Saturday’s seven-game slate provided plenty of highlights, including another scoring explosion from Kemba Walker and a near-perfect triple-double from Nikola Jokic. However, it also featured multiple fantasy studs sitting out to rest and was marred by an ugly brawl between the Lakers and Rockets at the Staples Center in the final game of the night.
Before we detail the standout individual performances from Saturday evening, let’s first discuss the potential fallout from the fight between L.A. and Houston. With just over four minutes to play, and the Rockets up 109-108, Brandon Ingram was called for a foul on James Harden as Harden was driving to the bucket. After the whistle, Ingram shoved Harden and confronted a ref after being hit with a technical. In the fracas that followed, Chris Paul claims he was spit at by Rajon Rondo, which resulted in CP3 sticking a finger in the face of the Lakers point guard. Rondo responded by throwing a punch at Paul, which connected. Paul then landed a shot of his own. The usually mild-mannered Ingram came running in from behind and threw a haymaker. All three players were ejected.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, an investigation into Rockets-Lakers fight was already underway Saturday night, and there is potential for suspensions as soon as Sunday, as the Rockets play the Clippers on a back-to-back.
It’s safe to assume all three combatants, Paul, Rondo and Ingram will receive suspensions. I’d guess that CP3 and Rondo get one or two games apiece, while Ingram gets up to three. As NYT's Marc Stein noted, Serge Ibaka and James Johnson got one-game suspensions for throwing punches at each other last season. And Arron Afflalo got two games for throwing a punch at Nemanja Bjelica.
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With the fisticuffs out of the way, let’s focus on hoops.
Nikola Jokic pitched a perfect game on Saturday night. Yes, it’s early in the season, but it’s hard to imagine many box scores being more impressive than what Jokic delivered in a beatdown of the Suns. Not only did the Joker tally 35 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, four steals and a block, but he also didn’t miss a single shot from the field, knocking down all 11 of his FG attempts, including three treys, and made 10-of-11 from the free-throw stripe. The only other player in NBA history to ever record a 30-point triple-double without a missing a shot from the floor was Wilt Chamberlain in 1967. We may have to wait another 50 years before we see another one. Jokic is such a uniquely gifted player, and an absolute fantasy superstar.
Kyle Lowry stepped up for the Raptors with Kawhi Leonard (rest) sitting out on Saturday. Kyle Lowry delivered 28 points, three rebounds, 12 assists, four treys, a steal, a block and four turnovers in 35 minutes. Historically, Lowry tends to be a slow starter at the beginning of seasons, but he’s been supremely efficient over Toronto’s first three games, shooting a scorching 61.0 percent from the floor and 60 percent from downtown. We thought he would see increased minutes and production with DeMar DeRozan shipped off to San Antonio, and that’s what’s happened. After averaging just 32.2 minutes per game last season, Lowry is at 35 mpg this year.
Joel Embiid was a beast in the Sixers close victory over the Magic on Saturday. He scored 32 points (13-of-26 FGs) and added ten rebounds, three assists, and three 3-pointers in 34 minutes. Encouragingly, Embiid has played at least 33 minutes in each of the Sixers first three contests. If he can stay healthy, a top-10 overall season is on the way… J.J. Redick had his best game of the young season in Philly’s win. He poured in 31 points (10-of-20 FGs, 8-of-13 3PTs, 3-of-3 FTs) with four rebounds, four assists, and one steal in 32 minutes.
Blake Griffin stuffed the stat sheet on Saturday in the Pistons victory over the Bulls, registering 33 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, five treys and no turnovers in 35 minutes. That’s two straight terrific games for BG to open up the 2018-19 campaign.
