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There were only three games on Thursday night and while they were lacking big storylines and fanfare, it was still a pretty entertaining night of hoops. Luka Doncic and Brandon Ingram took hits and the Pacers pulled off one of the upsets of the season without a single regular starter.
Pacers 121, Warriors 117 – Domantas Sabonis (ankle), Caris LeVert (calf) and Malcolm Brogdon (Achilles) were all out for this one and the Pacers started a make-shift crew of Keifer Sykes, Chris Duarte, Goga Bitadze, Torrey Craig and Justin Holiday against the likes of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on the road last night. And somehow, some way they got a win. They hadn’t won a game while trailing at the half until Wednesday night’s comeback win over the Lakers, and then did it again on Thursday. They also hadn’t won back-to-back road games this season until now. Here’s how they did it. All five starters scored in double figures, they outshot GSW 43 percent to 21 percent from downtown, and Isaiah Jackson and Jeremy Lamb came through with big games off the bench.
Chris Duarte, who was an automatic fantasy play when the aforementioned players were ruled out, went off for 27 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and two 3-pointers on 10-of-16 shooting while knocking down 5-of-5 free throws. With the Pacers threatening to blow the team up and Duarte’s strong play for much of the season, he should be rostered in most leagues. He certainly doesn’t look like a rookie when you watch him and he was a straight beast last night. Justin Holiday hit 6-of-13 shots and four 3-pointers for 16 points, five rebounds and three assists, including a 3-pointer that sent the game to overtime with 5.1 second left in regulation. I’m not racing to pick up Holiday, but he’s worth a look, especially if the studs miss more time. Goga Bitadze, who played just three minutes on Wednesday, started and had 13 points, nine boards, five assists, a block and a 3-pointer but lost his cool and mini-head butted Gary Payton II after Payton put him on a poster with the dunk of the night (and one of the better ones of the year). Bitadze was ejected for picking up his second tech but with Sabonis’ ankle sprain and Myles Turner being lost through the All-Star break, Bitadze is a hot pickup in fantasy. Torrey Craig continues to see big minutes and hit 5-of-10 shots and two 3-pointers for 12 points, seven boards, one assist, three steals and a block in 34 minutes. He’s a streaming option to me and might be worth a look in deeper leagues. Keifer Sykes started at point guard and had 10 points, four rebounds, three assists and two 3-pointers on 4-of-12 shooting and his two triples came at key moments in the game. Bitadze is the only must-have player here, but Duarte’s pretty close and the rest of them at least deserve your attention.
As far as the Pacers’ bench goes, Isaiah Jackson had a career night and looked legit to the eye test, finishing with 15 points, seven boards, one assist and three steals while doing an admirable job of holding things down in the middle late as the only Pacer big man still standing. Jeremy Lamb played just 19 minutes but finished with 14 points, two rebounds, two assists, two steals, a block and two 3-pointers, doing much of his damage on 8-of-10 free throw shooting. The Pacers are at Phoenix on Saturday as they try to make it three in a row on their West Coast trip and there’s a decent chance that Sabonis, LeVert and Brogdon could all be back for that one. I think LeVert and Brogdon will play but it’s possible that Sabonis could miss more time. We’ll find out more information on Friday and Saturday afternoon.
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The Warriors were led by Stephen Curry’s 39 points, five rebounds, eight assists, a steal and six 3-pointers on 12-of-27 shooting in 44 minutes. The 12 makes and point total were his most since he hit 13-of-22 shots for 46 points back on Dec. 23. He’s been suffering through a pretty brutal January but hopefully got back on track with this one. He had plenty of good looks from downtown late in the game, including one that was wide open, but, for the most part, couldn’t get his shots to fall with the game on the line. Kevon Looney came through with 13 points, 15 rebounds, three assists and two steals on 5-of-6 shooting. This was Looney’s fourth straight game with double-digit rebounds but just his third double-double of the season. He’s worth rostering right now, especially with the Warriors still having two more games this weekend. Klay Thompson hit 6-of-17 shots and missed all seven of his 3-pointers for 12 points, two rebounds and one assist in 23 minutes. He’s been a tough player to roster since his return six games ago, failing to shoot 50 percent in any of them and hitting 32-of-86 shots for just 37 percent. While it’s been a rough ride thus far, Stephen Curry isn’t giving up. “I’m betting on him,” Curry said of Klay after the game.
