It was a jam-packed Saturday night in the Association, with eight exciting games on the docket. Thus, let’s get right into our recap of the action.
Pistons 136, Sixers 106
The Pistons were clearly clicking on all cylinders Saturday night. Typically in a 30-point blowout, it’s difficult for a team’s starters to match their standard statistical output. However, Detroit scored a season-high 136 points, which meant there was plenty of fantasy goodness to be spread about… Reggie Jackson began the day on the hot seat. Coach Stan Van Gundy admitted this weekend that he has considered benching Jackson and starting Ish Smith in his place. Well, Reggie responded with a solid outing, finishing with 21 points, four rebounds, two assists and three 3-pointers in 25 minutes on Saturday night. His improved play and Detroit’s big win should turn down the heat underneath Jackson’s seat just a bit. However, it should be noted that Ish Smith also played well in the win. Smith had 11 points, 13 assists and four rebounds in 23 minutes… Kentavious Caldwell-Pope paced the Pistons with a game-high 26 points, including three 3-pointers. KCP has scored at least 16 points in five of the Pistons last six contests… Tobias Harris scored 20 points with nine rebounds, two steals and two 3-pointers in 32 minutes… Andre Drummond dominated the paint in this one. He had 14 points, 14 rebounds, two assists, four steals and three blocks. Drummond has now posted a double-double in 10 of his last 11 games. He is averaging 15.2 points, 14.9 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.0 blocks over that stretch.
Although their defense was horrendous, the Sixers offense was able to put up 105 points. Nik Stauskas led the way with a season-high 24 to go along with five rebounds, two assists, two steals and four 3-pointers in 37 minutes. Stauskas was starting his second consecutive game in place of Gerald Henderson (hip). In his first start, Friday night vs. the Knicks, Stauskas dropped a dud (five points and five boards) but bounced back in a big way on Saturday. He should see plenty of action as long as Henderson is sidelined, but Stauskas is obviously tough to trust, especially with new arrival Justin Anderson playing well off the bench. Anderson scored five points and grabbed eight rebounds in 30 minutes on Saturday… Jahlil Okafor did not play due to right knee soreness. It is unknown at this point if he was sitting out due to maintenance/rest for the knee, or if this an aggravation of a previous injury. With Okafor out, as well as Joel Embiid (knee), and Nerlens Noel traded away to Dallas, Richaun Holmes was the last center left standing for the Sixers. Holmes was dealing with a troublesome hamstring of his own, but started and finished with 12 points, two rebounds and two steals in 24 minutes. With Okafor questionable going forward, Holmes is worth taking a flier on and scooping up off the waiver wire… Dario Saric continued his excellent play, stuffing the stat sheet once again. He dished out a career-high eight assists, while also adding 19 points, six rebounds and a block in just 29 minutes.
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Heat 120, Cavaliers 92
When you find a way to win 18 out of 22 games, as the Heat has done, sometimes you benefit from being in the right place at the right time along the way. The Heat pounced on the undermanned Cavs, who decided to rest both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving on Saturday. Because it was a blowout, Miami was able to give some unexpected rest to their top guns as well. Hassan Whiteside played just 28 minutes but was able to stuff plenty of stats into his court time. Whiteside finished with 20 points (on 9-of-14 shooting), 13 rebounds and a block… Goran Dragic scored a team-high 23 points, and added five dimes, four 3-pointers, and three rebounds in 24 minutes… Tyler Johnson finished with 17 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals off the Miami bench... After a scorching hot stretch in the middle of the season, Dion Waiters continues to descend back to earth. After scoring just three points on Friday, he finished with eight points (on 3-of-10 shooting) and two assists on Saturday.