Nikola Vucevic posted a mammoth triple-double on Saturday. He scored 27 points (10-of-15 FGs), grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out 12 assists. He also chipped in two steals and four 3-pointers in 38 minutes. Per Basketball-Reference, Vooch is the first player in Magic franchise history with at least 25 points, 13 boards and 12 dimes in a regular season game… Aaron Gordon also played very well, tallying 20 points (7-of-12 FGs, 6-of-9 FTs) 12 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and three blocks. Air Gordon has at least ten boards in three straight and is averaging 12.7 rebounds per game… Evan Fournier was ice cold over Orlando’s first two games, missing 12 of his first 14 triple attempts this season, but heated up on Saturday. He was 6-of-10 from deep on his way to 31 points, four rebounds and three assists.
Kemba Walker exploded for another huge scoring effort on Saturday, piling up 39 points with five rebounds, seven assists and seven 3-pointers in 40 minutes. Kemba had a chance to notch his second 40-burger of the season, but intentionally missed the final free-throw of the game with just 0.5 seconds left to seal the win for the Hornets. Walker has scored a league-leading total of 106 points this season. No other player in the NBA has more than 85.
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Jayson Tatum scored 24 points, including several key buckets down the stretch, in the Celtics 103-101 win over the Knicks on Saturday. Tatum also ripped down a career-high 14 boards and added two steals and two 3-pointers in 35 minutes. The fact that Tatum, not Kyrie Irving, delivered the clutch baskets to close the game out says a lot about the trust Boston has in him. The sky is the limit for this kid.
Karl-Anthony Towns scored 31 points on 9-of-16 shooting, to go along with five rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block, and four 3-pointers in 34 minutes. This is the KAT that fantasy owners were expecting when they invested a top-3 pick. With Jimmy Butler (rest) out, Towns was featured far more frequently on the offensive end… Derrick Rose also benefited from the absence of Butler and was stellar on Saturday, scoring 28 points (11-of-21 FGs) with five rebounds, five assists, two steals, one block, and two 3-pointers in 32 minutes. It looks like D Rose still has some gas left in the tank… Jeff Teague chipped in 22 points, nine assists, two rebounds, one steal, and two 3-pointers in 34 minutes.
Luka Doncic was dominant for stretches in the first half of Saturday’s victory over the Wolves and finished with 26 points on 8-of-16 shooting, six rebounds, three assists, four triples, two steals and one block in 36 minutes. Luka is making an early case for Rookie of the Year consideration. I expect many more nights like this over the next six months.
James Harden did James Harden things, tallying 36 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block in 38 minutes vs. the Lakers. Chris Paul was having a monster night before the fight broke out. He had 28 points, seven boards, ten assists, a steal and three 3-pointers at the time of his ejection.
On the Radar:
Pascal Siakam posted a 10-point, 10-rebound line off the bench in the Raptors victory over the Wiz. He also added two assists, one steal, one block and one 3-pointer in 26 minutes… Serge Ibaka again played well, finishing with16 points, nine rebounds, one steal and one block in 27 minutes… OG Anunoby drew the start in place of Kawhi Leonard and scored 12 points with four rebounds, one assist, one steal and two 3-pointers in 29 minutes… Jonas Valanciunas scored 16 points with seven rebounds, one assist and one block in 19 minutes.
Bradley Beal poured in 32 points with three rebounds, six assists, one block, one steal and six 3-pointers in 35 minutes on Saturday. In the process, Beal broke Washington's franchise record for most 3-pointers in a career, passing Gilbert Arenas' previous mark of 868… John Wall missed shootaround due to migraines but suited up and scored 25 points with four rebounds, six assists, four steals, one block and four turnovers… Otto Porter didn’t attempt a single 3-pointer in the opener, but made sure he got up some treys on Saturday, launching three shots from behind the arc within the first four minutes. He missed all three but ended up 2-of-7 from deep. He finished with 11 points with one rebound, one steal, one block and two 3-pointers in 25 minutes. He’s off to a slow start but will turn it around sooner rather than later.