Andrew Wiggins hit just 5-of-15 shots for 11 points, four rebounds, two assists, a steal, a block and a 3-pointer, and the bottom line is that Curry and Steve Kerr just didn’t get much help from anyone but Looney tonight. Jonathan Kuminga started and was in a prime position to go off but played just 15 minutes to finish with five points, five rebounds and three assists without attempting a shot. He was 5-of-6 from the free throw line to account for his five points before sitting on the bench for the second half. Lance Stephenson baited him into a technical foul after Kuminga was called for traveling in the second quarter and I think that’s the last we saw of him. Kuminga had scored in double figures in five straight games and had played at least 25 minutes in his previous three games. I’m not sure why Kerr turned away from him last night, but Andre Iguodala and Juan Toscano-Anderson seemed to get all of his second-half minutes. Iguodala played 31 minutes off the bench last night and only had four points to show for it, but did add five rebounds, four assists and four blocks. JTA played 15 minutes for five points, four rebounds, one assist, two steals and a 3-pointer, but I fully expect Kuminga’s minutes to return to normal in the next game. I think the Warriors would have won this game had Kerr stuck with Kuminga.
Jordan Poole played 25 minutes and hit 1-of-7 shots for five points, two rebounds and four assists. He was 0-for-5 from downtown. Gary Payton II played 17 minutes and hit 3-of-5 shots for six points, five boards and two steals. He had one of the best dunks you’ll see and got Bitadze thrown out, but that’s about it. Damion Lee played 14 minutes and had nine points, two steals and a 3-pointer. It looks like Klay’s return has ruined Poole and Payton. Just keep in mind that Poole scored 22 and 20 points last weekend before scoring just five points in each of his last two games. He’ll likely get hot again. Payton’s really fallen off, scoring six or fewer points in four of his last six.
Suns 109, Mavericks 101 – Devin Booker scored 28 and Chris Paul came through with 20 points, five rebounds, 11 assists, two steals, a block and two 3-pointers on 8-of-14 shooting in a tough win against the Mavericks. This game went back and forth for most of the night until the Suns pulled away late and took the fourth quarter 35-19. Mikal Bridges had a fun night with 12 points, eight boards, six assists and four steals, but was 0-for-4 from downtown and Cameron Payne scored 12 points in 19 minutes. JaVale McGee started at center and had eight points and four rebounds in 18 empty minutes, while Jalen Smith didn’t even get off the bench despite the fact Deandre Ayton (ankle) was in street clothes (again). Bismack Biyombo had every opportunity to do damage in his 28 minutes off the bench but fizzled with nine points, four rebounds, one assist and two steals. However, in reality, his late monster dunk sent the Mavs reeling and they never recovered. Cameron Johnson was also a disappointment with seven points and seven rebounds on 2-of-7 shooting in 20 minutes. Not a lot to learn in fantasy here, except that Smith (sadly) belongs on waivers.
