The Main Event on Saturday night was the highly anticipated bout between Russell Westbrook’s Thunder and Kevin Durant’s Warriors in Oklahoma City. However, there was also plenty of exciting action in the other seven games that comprised the NBA’s undercard.
Let’s get right to the recaps…
Clippers 107, Hornets 102:
Blake Griffin stuffed the stat sheet once again Saturday night, coming up just short of his second triple-double of the week as he tallied 20 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists. Griffin continues to put up phenomenal all-around numbers as the focal point of the Clippers offense with Chris Paul (thumb) in street clothes. In fact, he has done a pretty solid CP3 impression of late. Griffin has handed out 24 assists over his last three games, which is the second-highest three-game total of his NBA career. And, over his last five, Griffin is averaging 26.4 points, 9.4 rebounds and 6.0 assists… DeAndre Jordan unsurprisingly grabbed a game-high 16 boards but scored a season-low four points… Jamal Crawford was ice-cold for much of January. He averaged just 10.7 points per game while shooting 33.8 percent from the floor. Well, Crawford has flipped the switch in February. He has scored at least 20 points in four of his last five games and is averaging 20.0 points and 3.6 treys while shooting 51.6 percent over that stretch.
Kemba Walker, who hasn’t scored more than 18 points or shot above 42 percent from the floor in any game this month, was unable to shake out of his slump on Saturday. Walker was just 4-of-18 from the field, finishing with 10 points, four rebounds and four assists. For the month of February, Walker is now averaging 13.2 points, 5.0 assists and 3.0 rebounds, while shooting a putrid 28.4 percent from the floor and 23.3 percent from downtown… Charlotte center Cody Zeller aggravated a quad injury on Thursday and did not play on Saturday. He has now missed eight of the Hornets last nine games. Frank Kaminsky started in place of Zeller and played well, scoring 20 points to go along with eight rebounds, five assists, two blocks and three 3-pointers. Kaminsky has now scored in double-figures in four of his last five and is averaging 16.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.0 triples during that span. He’s a worth a look as a short-term add with Zeller still nursing that quad injury… Nicolas Batum scored a game-high 25 points on Saturday and chipped in six rebounds, eight assists and four 3-pointers.
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Sixers 117, Heat 109:
There was a ton of news involving just the Sixers centers on Saturday. One night after Joel Embiid was seen dancing on stage at a Meek Mill concert, general manager Bryan Colangelo announced that Joel Embiid has a "very minor" tear the meniscus in his left knee. The tear was initially discovered back on Jan. 20, although the Sixers believe it may have been a preexisting condition. Embiid has missed 11 of the Sixers 12 games since then. The good news is that Colangelo does not expect Embiid to require surgery, noting that many NBA players play through similar injuries. However, Embiid, given his injury history, is not most players. Colangelo went on to say that it is unlikely Embiid would play in either of the team's two remaining games before the All-Star break (Monday at Charlotte and Wednesday at Boston) and highly unlikely that Embiid would participate in any of the festivities at All-Star weekend. It’s unknown if he’ll be ready to suit up for the Sixers first game after the break, which is against the Wizards on Friday, Feb. 24.
With Embiid out, Jahlil Okafor was expected to draw another start. However, Okafor never got off the bench. Afterward, it was revealed that he was held out due to ongoing trade talks. In fact, it was reported that if Okafor isn’t moved early in the week, he could be held out each of the team’s next two games in order to prevent a possible injury. At this point, it seems it’s only a matter of when, not if, Okafor gets dealt… Nerlens Noel started at center on Saturday and finished with 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting, three rebounds, one block and four steals in 32 minutes. If Okafor is traded, Noel will likely settle in as Embiid’s backup and see 25-plus minutes a night with the second unit, which will allow him to provide consistent fantasy production… Dario Saric was dynamite, finishing with 19 points, six boards, four assists, and two steals. Over his last four games, Saric is averaging 19.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.0 assists. His value also increases if Okafor is moved… T.J. McConnell (11 points and 10 assists) had his second double-double of the season… Robert Covington (19 points, seven rebounds, two blocks, four steals, five 3-pointers) also had a solid all-around game.