Victor Oladipo tallied 25 points, seven rebounds, three assists, four steals and three 3-pointers in 33 minutes during a 132-112 win over the Nets on Saturday. ‘Dipo, who entered the season with at least one steal in each of the final 64 games of 2017-18 and was the league-leader in that category, didn’t have a single theft in either of the Pacers first two games. Vic fixed that in this one, recording four steals… Myles Turner scored 14 points with eight rebounds, two assists, one steal, one block and one 3-pointer in 27 minutes. Those of us who started him in DFS with Domantas Sabonis (knee) sidelined, were hoping for a bit more, but it’s still a solid outing… Kyle O'Quinn scored 14 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and finished with eight rebounds, one assist, one steal and two blocks in 19 minutes… Nine different Pacers scored in double-figures in this contest.
Jamal Murray scored 26 points(on 9-of-18 shooting) to go along with three 3-pointers, three rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block in 37 minutes on Saturday… Gary Harris had 18/4/4 and two steals.
Caris LeVert stayed red-hot on Saturday night, knocking down 8-of-9 from the field for 19 points with four rebounds, three assists, two steals, one block, four turnovers and two 3-pointers in 28 minutes. On the season, LeVert is slashing a ridiculous 65/40/86 percent… Joe Harris tied Caris for the team-high in points with 19, making five of his six 3-point attempts… After two strong games to start the season, Jarrett Allen came crashing back down to earth. He scored eight points with three rebounds and one block in 22 minutes.
Markelle Fultz tallied eight points (on 4-of-11 shooting), four rebounds, seven assists, one steal, and one turnover in 23 minutes on Saturday. Ben Simmons (back) left in the first quarter of this game and was unable to return, allowing Fultz to run the offense a bit more. The results were mixed, but the seven assists are encouraging.
Enes Kanter powered his way to another bruising double-double on Saturday, finishing with 17 points (on 8-of-15 shooting), 15 rebounds, two assists and two steals before fouling out late in the final minutes. Kanter also knocked down his first 3-pointer of the season… Tim Hardaway Jr. shot just 8-of-21 from the field, but scored 24 points to along with three rebounds, three assists, one steal and five 3-pointers across a team-high 37 minutes. On the season, THJ has attempted 68 shots. Kemba Walker is the only player in the league with more FG attempts… Allonzo Trier scored 15 points with one rebound, one assist and two 3-pointers in 25 minutes. Trier joined Willis Reed as just the second rookie in Knicks franchise history with 15-plus points in each of his first two career games at MSG… Noah Vonleh has been a rebounding machine and grabbed 13 more boards in 22 minutes. He also added seven points and three assists.
Deandre Ayton rolled his ankle in practice on Thursday but was cleared to play Saturday night. However, he appeared less than 100 percent as he was eaten alive by Nikola Jokic on Saturday. Ayton hit just 2-of-7 shots for five points, eight rebounds and two turnovers in 23 minutes… Devin Booker was the only Sun to score more than 16 points in a blowout loss to the Nuggets. Booker had 25 (on 5-of-15 shooting), two rebounds, seven assists, and six turnovers… Isaiah Canaan was solid as the starting point guard, going for 15 points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal in 30 minutes.
Rodney McGruder wasn’t satisfied with his career-high 20 points on Friday. He was back for more on Saturday night, tallying 19 points with ten rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block and four 3-pointers in 42 minutes. McGruder will likely see his minutes significantly reduced when both Justise Winslow and Wayne Ellington return to the lineup, but he is making it awfully difficult to drop his playing time too dramatically… Dwyane Wade scored 21 points with three rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two 3-pointers in 25 minutes off the pine… After two monster nights to start the season, Josh Richardson didn’t deliver in this one. He scored seven points with four rebounds, two assists and one 3-pointer in 27 minutes.
Zach LaVine tallied 33 points (on 12-of-21 shooting) with three rebounds, three assists and two 3-pointers in 37 minutes on Saturday. That his second 30-point game of the season. LaVine will continue to rack up buckets, but needs to improve his all-around game to take his fantasy value to the next level… Bobby Portis shot just 2-of-12 from the floor for six points, but did also contribute 14 rebounds, five assists and one steal in 29 minutes… After a scoreless dud in his previous start, Cameron Payne finished with 17 points, three rebounds, four assists and one turnover in 28 minutes.