For the Mavericks, Luka Doncic hit 9-of-23 shots, 2-of-9 3-pointers and 8-of-11 free throws for 28 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, one steal and eight turnovers in the loss. Luka’s turnovers were pretty annoying as several of them came on tricky, risky passes that appeared to be unnecessary. Luka also hurt his neck on a hard fall and his availability for Sunday’s game against the Grizzlies. I think he’ll play, just as he finished out the game last night, but it really depends on how he’s feeling over the weekend, obviously. Jalen Brunson hit 8-of-13 shots and a 3-pointer for 19 points, five rebounds, an assist and six turnovers and Kristaps Porzingis added 18 points, 11 rebounds, one assist, two blocks and two 3-pointers on 7-of-15 shooting. Tim Hardaway added 11 points, five boards and three triples off the bench and that rounds up the double-digit scoring for Dallas. Dorian Finney-Smith didn’t do much in the start and Maxi Kleber had nine points, five boards, four assists, a block and a 3-pointer on 3-of-9 shooting. There’s not much to learn here, either, except that Hardaway and Finney-Smith are going to be inconsistent and Brunson remains a must-hold player. Despite the elephant-in-the-room sized fact that Luka needs another big name or two playing besides him, the Mavericks have had it on cruise control in January. Prior to last night’s loss they had won six straight homes games and lost just once during the month, despite Luka struggling through much of it. They’re the five-seed in the West and they’re only going to get better if Luke gets hot (like he was on Wednesday night against the Raptors.
Pelicans 102, Knicks 91 – All five Pelican starters and a guy named Jose Alvarado scored in double figures on a night when Julius Randle couldn’t get anything going for the Knicks. Jonas Valanciunas hit 8-of-11 shots and a 3-pointer for 18 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, a steal and two blocks, Josh Hart scored 17 with seven rebounds, four assists, a steal and two 3-pointers, and Brandon Ingram added 15 points, five rebounds, six assists, a steal and a 3-pointer in just 27 minutes. But the 27 minutes are a problem because they would have been higher had Ingram not sprained his right ankle and left the game early. The good news is that the Pelicans don’t think an MRI is necessary for now so there is some hope that he might be able to play against the Pacers on Monday. Devonte’ Graham overcame an 0-for-7 start to hit 5-of-16 shots and four 3-pointers for 15 points, three rebounds and one assist, and Herbert Jones came through with 11 points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals and a 3-pointer in 37 minutes. Alvarado got loose for 13 points, four assists, four steals and a 3-pointer on 6-of-9 shooting, while Nickeil Alexander-Walker continues to pose for milk cartons after his four points and four dimes in 24 minutes. There aren’t a lot of fantasy takeaways here, either, although I still think Jones is worth rostering in most leagues. If Ingram does miss time with the injury Hart and Jones both get a boost and NAW could actually become relevant again. Alvarado is worth keeping an eye on as he’s been a part of the rotation and has been creeping his way into relevancy over the last couple weeks. He set career highs in points and steals last night but I’m still not ready to roster him in standard leagues.
For the Knicks, Mitchell Robinson hit 6-of-7 shots and 5-of-10 free throws for 17 points, 15 rebounds and a block in 30 minutes. He’s frustrating to roster due to his inconsistent play but in general, I think he’s worth keeping around for nights like this one. RJ Barrett hit 6-of-13 shots and a 3-pointer for 17 points, six boards, two dimes and a block, but hit just 4-of-7 free throws in the loss. And starters Julius Randle, Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier combined to hit just 4-of-22 shots for a total of 15 points. Randle was particularly bad, hitting 1-of-9 shots for four points, seven rebounds, six assists, a steal and a block. All three of these guys have been hit-or-miss for the Knicks and while all three are worth rostering (for the most part) they’ve all been a headache to deal with this season. I’m thankful I have not had to deal with Walker at all this season. It doesn’t appear to be a fun endeavor from afar. Immanuel Quickley scored 14 with four rebounds, five assists, three steals and two 3-pointers on 4-of-13 shooting and I wish the Knicks would just give in and let him run the point. Alec Burks hit 3-of-9 shots and two 3-pointers for 13 points, three boards, two assists and a steal, and Quentin Grimes hit 5-of-9 shots and three 3-pointers for 13 points and two assists. Just keep your eye on him. Quickley and Burks are borderline players to roster right now and, like most of their teammates, seem to create more headaches than fantasy goodies right now.
Friday’s slate brings us a full 11-game schedule so buckle up. I’ll see y’all at noon on the Waiver Wired podcast with Stroup and Jonas. Can’t wait, assuming my alarm goes off and I wake up for it.
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