Thursday night was one of the best two-game nights you’ll ever see in the NBA, as the Cavaliers beat the Warriors and the Suns stopped the Thunder in overtime. LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Eric Bledsoe were the stars of the night, and Kyrie Irving and DeMarcus Cousins are doubtful due to injuries. There’s plenty of news and notes to dissect, despite the light schedule, and you can follow me on Twitter by clicking here.
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Cavaliers 110, Warriors 99
While the Warriors at Hawks game a few weeks ago was being billed as an NBA Finals preview, it’s quite possible last night’s Warriors visit to Cleveland was the real deal. The Cavs won handily behind a season-high 42 points, 11 boards, five dimes, three steals, a block and four 3-pointers on 15-of-25 shooting from LeBron James. He was a monster and the Dubs didn’t have an answer for him, just like the other 28 teams in the NBA. LeBron appeared to be dealing with a sore back that briefly knocked him out of the game, but he was able to power through it. Watch the news feed today to make sure he is green lighted against the Pacers. Kevin Love added 16 points, eight boards and three 3-pointers, as he continues to evolve in Cleveland and look more like the guy we remember in Minnesota, Timofey Mozgov carried his lunch pail and had 10 points, 10 rebounds, a steal and a block, and Kyrie Irving hit all 10 of his free throws to help overcome 6-of-17 shooting for 24 points, two steals and two 3-pointers, but had just one assist. Irving also suffered a shoulder injury and didn’t travel with the Cavs to Indiana, making him doubtful for Friday’s game. He’ll have an MRI this morning, so stay tuned for an update. Matthew Dellavedova and Iman Shumpert will likely handle the point guard duties for the Cavs tonight, but don’t be fooled. LeBron will be the guy running the point without Irving in uniform. J.R. Smith cooled off with four points on 1-of-5 shooting, while Tristan Thompson over-performed with 12 points and eight rebounds.
The Cavs are now 18-2 over their last 20 games and play at Indy on Friday, which is where they lost one of their two games since Jan. 13 (Chicago with Derrick Rose was the other loss). The Cavs zipped by the Bulls in the standings last night to move into the No. 3 spot in the East and are just one game behind the Raptors for the No. 2 seed. They’re still eight games behind the Hawks for the No. 1 seed, and while I don’t think they’re going to catch Atlanta, it’s still possible that it could happen. Either way, the East is shaping up to give us a Hawks vs. Cavs matchup near the end of the playoffs, and it should be quite a battle if it happens.
As for the Warriors, Stephen Curry and company got a balanced attack from its stellar lineup, but didn’t have anyone to hang with the big line from LeBron. Curry led the way with 18 points, three boards, six dimes, a steal and three 3-pointers, but hit just 5-of-17 shots, and his Splash Brother, Klay Thompson, hit just 5-of-13 shots and three 3-pointers for 13 points, seven boards, four assists and three blocks. David Lee came off the bench for his best game of the month with 19 points and four rebounds on 8-of-11 shooting, and had not scored more than 11 points in a game since Jan. 27. The best news for the Warriors and fantasyland was that Draymond Green finally got back on track with a big line of 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists and five steals on 7-of-13 shooting. He didn’t block a shot or hit a 3-pointer, but this was easily his best game since the All-Star break. Harrison Barnes chipped in with 11 points, seven boards, a steal and three 3-pointers, which was also his best game since the break. Andrew Bogut stayed mired in a slump and finished with just six points, five boards and two blocks in 21 minutes. He’s averaging just four points over his last four games, making him nearly impossible to start in fantasy leagues.
The Hawks still have one more win (45) than the Warriors (44), but the Warriors still have an edge over Atlanta in winning percentage (80 to 78.9), as the playoff picture starts to come into focus.
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Suns 117, Thunder 113 OT
One of the best TNT lineups of the season featured the Thunder at Phoenix for the nightcap, and we were not disappointed watching Russell Westbrook and Eric Bledsoe going head to head. The Suns held on to beat OKC 117-113 in overtime, as Phoenix overcame yet another triple-double from Westbrook, who has been a monster all season, and especially since Kevin Durant went down again due to minor foot surgery. The Suns were led by Markieff Morris’ 29 points, 11 rebounds, a steal, a block and two 3-pointers on 12-of-26 shooting. Since scoring 31 points on Feb. 20, Markieff had scored a total of just 19 points over his last three games, so he was due to break out, and he saved it for the right night. Bledsoe held his own against Westbrook and just missed his a triple-double with 28 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists, a steal, four blocks and two 3-pointers. Watching him and Westbrook go at it was a blast. The key is that Bledsoe took 22 fewer shots than Westbrook, yet still had similar production and got the win for his team. Brandon Knight added 15 points, five boards, three assists and three 3-pointers, P.J. Tucker scored 12 points with four rebounds and a block, and Alex Len added 12 points, 11 boards and three blocks for the Suns. Tucker is worth a look in most leagues, but can disappear like he did last night at any time. Marcus Morris hit a few big shots off the bench and finished with 11 points, five boards and two 3-pinters in 23 minutes.