Although Miami’s 13-game winning streak was finally snapped, the Heat’s stars still put up impressive numbers. Goran Dragic had 30 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and two 3-pointers. The lone blemish was seven turnovers… Hassan Whiteside scored 12 points and grabbed 19 rebounds… James Johnson remains red-hot. He matched a season-high with 26 points and added four rebounds, three assists and two blocks. He has now tallied at least 20-points in three consecutive contests. He’s averaging 24.0 points (on 59.1 percent shooting) 5.3 boards, 3.0 assists and 2.3 blocks over those three games. He’ll come back down to earth a bit once Dion Waiters (ankle) returns, but Johnson still should be jumping off waiver wires this weekend.
Bucks 116, Pacers 110:
After a 41-point gem on Friday night, Giannis Antetokounmpo just missed a triple-double on Saturday, finishing with 20 points, 10 dimes, eight rebounds, two blocks and one steal… Thon Maker looked good in his second consecutive start. He tied his career-high with 12 points and three made 3-pointers. He also chipped in three rebounds and two steals in his 22 minutes. Maker has some enticing upside if he can hang onto his starting gig. Arguably the most impressive aspect of his play this season has been his accuracy from long-range. Maker is shooting 55 percent (15-of-27) from 3-point territory this season… Mirza Teletovic scored 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting in his 17 minutes, including five 3-pointers… Every once in a while, Greg Monroe will pop up and put up big numbers. This was one of those occasions. Monroe had 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal in 26 minutes… Malcolm Brogdon has strung together two solid games in a row. He scored 16 points (on 7-of-10 shooting) on Friday and backed that up with 17 points, three assists, three rebounds and two 3-pointers on Saturday in 36 minutes off the bench. Starting point guard Matthew Dellavedova had nine points and four assists in 33 minutes. Brogdon played alongside Delly at times.
Paul George was disappointingly ineffective in Saturday’s loss, finishing with 13 points (on 4-of-11 shooting), eight rebounds, three assists and five turnovers… Jeff Teague (two points, six assists, three rebounds) was also eerily quiet in this one… C.J. Miles paced the Pacers with a game-high 23 points and six triples. It’s actually the second time in his last three games that Miles has scored 23 points and made six 3-pointers, with a dud sandwiched in between… Monta Ellis has shown some signs of life this week. After scoring 13 points on Wednesday, he put up 18 points (on 7-of-10 shooting) on Saturday. However, he is still averaging under seven points per game over the last two months and can be left on waiver wires… Thaddeus Young missed his fifth straight game with a sprained left wrist. Lavoy Allen started at power forward once again but tallied just four points and six boards in 19 minutes.
Mavericks 112, Magic 80:
The Mavs, who were up 30 points just a minute into the third quarter, blew the Magic out of the water in this one. Thus, it’s difficult to read too deeply into the box score. Despite playing just 25 minutes, Wesley Matthews scored a game-high 20 points and added six assists, four rebounds and six 3-pointers… Harrison Barnes had just eight points (on 4-13 shooting), four boards and two assists… Deron Williams (seven points, four assists and three steals) finally returned to the Dallas lineup after missing eight games with a toe injury. He started but played only 16 minutes. Yogi Ferrell, who had started each of the eight games D-Will missed, was bumped back to the bench. He still managed to score 10 points, dish out seven dimes and play a team-high 32 minutes, but much of that came after the game had already been decided.