Damian Lillard was efficient and effective in the Blazers win over the Spurs. He hit 9-of-15 FG attempts and 8-of-8 free throws en route to 29 points and nine assists. Dame didn’t commit a single turnover. His backcourt partner, C.J. McCollum was also 9-of-15 from the field. C.J. chipped in four treys, two rebounds and two dimes.
DeMar DeRozan posted his second straight 28-point outing on Saturday. He hit 11-of-22 shots and 6-of-6 free throws and added three rebounds, nine assists and two steals in 34 minutes. No other Spur scored more than 12 points in a lopsided loss to the Blazers.
DeAndre Jordan controlled the paint on Saturday, scoring 22 points (8-of-10 FGs, 6-of-7 FTs) with ten rebounds, one assist, two steals, and five blocks… Dennis Smith Jr. nailed the game-winning jumper and finished with 19 points (7-of-14 FGs) three rebounds, six assists, and one 3-pointer in 26 minutes… J.J. Barea had 12 points and 11 dimes off the bench… Dwight Powell had 19/6/2 in just 17 minutes… Wes Matthews pitched in 19 points, four rebounds, two assists, and four 3-pointers in 35 minutes.
LeBron James posted a relatively pedestrian statline in his home debut as a Laker. He tallied 24 points (on 9-of-22 shooting), five rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block… JaVale McGee had another strong outing on Saturday. He hit 7-of-11 shots and 2-of-3 free throws for 16 points, six rebounds, two assists and five blocks in 20 minutes. He’s got eight blocks in just two games, and should be a fantasy asset for the foreseeable future… Rajon Rondo had 13 points, seven rebounds, ten assists, two steals and a 3-pointer at the time of his ejection. Lonzo Ball had 14 points, six rebounds and four assists on Saturday, and will start at point guard if/when Rondo gets hit with a suspension.
Injury/Rest Tracker (... and on the fifth day of the NBA season, the stars rested):
Kawhi Leonard (rest) sat out of Saturday's game vs. the Wizards. Kawhi has looked fantastic early on this season, averaging 27.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists over the Raptors first two games. However, it's important to remember he only played nine games last season due to a debilitating quad injury. Not only was Saturday the back end of a back-to-back, but it was also Toronto's third game in four nights. Leonard played over 35 minutes in each of the first two contests. Thus, it was not surprising to see Toronto err on the side of caution and rest their newly-acquired superstar.
Gordon Hayward (left ankle recovery) did not play Saturday vs. the Knicks. This was the second night of a back-to-back for the Celtics, so they decided to rest their max-salaried forward. Hayward, who is trying to work his way back after last season’s devastating injury, played 24 minutes in each of the C's first two games, averaging 12.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals.
Jimmy Butler (precautionary rest) also did not play Saturday. You guys noticing a trend here!? Like Hayward and Kawhi, Butler was given the night off. The matchup with Dallas was the second night of a back-to-back for the Wolves. Butler did not play at all in the preseason due to his trade demands and had logged 68 minutes over the Wolves first two regular season games.
Will Barton suffered a right hip injury on Saturday night and was carried off on a stretcher. It was a scary scene, as Barton crumpled to the court in pain after a driving layup attempt. It was a non-contact injury and he said he heard "something pop" as he jumped. He will get an MRI in the morning to figure out the severity. If Barton is sidelined going forward, Trey Lyles would likely be in the biggest beneficiary. Torrey Craig and Juan Hernangomez would also see an uptick in playing time.
Kevin Knox badly twisted his left ankle when he went up for a layup in the first quarter Saturday night. He was unable to attempt his free throws and had to be helped back to the locker room, as he was unable to put any weight on his ankle. The X-rays were negative but he was ruled out. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the initial timetable is for Knox to miss 2-4 weeks. The Knicks have no incentive to rush him back on the court until he is as close to 100 percent as possible, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see him sit out an entire calendar month. Mario Hezonja and Allonzo Trier are expected to soak up most of Knox’s abandoned minutes.
