Knicks 124, Lakers 123 – All five Knicks starters went off and they handled the Lakers by a single point on Sunday. Emmanuel Mudiay, who we highlighted in Waiver Wired, hit 8-of-11 shots for 28 points, eight assists and three 3-pointers, and looks like a must-start in a four-game week. Damyean Dotson, who was also a Waiver Wire guy, hit 10-of-20 shots for 25 points, six rebounds and three 3-pointers, and kept it going. DeAndre Jordan went off for 15 points, 17 rebounds, seven assists, a steal and a block, Kevin Knox somehow hit 8-of-14 shots and three 3-pointers for 19 points, six rebounds and a steal, and Mario Hezonja, who started for Noah Vonleh (ankle) racked up 17 points, eight boards, a steal and a game-saving block in 36 minutes. All five of these guys are worth giving a shot to in a four-game Week 23, while Dotson and Mudiay look like must-starts. The Knicks’ bench, however, was a mess and not very good on Sunday. The Knicks went on a 13-1 run to get the win.
For the Lakers, LeBron James led the way with 33 points, six rebounds, eight assists and a block on 11-of-26 shooting, but had his shot blocked in the fourth quarter in by Hezonja to cost the Lakers a meaningless win. LeBron missed 11 shots in the fourth quarter, going 4-of-15, for his worst quarter in history. Kyle Kuzma had 18 points and eight boards, JaVale McGee had 12 points, seven boards, three steals and a block in just 19 minutes, Reggie Bullock scored 14 points with two 3-pointers, Johnathan Williams had 12 points and seven boards, Alex Caruso had 12 points, five steals, three blocks and a 3-pointer, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit a couple 3-pointers and scored 11 points. The Lakers only have three games next week and I honestly have no idea who will be playing or who will be going off for the Lakers. Rajon Rondo was awful with three points on 1-of-4 shooting, but I’d be leaning on Kuzma, LeBron and maybe Caruso this week. But be careful.
Heat 93, Hornets 75 – Goran Dragic led the way off the bench for the Heat with 19 points, four assists and four 3-pointers, but I have pretty serious trust issues, and Dwyane Wade played through a hip injury and had 17 points, eight boards and two 3-pointers in the easy win. Bam Adebayo came through (again) with 16 points, nine rebounds, two steals and a block, and Dion Waiters had 12 points, four rebounds, three assists and four 3-pointers in the win. Josh Richardson hit just 2-of-17 shots (what?), but still filled the stat sheet, Derrick Jones Jr. started and had six points, a steal, three blocks and a 3-pointer, and Kelly Olynyk had four points, nine rebounds and six assists. Hassan Whiteside played just 17 minutes for six points, eight boards, a steal and a block, and the Heat are completely unreadable right now. But they do have a four-game week starting on Monday, so I’m comfortable rolling Olynyk, Bam, Richardson and Waiters out there. Wade, Whiteside, Waiters and Dragic are also in the conversation, but I feel like most of the Heat players are a total roll of the dice this week. I’ll be very surprised if Wade plays in all four games this week.
For the Hornets, who play four times this week, Jeremy Lamb led the way with 21 points, four steals and three 3-pointers off the bench, and Frank Kaminsky had 13 points and seven boards on 3-of-10 shooting, also off the bench. Kemba Walker was a dud, hitting just 4-of-16 shots and two 3-pointers, finishing with 10 points, four dimes and a steal, and Nicolas Batum had 12 points, seven boards and a 3-pointer on 3-of-11 shooting. This team’s a mess right now, but I’m starting Batum, Walker, Kaminsky and Lamb with the four games. Cody Zeller was out with a knee injury, but starter Bismack Biyombo had just two points, six boards and a block in 17 minutes.
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Sixers 130, Bucks 125 – Joel Embiid had 40 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, three steals, a block and four 3-pointers, including a dagger 3-pointer late. He hit just 4-of-13 from beyond the arc, but made them when it mattered. Jimmy Butler had 27 and a fun stat line, J.J. Redick had 19 points and four triples, Tobias Harris had 12 points, seven boards, four assists, a steal and a 3-pointer, and Ben Simmons added eight points, nine boards and nine assists in the win. The Sixers only have three games this week, but I’d roll with Embiid, Butler and Simmons if I owned them.