Westbrook missed his first eight shots and hit just 12-of-38 and 1-of-10 3-pointers to finish with 39 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists and three steals. He also scored 31 points in the second half and overtime, and just missed a game-tying layup near the end of overtime. "Honestly, I think I was actually shooting too much," Westbrook said after his career high in shot attempts. "I think I got to do a better job of trusting my teammates more. I am not saying I don't, but consistently trusting them regardless of what is going on, regardless of the time, score and possession. Just find a way to trust them and let them make some plays as well." This was just the third game in NBA history where two players had at least 28 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in the same game. This was also the fifth straight 20-10 game for Westbrook, and his second straight triple-double (he has four of them on the season).
The Thunder also got 18 points, six boards and a block from Enes Kanter, and Serge Ibaka stayed hot with 13 points, nine boards, a steal, three blocks and a 3-pointer. Kyle Singler started for Durant and had seven points, two rebounds and a 3-pointer, while Dion Waiters came off the bench for 16 points and three 3-pointers in the loss. D.J. Augustin also came through with 13 points, five rebounds, three assists and a 3-pointer on 5-of-8 shooting in 27 minutes, posting his best line with his new team. In four games with OKC, he’s averaging 9.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.5 steals and 1.5 3-pointers, meaning that you’re not missing much if you dropped him after he was traded to the Thunder.
News & Notes
The Bulls are hoping Derrick Rose (knee surgery) will be able to play again this season, but when that might happen is still not clear. Hold onto him if you want to, but he may not be back until the fantasy season is over.
Durant got some shots up in pregame on Thursday, but there’s still no timetable on his return. Sometime next week would make sense.
DeMarcus Cousins is listed as doubtful for Friday against the Spurs with ankle and hip injuries, which is great news for the Spurs, who have lost four straight games. Jason Thompson is the guy I like if Cousins is out, while Reggie Evans could have a bunch of rebounds tonight for the Kings. Darren Collison is expected to miss the rest of the season with a hip injury, meaning Ray McCallum and Andre Miller should split the point guard minutes the rest of the way for the Kings. McCallum is the best bet for success, but has struggled, so keep a close eye on Miller tonight.
Jose Calderon isn’t thinking about shutting it down for the season due to his Achilles injury, but he is in a walking boot, making Langston Galloway an attractive add right now. Shane Larkin could also become relevant for the Knicks as long as Calderon is out. Larkin is expected to play tonight after suffering from an illness recently, while Calderon is doubtful.
Isaiah Canaan has struggled in Philly, but is playing 30.5 minutes a game for them as the starting point guard. I still like him, and he’ll just need some time to adjust to the extra minutes his body’s not used to. Robert Covington was benched for the second and third quarters for defensive reasons on Wednesday, but he still had 13 points and a full stat line, so I’m not overly concerned.
Tyson Chandler is iffy for Dallas on Saturday against the Nets with his hip injury. If he’s out, look for Bernard James and Amare Stoudemire to pick up the slack for him. Rajon Rondo’s one-game suspension is over, but it’s unclear how the Mavs will use him going forward. He’s been pretty awful and it doesn’t sound like the free agent will be back with the team next season. And if he doesn’t repair his relationship with Rick Carlisle soon, J.J. Barea could continue to see heavy minutes for the Mavs, but Rondo is expected to start on Saturday.
Nick Young is not expected to play tonight against the Bucks, but his knee injury isn’t thought to be serious. Wayne Ellington should get a ton of minutes and play better tonight than he did on Wednesday for the Lakers. He led the team with 38 minutes in that one, but hit just 5-of-12 shots. Wes Johnson should also see a boost with Young out.
Kenneth Faried is expected to play through his thumb injury tonight for Denver, but he simply can’t be trusted right now. Center Jusuf Nurkic isn’t expected to play due to his ankle injury and Darrell Arthur isn’t likely to play due to a calf injury. Faried and J.J. Hickson could actually do something for the Nuggets tonight, but center Joffrey Lauvergne is probably the most intriguing DFS play for Denver. He had eight points, three boards and two blocks in his debut on Sunday, and then went off for 11 points, nine boards, a steal and a block on Wednesday. Wilson Chandler is dealing with a groin injury and is going to try to play against the Jazz on Friday.
C.J. Miles is iffy for the Pacers due to a foot injury. If he’s out tonight against the Cavs, look for Rodney Stuckey to have a nice game. C.J. Watson could play through an ankle injury, but George Hill is a much better fantasy option for the Pacers. Paul George went through a full practice on Thursday, but still has no timetable. Early March is a good guess for him to return from his broken leg.
James Harden didn’t practice on Thursday due to his ankle injury and is officially questionable tonight against the Nets. My guess is he’ll play, but he won’t be 100 percent. Watch for news on his status today. Patrick Beverley is iffy again tonight due to an illness, but did go through a light practice on Thursday. Consider him a game-time decision against the Nets for now.
The Heat have signed Michael Beasley and he’ll be available on Friday night against the Pelicans. I’m not going to use him if I can help it, but it should be interesting to see what he does tonight, if anything.