Ben Simmons had to exit Saturday’s game in the first quarter due to tightness in his back and was unable to return. This is worrisome, as back injuries tend to linger. We still awaiting further details on the nature and severity of the injury and whether or not Simmons is expected to play Tuesday vs. Detroit. If Simmons is sidelined, T.J. McConnell and Markelle Fultz would handle the PG duties. Some more minutes would open up for J.J. Redick as well.
Rodions Kurucs turned his left ankle and had to be helped off the court in the fourth quarter of Saturday's loss to the Pacers. Fortunately, the X-rays came back negative and he is said to have a mild sprain.
JaMychal Green suffered a broken jaw after receiving an elbow to the face from an opposing player during the third quarter of Friday’s game against the Hawks. He underwent a surgical stabilization procedure Saturday morning and is expected to make a full recovery. It’s a tough blow for J-Mike, who also suffered an injury in last year’s home opener. Shams Charania tweeted that Green will be sidelined for 2-4 weeks. Woj is reporting that Green will “likely be lost for four to six weeks.” The upshot here is that Jaren Jackson Jr. is expected to see a major uptick in playing time, possibly entering the starting lineup. JJJ’s stock just spiked.
Delon Wright (groin) did not play Saturday vs. the Wizards. Wright has yet to suit up this season, after injuring his groin last week.
Denzel Valentine (left ankle) was unavailable Saturday and Coach Fred Hoiberg said that he will remain sidelined for at least two more weeks. Valentine initially injured himself back in late September and it is still not close to 100 percent. There are undoubtedly plenty of enticing free agents floating around your waiver wire this early in the season, so I’d have no problem cutting Valentine lose if you were still holding onto him.
Kris Dunn (personal) was ruled out of Saturday's game vs. the Pistons. That’s the bad news. The good news is he has welcomed his first child into the world and will make his season debut on Monday vs. Dallas.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (personal, groin) missed Saturday's game vs. the Pacers. Like Kris Dunn, RHJ is also celebrating the birth of a son this week. Hollis-Jefferson was dealing with a groin injury as well during the preseason. We should expect an update on that injury shortly. The Nets don't play again until Wednesday, so there's a solid chance RHJ makes his season debut at Cleveland.
Domantas Sabonis (bruised right knee) was ruled out of Saturday's game vs. the Nets. Sabonis has been solid in the Pacers first two contests but apparently injured his knee in Friday night’s victory.
Treveon Graham (left hamstring) and Alan Williams (left ankle) were sidelined Saturday. Graham appeared to severely strain his hammy in the third quarter of the Nets victory on Friday and could be out for an extended period. Williams may not be a part of the Nets rotation even when fully healthy. Both players belong on waivers.
Dirk Nowitzki (sore left ankle) will be sidelined through at least the end of this month, per coach Rick Carlise. Dirk can be left on waiver wires in standard leagues.
Harrison Barnes (strained right hamstring) did not play Saturday vs. Atlanta. However, he is definitely headed in the right direction. The Mavs are taking a cautious approach, as hamstring injuries can linger for a long time if they are not allowed to heal completely. Still, Dallas beat reporters believe that Barnes will likely be cleared to make his season debut Monday vs. Chicago.
Reggie Bullock (illness) and Stanley Johnson (toe) both returned to the lineup and were in the starting lineup Saturday night vs. the Bulls. Luke Kennard and Bruce Brown were bumped back to the bench. Kennard was a DNP-CD.
Justise Winslow (hamstring) and Wayne Ellington (left ankle) both went through shootaround Saturday morning but were not cleared to play Saturday night vs. the Hornets. Coach Erik Spoelstra said that he wants both Winslow and Ellington to get in a full practice before they return to the floor for game action. "They’re making a lot of progress. It just makes more sense to wait," said Spoelstra. The Heat’s next game is Wednesday at home vs. the Knicks.