Giannis Antetokounmpo went nuts with a career-high 52 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, a block and three 3-pointers, and hit 15-of-26 shots and 19-of-21 free throws in the loss. Beast. Nikola Mirotic started for Malcolm Brogdon (foot), but hit just 1-of-7 shots for two points in 24 minutes. However, I like him with Brogdon out indefinitely, and he’s a sneaky pickup right now. Khris Middleton was solid with a 19-7-6 line with three 3-pointers, Brook Lopez scored 14 with four blocks and three 3-pointers, and Eric Bledsoe had 12 points, five boards, six assists, two steals and a 3-pointer. D.J. Wilson came off the bench for 13 points and three 3-pointers, but he’s pretty tough to trust. The Bucks play four times this week, so roll Giannis, Mirotic, Middleton, Lopez and Bledsoe out there with confidence.
Pistons 110, Raptors 107 – The Pistons are going to make the playoffs and got another big win last night, and are 7-3 in their last 10 games. Blake Griffin led the way with 25 & 10, Andre Drummond had 15 & 17, Reggie Jackson came through with 20 points, four dimes and two 3-pointers, and Langston Galloway had 11 points and a 3-pointer off the bench. The Pistons play four times this week, so Griffin, Drummond, Jackson and Galloway all get a fantasy start, while Wayne Ellington (9 points, 1 3-pointer) also deserves a look.
Kawhi Leonard had 33 points, 10 boards and five triples, Fred VanVleet returned from a thumb injury and had 17 points, four assists and four 3-pointers, Marc Gasol flirted with a triple-double with nine points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, a block and a 3-pointer as Serge Ibaka missed another game due to suspension, and Danny Green came through with 12 points, three boards, four assists and four 3-pointers in the loss. Norman Powell scored a quiet 10 off the bench and Jeremy Lin was a complete dud with three points and three assists in another start for Kyle Lowry (ankle). VanVleet is the guy to use over Lin, Ibaka will be back on Wednesday, which will hurt Gasol, and the Raptors play four times next week. I’m starting Leonard, Gasol, VanVleet and Green in most situations. We’ll have to see what Lowry’s status is on Monday afternoon, and Ibaka has a three-game week while serving the final game of his suspension, making him a borderline play this week.
Kings 129, Bulls 102 – The Kings were led by Marvin Bagley’s 21 points, nine boards and a block off the bench, De’Aaron Fox had 17 points and a fun stat line, Buddy Hield scored 16 with two 3-pointers, three steals and a block, Harry Giles had 16 points, six boards, a steal and three blocks in 21 minutes off the bench, Harrison Barnes had 15 points, Willie Cauley-Stein had a 9-7-5-1 line, and Nemanja Bjelica had eight points, five boards, two assists and a 3-pointer in the start, but played just 18 minutes with Bagley back in action. The Kings have four games this week and I’m probably starting Fox, Bagley, Barnes, WCS and Hield, if I own them. Giles, Bogdan Bogdanovic (8-6-3-2) and Bjelica are worth a look, but they’re really hard to trust right now.
The Bulls were blown out, led by Zach LaVine’s 18 points, three boards, three assists, three steals, a block and two 3-pointers. Starters Lauri Markkanen, Otto Porter Jr., Robin Lopez and Kris Dunn were all quiet, while Shaq Harrison, Ryan Arcidiacono and Timothe Luwawu were all decent off the bench. The Bulls only play three times this week, so LaVine, Markkanen, OPJ, Lopez and Dunn are your options. And I really don’t trust any of them to play in all three games.
Magic 101, Hawks 91 – Nikola Vucevic was great with 27 points and 20 rebounds, Aaron Gordon overcame a slow start with 22 points, eight boards and a nice line, and D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier and Wesley Iwundu all came through with decent lines. But the Magic only play twice this week, meaning that only Vuc and Gordon are worth a look. And with so many teams playing four times, I’d struggle to even start Vucevic, who is having a career year.