Last month, coach Ty Lue stated he would make reducing LeBron’s minutes a top priority. However, LeBron is still averaging 37.6 minutes per game and played 39 on Friday night. Thus, it wasn’t shocking that Lue decided to rest King James on Saturday. The result was a massacre in Miami. Every game LeBron James sits out is a forceful reminder of just how valuable he is to his team. The Cavs are 0-5 this season when LeBron does not play and just 4-20 since the start of the 2014 season without him. Yes, James Harden and Russell Westbrook are putting up historic numbers, but we shouldn’t allow that to distract us from the fact that an adamant case could be made for LeBron taking home the MVP this season. In fact, over his last 12 games, LeBron is averaging 27.1 points, 10.3 assists and 8.2 boards, while shooting 60.5 percent from the floor & 56.6 percent(!) from 3-point territory. That’s just insanely efficient… Lue also sat Kyrie Irving on Saturday. This was somewhat predictable as well, as the Cavs want to keep Kyrie fresh for the postseason... Onto players that suited up on Saturday. Deron Williams made his first start as a Cavalier. He tallied 10 points, five rebounds and seven assists in 27 minutes. D-Will won’t see enough minutes to have fantasy value on night’s when Irving is in the lineup, but makes for a fine plug-and-play in games such as this… Channing Frye was the only Cavalier to score more than 15 points. He finished with 21 points (on 9-of-12 shooting), three 3-pointers, four rebounds and two steals in 23 minutes off the bench. Like Williams, Frye is worth plugging in when the Cavs are resting their studs, but is otherwise difficult to trust.
Bucks 101, Raptors 94
Khris Middleton was questionable for this contest, as he had played 33 minutes on Friday and had sat out the second game of each two prior back-to-back's the Bucks had played since he returned from his hamstring injury. However, Middleton suited up on Saturday and posted another impressive line. He had a game-high 24 points, three rebounds and a steal in 30 minutes. As the Bucks lift restrictions on Middleton, he will have an opportunity to be a difference-maker in the fantasy playoffs… A solid, if unspectacular, night for Giannis Antetokounmpo (21 points, 10 boards, four assists, one steal)... Malcolm Brogdon continues to earn the trust of coach Jason Kidd with his stellar play. Brogdon played a game-high 42 minutes and tallied 17 points, five rebounds, three assists and one turnover. On a related note, Matthew Dellavedova scored six points on 2-of-11 shooting in 26 minutes… Spencer Hawes came out of nowhere to score 16 points with eight rebounds, one block and two 3-pointers in 17 minutes. He had played only three total minutes since being traded to Milwaukee over a month ago. He can be left on waivers until he comes close to replicating this type of performance.
DeMar DeRozan entered this matchup with Milwaukee red hot, averaging 33.8 points, 7.2 boards and 3.2 assists over his last five games. But DD started off slow on Saturday and was never able to get back track. He didn’t attempt a single shot from the floor was held scoreless in the first quarter. He finished the game with 11 points (on 5-of-13 shooting), three boards and four dimes… Fantasy owners had high hopes for Serge Ibaka when he was dealt from Orlando to Toronto, and Ibaka has exceeded those lofty expectations. He had 19 points (on 7-of-11 shooting), five boards, two assists and two 3-pointers. He is averaging 17.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.4 treys and 1.6 blocks over his last six games… On the flip side of the coin, Jonas Valanciunas has struggled mightily since the Ibaka acquisition. JV had scored a total of just nine points in 34 minutes in the Raps previous two games combined before traveling to Milwaukee. Fortunately for Valanciunas owners in panic mode, JV bounced back with a decent game on Saturday, finishing with 13 points on a perfect 5-of-5 from the floor, in addition to seven boards in 21 minutes. There is still obviously reason to be anxious going forward, as JV was once again benched the entire fourth quarter… After struggling a bit after being named the starter in the wake of the Kyle Lowry injury, Cory Joseph has started to play much better of late. He scored 14 points with five rebounds, eight assists and two 3-pointers… DeMarre Carroll suffered a left ankle sprain in the third quarter and was unable to return to the game. If Carroll is forced to miss time, P.J. Tucker and Norman Powell will likely divvy up his minutes. Tucker had nine points, four rebounds, and two 3-pointers in 29 minutes on Saturday. Norman Powell scored 12 points with two rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes. Of the two, Powell is probably the more appealing add due to a more well-rounded offensive game. However, if you need steals, then Tucker is your man.