James Johnson (groin) and Dion Waiters (ankle) did not play Saturday and are still without a timetable. Johnson seems closer to being cleared than Waiters, but we don’t have any definitive status updates on either player. Stay patient with Johnson.
Dwight Howard (piriformis) sat out again on Saturday. He has yet to play this season but is making progress. "He's getting closer, you know, we just have to continue to give him some good work," coach Scott Brooks said. We could see him make his debut as soon as early next week.
Jonathon Simmons missed Saturday's game in Philadelphia due to a death in the family, but is expected to rejoin the Magic in Boston on Sunday and play in their game against the Celtics on Monday night.
Courtney Lee (neck) and Emmanuel Mudiay (sprained right ankle) were ruled out of Saturday's game vs. Boston. Lee is an established veteran and one of the Knicks better two-way players. However, with NY in rebuild mode, Lee may not have a consistent spot in the rotation even when he’s fully healthy… Mudiay has yet to suit up during the regular season after injuring his ankle in training camp. He is buried on the Knicks depth chart and is not on the fantasy radar.
Injury Notes for Sunday’s Games:
Russell Westbrook (knee) is "eyeing a possible return" in Sunday's game against the Kings, according to Royce Young of ESPN. Westbrook has missed each of OKC's first two contests, but has been making solid progress and is chomping at the bit to make his 2018-19 debut. OKC is 0-2 this season without him. The Thunder's medical staff has already cleared him for full contact drills. Per Young, OKC didn't practice on Saturday and there is no shootaround scheduled Sunday, only a midafternoon walk-through, so a decision on Westbrook's status likely won't be available until near tipoff. Assuming Westbrook suits up, Dennis Schroder will get bumped back to the bench.
Draymond Green (right ankle sprain) is listed as probable for Sunday's game vs. the Nuggets. Green tweaked his ankle in the third quarter of the Warriors win on Friday night. He limped to the locker room but returned in the fourth quarter after having the ankle re-taped, and was able to finish out the game. Sunday night’s contest is the front end of a back-to-back for the Warriors, as they also will take on the Suns Monday night, but Green is expected to suit up.
Shaun Livingston (left knee contusion) has been downgraded to doubtful for Sunday. He was dealing with a sore right foot towards the end of the preseason but has played in each of the Warriors first two regular-season contests, averaging 7.0 points in 16.5 minutes. Quinn Cook would soak up most of Livingston’s minutes if he’s ruled out.
Andre Iguodala (left calf soreness) is listed as questionable for Sunday's game vs. Denver. Iggy sat out Friday's win over the Jazz; however, speaking with reporters on Friday night, coach Steve Kerr indicated he was “optimistic” that Iguodala would play on Sunday. Jonas Jerebko and Alfonzo McKinnie will see again see additional playing time if Iggy remains sidelined. We should have an update on his status by Sunday afternoon.
Kosta Koufos (right hamstring strain) is listed as out for Sunday's game against the Thunder. Koufos is not on the fantasy radar, as he hasn't appeared in a game yet this season.
Omari Spellman (ankle) is listed as questionable for Sunday’s matchup against the Cavs. Spellman initially injured his ankle Opening night in New York and was ruled out of Friday’s game just after shootaround. Alex Poythress would see an uptick in minutes if Spellman remains sidelined.
Vince Carter (jammed finger), Alex Poythress (quad contusion), Trae Young (left elbow contusion), Tyler Dorsey (groin) have all been listed as probable for Sunday’s game vs. Cleveland. All are fully expected to play.
Dewayne Dedmon (ankle) and Justin Anderson (rehab from tibial stress syndrome, left leg), on the other hand, have been ruled out. Dedmon has been making progress and is inching closer to a return. Alen Len’s days as a starter may be coming to an end… Anderson has been unable to stay healthy. DeAndre Bembry will continue to see extended minutes off the bench.