The Hawks only have three games this week, making them tough starts too. John Collins struggled to 10 points and seven boards before fouling out, and Trae Young kept it going with 20 points, six boards, five assists and a steal, but missed all five of his 3-pointers. The Hawks hit just 8-of-35 3-pointers on the night, which is why they lost. Dewayne Dedmon double-doubled, but with three games, I’m only interested in rolling the dice on Trae and Collins this week.
Rockets 117, Timberwolves 102 – The Rockets have been resting guys (Austin Rivers and Kenneth Faried last night), making me pretty concerned about the upcoming week, which features back-to-back games at Atlanta and Memphis on Tuesday and Wednesday. Chris Paul was back from a rest and had 25 points, seven boards and 10 assists, and hit 6-of-7 3-pointers to tie his career high. James Harden played through a neck injury and hit just 8-of-24 shots, 4-of-12 3-pointers, and didn’t even attempt a free throw for the first time since Jan. 2 of 2015. So weird. Clint Capela had a nice double-doubled with 20 points, 13 boards and two blocks, Eric Gordon had 12 points and four triples in the start, and Danuel House added 14 points, seven boards and two 3-pointers in 28 minutes off the bench. If they rest guys on Tuesday or Wednesday, House will be worth a look. I’ll be surprised if Harden plays more than three games this week, but I’m still starting him, CP3 and Capela, and I’m going to give the rest of them a look.
The Wolves got a 22-10-6 line from Karl-Anthony Towns, but he hit just 8-of-22 shots, and Josh Okogie broke out of a funk for 21 points, five boards, three assists, a steal and three 3-pointers. Taj Gibson had 15 points and 10 boards off the bench, Andrew Wiggins had 14 points and a full stat line in a start, and Dario Saric continued his struggles, despite starting. Tyus Jones was a disaster, missing all six of his shots and finishing with zero points, four rebounds and five assists. I still think Jones is going to finish strong, but last night was bad. With just three games this week, I’m only messing with KAT as a no-brainer, but I’d consider Wiggins and Jones, despite his disaster, as well.
Clippers 119, Nets 116 – Lou Williams hit the first game-winner of his career and finished with 25 points, six rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers, Montrezl Harrell scored 20 points with 10 rebounds for another double-double, Danilo Gallinari scored 20 with 11 boards, five assists, a steal and a 3-pointer, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander double-doubled with 14 points, 10 rebounds and three 3-pointers. The Clippers only play three times in Week 23, so Gallinari, Harrell and Williams are the only must-starts. However, SGA is playing great, and Patrick Beverley and Shamet are worth a look.
D’Angelo Russell kept it going with 32 points, five boards, 10 assists, a steal and six triples, Jarrett Allen double-doubled with 13 points, 11 boards and two blocks, Caris LeVert had 12 points, four boards and seven assists, and Joe Harris scored 12 points with three 3-pointers and a full stat line. DeMarre Carroll went off from the bench for 22 points, seven boards and three 3-pointers, while Spencer Dinwiddie hit just 2-of-16 shots for 13 points, four rebounds and three assists. Maybe Russell is worth starting in a two-game week, but I’d be looking elsewhere if games played matter.
News & Notes
DeMarcus Cousins will have an MRI on his right ankle and is iffy for his five-game week, which is a total buzzkill. Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell would benefit from Boogie’s absence, and Andrew Bogut may even play. Looney’s an interesting grab if you need games played, as Boogie’s week is totally in jeopardy coming off of Achilles surgery.
Russell Westbrook has been suspended after his 16th technical foul, turning his three-game week into a two-game week. Ouch. You probably have to start him, but this is not an ideal situation for his owners, obviously.
C.J. McCollum has a left knee strain and will sit for at least a week. Rodney Hood, Evan Turner, Seth Curry and Jake Layman should all see a boost, but I’m not sure there’s a must-start player in the bunch – especially with the Blazers only having three games this week.