There’s very little positive to report from the Orlando side of the ledger. Bismack Biyombo had seven boards and scored a team-high 15 points, but nine of those came in the fourth quarter, which was complete garbage time… Mario Hezonja made his second consecutive start in place of the injured Aaron Gordon (foot). Mario played a season-high 35 minutes, finishing with seven points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals. Unfortunately, Hezonja has been unable to locate his stroke in his two starts, shooting a combined 4-of-15 from the floor. However, he’ll likely to continue to see extended minutes if Gordon remains sidelined… Both Serge Ibaka (eight points, four rebounds, two assists) and Nikola Vucevic (three points, 10 boards, two blocks) failed to bring much to the table in limited minutes… Elfrid Payton had eight points and failed to hand out a single assist in 20 minutes off the bench.
Cavs 125, Nuggets 109:
After losing eight of the 15 games they played in January, the Cavs have won five of six in February. Unsurprisingly, Cleveland’s Big Three led the way on Saturday night. LeBron James had 27 points, five rebounds, 12 assists, two steals and six turnovers in 33 minutes. LeBron’s passing has truly been a thing of beauty this season. Amazingly, he’s dished out at least seven assists in 13 straight games. He is averaging 10.5 dimes per game over the last month… Kyrie Irving scored 27 points and added four rebounds, five assists and five 3-pointers… Kevin Love tallied 16 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three 3-pointers… Tristan Thompson contributed 13 points and grabbed 13 boards.
The Nuggets were playing their third game in four nights and simply couldn’t hang with the Cavs in the second half. However, the loss can’t be pinned on Nikola Jokic. After simply annihilating the Knicks in MSG on Friday, Jokic posted yet another stellar stat line on Saturday night in Cleveland. The Joker finished with 27 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and two blocks. GM’s that drafted Jokic, or even better, bought low back in December, will be laughing all the way to the fantasy playoffs. There have very few players providing more fantasy production or enjoyment over the last two months… Jameer Nelson had 12 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two 3-pointers against. This is two straight solid game for Nelson. He’s a solid, affordable DFS play and short-term add with Emmanuel Mudiay (back) sidelined… Wilson Chandler had been hot but sputtered out with 13 points, six rebounds, one assist and three turnovers in 34 minutes on Saturday. He was battling an illness, so that may have contributed to his relatively poor play.
Rockets 133, Suns 102:
The Rockets dismantled the shorthanded Suns on Saturday, leading by at least 30 points for much of the second half. As a result, James Harden only played 29 minutes, but still managed to put up 40 points, six rebounds, eight assists and eight 3-pointers. Harden is the first Rocket to score 40-plus points in fewer than 30 minutes in more than 30 years. Harden has now cracked the 40-point plateau in four of Houston’s last eight games… Houston’s second-leading scorer was Patrick Beverley, who scored 19 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including a perfect 4-of-4 from downtown. He also added 10 boards, five assists and two steals. Beverly remains underappreciated in fantasy circles and has been one of the more pleasant surprises of the entire 2016-17 campaign. He’s been solid all season but has taken it to the next level of late. Over the Rockets last four games, Beverly is averaging 14.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists 2.5 treys, and 1.8 steals. Folks that were prescient enough to stack their roster with Rockets back on draft day are sitting pretty right now. Expect much of the same over the second half of the season… Eric Gordon missed his second straight contest with soreness in his lower back but coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game that Gordon is feeling better and is expected to suit up for the Rockets Wednesday vs. Miami. With Gordon sidelined on Saturday, Sam Dekker had an opportunity to step up. He had 14 points, four rebounds and one block in 28 minutes.
Eric Bledsoe had played in each of the Suns first 54 games heading into Saturday night. However, after struggling over the last week, Phoenix decided it was time to give Bledsoe a night off. Brandon Knight drew the start in place of Bledsoe, but was brutal. Knight missed seven of the eight shots he attempted. He scored just three points, committed two turnovers and failed to register a single assist, rebound, block or steal in 20 minutes. This was rock-bottom on what has been an incredibly disappointing season for Knight. With Knight struggling, Tyler Ulis played 28 minutes off the bench. He finished with 13 points, two rebounds, six assists, one steal and one 3-pointer. He may have leapfrogged Knight in the process… With Bledsoe out, Devin Booker was expected to carry the offensive load on Saturday, but Booker was off target all night. He scored 18 points but was just 6-of-18 from the floor. He also had as many turnovers (three) and assists and rebounds combined… The Suns were also missing their starting center, Tyson Chandler, who injured his ankle on Friday night. Alex Len got the start at center on Saturday. Len had 13 points, eight rebounds, two assists and one block in 20 minutes.
