge Ibaka and Ivica Zubac, though Ibaka logged just 13 minutes (tied with Brandon Boston Jr. for fewest on the team). Marcus Morris went off to lead the team in scoring with his second 21-point effort in as many games after failing to eclipse 13 points in any game prior. In the blistering span, Morris has nailed 10 triples and shot 14-of-22 from the field. His eight rebounds against the Kings were encouraging, but his fantasy value is typically tied to points and threes only.

Zubac posted his first double-double in five games, going 12/11 with two blocks and a steal. Sacramento continues to be an extremely strong matchup for opposing bigs. Paul George finished with 15 points on just 5-of-21 shooting, but he handed out a season-best 10 assists to go with six boards and two swipes. Over his last two, PG13 has shot a dreadful 29.3% from the field, but he’s found other ways to get involved with 19 assists, 14 rebounds, and four steals. Fantasy managers have no reason to be concerned, as George should continue to cruise along as a first-round option.

Richaun Holmes put up a weird line, going for one point, six boards, three assists, and a block. Just two games after posting a season-best 27 points, he provided his lowest-scoring effort, and the six boards were his worst mark in two weeks. This is just a blip on the radar for fantasy managers, as Holmes averaged 20.8 points and 8.8 boards in four prior appearances. Terence Davis went ballistic with a team-high 28 points, and he’s now posted 51 points and 11 triples over his last two games. Over his last five, Davis has averaged 17/5/1 with 2.2 stocks while shooting 47/37/70 splits. Harrison Barnes was recently sent to the G-League to rehab from his foot injury, and as long as he’s out, Davis can be a reliable option for points and treys.

Marvin Bagley III turned in a 12/11 double-double, and in usual fashion, he failed to do anything else in the box score. De’Aaron Fox went 8-of-22 from the field which shocked no one, and Tyrese Haliburton filled up the stat sheet with an 18/6/5 line that included two swipes. Davion Mitchell logged 28 minutes but surprisingly failed to record a defensive stat. He remains a hold if you have the bench space.

Celtics 145, Trail Blazers 117

It was another brutal loss for the Lillard-less Blazers, who surrendered an incredible 145 points to Boston. Jayson Tatum led the way with a 31/10/4 line, and Dennis Schroder chipped in 31 of his own to go with eight dimes, four assists, and a steal. Despite the absence of Al Horford (back), it was not time for Time Lord. Robert Williams disappointed with just five points, three boards, and three blocks across 21 minutes. Meanwhile, Enes Kanter Freedom went for nine points, 15 boards, and two swats in 22 minutes. The latter’s performance was surely bolstered by the blowout nature of the game, but we’ve seen how productive he can be when given ample playing time. If Horford continues to miss time, feel free to pick up Freedom as a points-and-boards flier.

With Boston in cruise control and benches emptied, Payton Pritchard was free to wreak havoc on this one, scoring as if he was playing in the Portland Pro-Am rather than facing the Trail Blazers. Pritchard finished with 19 points and five triples, scoring 16 of the team’s final 18 points in just three minutes late in the fourth quarter. His late 3-pointer also set off a raucous Celtics' bench eruption that led to a technical foul and forced coach Ime Udoka to apologize to Blazers coach Chauncey Billups.

It was mostly bad on the Portland side, with Robert Covington going for nine points, two rebounds, and a whole lotta nothing. He’s still a fantasy hold, but the urge to drop him has got to surging at this point for most fantasy managers. Norman Powell scored eight points on just eight shots, taking the fewest attempts of any starter. He’s also a hold and one who offers a lot of upside.

C.J. McCollum unsurprisingly led the team in scoring with 24, but it was Dennis Smith Jr. who tied for team lead in minutes played. DSJ went off with a 21/6/4/3 line and should be picked up off the waiver wire immediately if available. He’s Portland’s best option at guard other than McCollum, and he should see plenty of run moving forward. Larry Nance went 9/5/1 with two steals, and while his outlook is trending up, his fantasy value remains quite limited. Remember to play your guys against Portland, as the Blazers have the NBA’s worst defense rating at 113.3.