Clipper 101, Bulls 91
Jamal Crawford can get cold and struggle for weeks at a time, as he did earlier this season. However, he also has a unique ability to get hot and take over a game, which is precisely what the reigning Sixth Man of the Year did on Saturday night. Crawford (25 points, two 3-pointers, two rebounds, two assists and two steals) caught fire in the fourth quarter to help carry the Clippers to the victory… Chris Paul (17 points, four assists, two rebounds, two steals and just one turnover) was dealing with a minor thumb issue on Friday but was good to go on Saturday… Blake Griffin finished with 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds… DeAndre Jordan was quiet offensively (six points on 3-of-5 shooting), but hauled down 14 rebounds and dished out three assists.
It was a collective dud from the Bulls on Saturday, as they could not get going on the offensive end. Thus, there is very little to write home about from a fantasy perspective. No Chicago player scored more than 16 points, and no Bull had more than seven rebounds. Jimmy Butler salvaged a decent night with 16 points, six assists, four boards and three steals... Bobby Portis scored 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting with seven rebounds in just 21 minutes. Nikola Mirotic ended up playing six more minutes, but wasn’t overly productive, finishing with eight points, seven rebounds, two assists and three steals. It always dicey to try and predict what coach Fred Hoiberg might do from night to night, but Portis appears to be the more appealing fantasy option at the moment.
Hornets 112, Nuggets 102
With the Hornets playoff hopes growing dimmer of late, Kemba Walker stepped up and helped lead his team to an impressive road win in Denver. Walker scored 21 points, and added five 3-pointers, four rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block… Frank Kaminsky suffered an AC joint sprain in his left shoulder on Friday night. He was unavailable on Saturday and is expected to miss several more games. "Right now it's day-to-day, depending on how he progresses these next two days," Charlotte coach Steve Clifford explained pregame. "Typically, that injury would be ten days to two weeks." As expected, Cody Zeller stepped into the starting lineup on Saturday. He scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 26 minutes. Zeller is worth a roster spot in standard leagues now that he has reclaimed his spot in the starting lineup… Marvin Williams (19 points, four rebounds, one steal, one block and three 3-pointers in 29 minutes) would also be in line for an uptick in minutes as long as Kaminsky is sidelined… Nicolas Batum (21 points, eight assists, four 3-pointers, and two rebounds) had a typically solid Batum-esque stat line.
This loss certainly cannot be pinned on the Nikola Jokic. Coming off two consecutive triple-doubles, The Joker stuffed the stat sheet once again on Saturday. He not only scored 31 points on an incredibly efficient 13-of-15 from the floor, but he also snatched 14 boards and dished out four dimes. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only one other Denver player has ever scored 30+ points while shooting at least 85% from the field in an NBA game. That was Kenneth Faried (30 pts, 12-for-14) against Sacramento on April 12, 2015. Faried was also the last NBA player on any team with a performance like that. Over his last three games, Jokic is averaging 21.0 points (on 71.4 percent shooting), 14.7 rebounds and 8.0 assists. Jokic has been incredibly fun to own since the middle of December and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. Joker will be a common-denominator on many teams that go on to win fantasy champions this season… The aforementioned Kenneth Faried (back spasms) missed his fourth straight contest. Speaking with reporters before the start of the game, coach Mike Malone painted a gloomy picture. “He is in pain. He hasn't traveled with us," said Malone, while also adding that Faried “is in rough shape.” This is obviously disconcerting news and makes Faried waiver-wire fodder for those of us in leagues where the playoffs begin as early as next. Wilson Chandler is expected to continue starting, with Juancho Hernangomez and Darrell Arthur also seeing additional minutes. However, Chandler struggled on Saturday. He missed seven of his eight field goal attempts and finished with six points, four boards and three dimes in just 22 minutes. However, Arthur (four points and five boards in 16 minutes) and Hernangomez (three points, two rebounds zero assists in 13 minutes) also failed to impress…