Warriors 130, Thunder 114:
Kevin Durant, returning to the place he called home for the vast majority of his NBA career, heard the boos reign down on him all night. KD and the Warriors responded by reigning down jumpers from all over the floor. Durant scored 34 points and added nine rebounds, three assists and three 3-pointers. In the three games Durant has played against OKC this season, he has averaged 37.7 points and shot 65.6 percent from the field. Golden State has won all three in blowout fashion. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only two other players scored 30 or more points in each of their first three games against a former team - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar against the Bucks (1975-1976) and Allen Iverson vs. the 76ers (2007-2008) - but Abdul-Jabbar and Iverson did not win all three of those games… After scuffling a bit in the two games Golden State played earlier this week, Stephen Curry bounced back with 26 points, eight rebounds, nine assists, two steals and four 3-pointers. Durant and Curry rank first and third, respectively, in overall fantasy rankings this season… Klay Thompson had 26 points and five 3-pointers, but very little else… The surprise of the night for the Warriors was JaVale McGee, who was 7-of-8 from the floor for 16 points. As if the Golden State offense wasn’t difficult enough to contain, McGee's efficient offense and high-flying acrobatics give opponents another wrinkle to worry about.
Russell Westbrook plays incredibly hard every second he’s on the floor anyway, but you know this one was personal. Although he didn’t get the victory, Westbrook, unsurprisingly, put up monster numbers: 47 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, one steal, three 3-pointers and 11 turnovers. The turnovers continue to hurt the Thunder and Westbrook’s fantasy value. His five games with at least 10 turnovers are the most in a single season over the last 30 years… Victor Oladipo scored 20 points with four rebounds, four assists and two 3-pointers. It was the third time in his last four games that he’s scored at least 20 points. He’s averaging 20.3 points and 7.3 rebounds over that stretch… Steven Adams scored 13 points but nabbed just three boards… Andre Roberson had six points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in 34 minutes. He’s grabbed 11 rebounds in three of his last four contests.
Celtics 112, Jazz 104:
The Celtics offense was firing on all cylinders in Utah. As a team, they shot 59.2 percent from the floor and 43.3 percent from 3-point territory. As usual, Isaiah Thomas led the way. He had five assists and two boards and was 9-of-16 from the floor and 4-of-7 from deep for his 29 points… The C’s second-leading scorer on Saturday was Kelly Olynyk, who supplied 19 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals, two blocks and three 3-pointers in 27 minutes off the bench. He is now averaging 13.5 points (on 59.5 percent shooting) and 6.5 rebounds over his last four… Al Horford had a typically solid line: 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists, one block, two treys… Marcus Smart started in place of Jae Crowder (personal) and finished with 10 points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals and three turnovers… Gerald Green scored 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting in 23 minutes. Green started the second half in place of Jaylon Brown, who left with a hip strain in the second quarter and did not return.
Gordon Hayward stayed hot on Saturday, albeit in a losing effort. He scored a game-high 31 points and added four assists and four 3-pointers. It was the fourth time in his last five games that he’s scored at least 30 points… After sitting out to rest on Thursday night, George Hill had 22 points, three rebounds, four assists, three steals and two 3-pointers on Saturday. He’s averaging 22.0 points and 3.0 triples over his last four contests… Rodney Hood (knee) didn’t play on Saturday and it was reported that Utah plans to keep him out of their final two games before the All-Star break as well… Rudy Gobert finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds. It was his 37th double-double this season, which is the fourth-most in the NBA this season… After teasing owners earlier in the week with some encouraging performances, Derrick Favors had another dud on Saturday night, finishing with six points and six rebounds in 26 minutes.