Still, no Nugget was more disappointing than Gary Harris. Somehow, Harris attempted just one shot, failed to score a single point, failed to grab a single rebound and dished out just one assist. We’ll write this one off as a complete fluke. He confirmed afterward that he is not dealing any injury. "It was just one of those games today," Harris told reporters afterward. "Can't think too much about it. Gotta bounce back." No reason to overreact to a random flameout. Make sure Harris is back in your starting lineup when the Nuggets take on the Kings on Monday… Jameer Nelson returned to the starting lineup after a bout with food poisoning prevented him from playing Wednesday. He scored eight points with two rebounds, five assists and two 3-pointers in 29 minutes. With Nelson back in the mix, Jamal Murray was bumped back to the bench. However, Murray (14 points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals and two 3-pointers in 26 minutes) played well off the pine… Danilo Gallinari's production waned a bit before the All-Star break, due in part to a nagging groin injury, but Gallo is back on the beam. He scored 22 points with five rebounds and two 3-pointers on Saturday and has scored at least 20 points in five straight games, which is the second-longest such streak in his career.
Rockets 123, Grizzlies 108
At this stage, we simply expect James Harden to put up ridiculous numbers each and every night. He delivered the goods again on Saturday, finishing with 33 points (on 9-of-15 shooting), 11 dimes, seven rebounds, six 3-pointers, two steals and five turnovers. Remarkably, this was Harden’s third game this season with more than 30 points, 10 boards and five treys. The rest of the league combined has only two such games (one apiece from Russell Westbrook and Lebron James). Per Basketball Reference, the NBA record for the most such games in any single season is four by Steph Curry back in 2013-14… Clint Capela had a phenomenal night in the win over the Grizz. He scored a career-high 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting and pulled down 11 boards. The Grizzlies resorted to the Hack-a-Capela technique in the fourth quarter due to his career 41.8 percent free-throw percentage, but CC would have none of it. He knocked down eight of 10 from the charity stripe. Capela has seen his playing time increase in five straight games, due in part to Montrezl Harrell being banished from the rotation. Capela's fantasy stock is spiking… After averaging 24.0 points and 4.7 triples in his first three games as Rocket, Lou Williams has cooled off considerably. After scoring five points on 2-of-11 shooting on Wednesday, Lou Will had nine points on 3-of-8 shooting on Saturday. He is just 2-of-13 from downtown over those two games. Nonetheless, Williams is still sitting in a great situation as a three-point gunner on a team that wants to take at least 50 treys a night… Eric Gordon picked up the slack, knocking down six 3-pointers on Saturday. He had 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting with two assists, one steal and one block. Gordon has now made at least six treys ten times this season, slipping past Steph Curry for the most six-trey games.
JaMychal Green had fallen off a fantasy cliff, averaging just 6.4 points and 6.8 rebounds over his previous five games. He escaped from the doldrums on Saturday, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He's still tough to trust going forward in standard leagues… Per usual, Mike Conley (23 points, seven dimes, six boards, two triples and two steals) was excellent… Marc Gasol was stellar as well: 17 points, four rebounds, seven assists, two steals and four blocks… Okay, you want the good or bad news related to Chandler Parsons? Yes, he did play in both halves of a back-to-back for the first time this entire season. However, he had just two points (on 1-of-5 shooting), seven rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes. It’s become increasingly difficult to hold on to Parsons even in deep leagues.
Blazers 130, Nets 116
Brooklyn is awful. When an opponent beats the 2016-17 Nets, should it only count as half-a-win? Brooklyn is now 41 games below .500 (10-51) and has lost 29 of their last 32 games. Portland, who is in a dogfight out West, certainly won’t complain about the strength of competition. Portland's win, coupled with the Nuggets loss to the Hornets, means the Blazers are now just 1 1/2 games behind Denver for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. C.J. McCollum was the star of the show for Portland on Saturday. He scored 31 points and added five rebounds, five assists, four 3-pointers and no turnovers… Moe Harkless contributed across the board again on Saturday: 18 points, two rebounds, three assists, three blocks, two steals and two 3-pointers in 30 minutes… Al-Farouq Aminu also stayed hot against the hapless Nets, scoring 23 points with six rebounds, one assist and five 3-pointers in 32 minutes… The Jusuf Nurkic Revival Tour continues! Nurk had 17 points, six rebounds, five assists and one steal in 30 minutes. He is averaging 18.0 points, 8.3 boards, 5.3 assists and 2.0 blocks over his last three games… Some injury news to pass along. Portland announced that Festus Ezeli will have surgery on his knee next week, ending his season. Ezeli ended up not playing a single minute for the Blazers in 2016-17. Expect them to cut him loose this summer… In more encouraging news, Evan Turner had his cast removed from his right hand on Friday and appears to be inching closer to a return.
Like most nights, Brook Lopez was forced to carry much of the offensive load. BroLo scored 26 points with five rebounds, two blocks and two 3-pointers on Saturday… Sean Kilpatrick (20 points with two rebounds, five assists and six 3-pointers in 27 minutes) was the only other Net to crack the 20-point plateau, which was quite surprising considering Kilpatrick hadn’t scored 20-plus points since the day after Christmas… Jeremy Lin scored 18 points with three rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block and four 3-pointers in 22 minutes. This was an encouraging performance, as Lin not only poured in 18 points, he played over 20 minutes on the back end of a back-to-back. If Lin starts seeing 25-plus minutes a night, he can be a fantasy factor down the stretch.
Spurs 97, Timberwolves 90
With the victory, the Spurs improved 48-13 and became the second team to clinch a playoff berth this season. Incredibly, this is the 20th consecutive year that the Spurs advanced to the postseason. The primary reason the Spurs sit 35 games above .500 and were able to walk with the win on Saturday was the all-around dominance of their MVP-caliber forward. Kawhi Leonard tallied 34 points, ten rebounds, five assists, six steals, one block and one 3-pointer. Per Elias, no San Antonio player had put up at least 30 points, 10 rebounds, and five steals in a game since David Robinson went for 35 points, 16 rebounds, and five steals at Atlanta on Jan. 8, 1991. Also, Kawhi has now scored in double figures in 90 straight games. Assuming he scores at least 10 points in each of San Antonio’s next two contests, he’ll break the Spurs franchise record, currently held by Tim Duncan, who had 91 straight in 2002-2003. … Despite continuing to come off the bench, Pau Gasol still continues to post favorable numbers. He had 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists, one block and two 3-pointers in 30 minutes on Saturday… LaMarcus Aldridge had 18 points, to go along with 10 boards. No other Spur scored more than six points… Manu Ginobili (rest) got the night off.
Ricky Rubio notched a triple-double on Saturday. He scored 11 points, grabbed 13 boards and dished out 10 assists. This was a special triple-double because it was the 79th trip-dub in the NBA this season, which an all-time record for the most in one season in league history. Rubio is averaging a double-double (12.1 points and 10.1 assists) over the Wolves last 18 games… Karl-Anthony Towns did what Karl-Anthony Towns does: 24 points with 14 rebounds. Remarkably, this was the sixth straight game that KAT has scored over 20 points and grabbed at least 14 rebounds. He is averaging 26.8 points and 17.5 boards during this current six-game stretch… Andrew Wiggins is quite an accomplished scorer himself and came into Saturday having poured in 20-plus points in 19 straight games. That came to a streaking half once The Claw put the clamps on him. Wiggins had little room to breathe with Kawhi Leonard crowding him all night. He was just 6-of-24 from the floor, finishing with 17 points, four rebounds, two assists and three turnovers… Gorgui Dieng had 13 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. He won’t put up flashy numbers most nights, but Dieng consistently finds ways to contribute steady, all-around stats.