Sunday was a relatively quiet day in the NBA, with just four games on the slate. Among the standouts were Pelicans Jrue Holiday and Julius Randle, who picked up the slack for a banged-up Anthony Davis, Pistons bigs Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, and Knicks rookie Kevin Knox. Below is a recap of Sunday's action.
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Coming off of a loss in Memphis Friday night, the New Orleans Pelicans entered Sunday's matchup with the Detroit Pistons looking to continue their recent trend of alternating wins and losses (4-4 in their last eight games). That task got a bit more difficult in the first half, as Anthony Davis was forced to the sideline after taking a Blake Griffin knee to his right hip.
Davis was able to return in the second half he was noticeably limited by the injury, finishing with six points (2-of-7 FG, 2-of-2 FT), nine rebounds, five blocks and four assists in 26 minutes played. Despite their star forward not being at his best the Pelicans took care of the Pistons by a 116-108 final score, thanks in large part to the efforts of Jrue Holiday and Julius Randle.
Holiday finished Sunday's win with a season-high 37 points (14-of-22 FG, 3-of-3 FT), five rebounds, five assists, three steals and six 3-pointers (on ten attempts) in 40 minutes. While the performance is the best of the 2018-19 season to date for Holiday, he's been even better after putting together a career year in 2017-18.
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For the season the Pelicans' starting point guard is averaging 20.4 points, 9.1 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.3 three-pointers per game, producing those numbers on 47.4% shooting from the field and 27.8% shooting from three. While the perimeter shooting hasn't been at the level that it was a season ago, as Holiday shot 33.7% on 1.5 makes per game, this recent run may be a sign that he's turning things around in that regard.
Over the last five games Holiday is averaging 2.4 three-pointers per game and shooting 44.4% from beyond the arc. During this run Holiday has surpassed the 30-point mark twice and is averaging 25.0 points, 9.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals in 37.4 minutes per game. In the six games prior he shot just 21.4% from three (4.7 attempts per game), averaging 21.8 points, 7.8 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.
While Holiday has been a fixture in the Pelicans starting lineup, the same could not be said for Randle prior to Nikola Mirotic being sidelined for two games due to illness. Randle, who started four games this season prior to this recent move into the starting lineup, scored 28 points (11-of-19 FG, 6-of-7 FT) with six rebounds, five assists and two blocked shots in 34 minutes Sunday afternoon.
Now averaging 18.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, over his last three games (all starts) Randle has averaged 27.0 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists in just under 35 minutes per game. And while he didn't make a three-pointer in Detroit, missing both of his attempts, Randle shot a combined 3-of-6 from deep in games against the Grizzlies and Mavericks.
That may not seem like much, and it may not be given the fact that Randle has never been a prolific perimeter shooter. But for a guy who's a career 27.8% shooter from three, shooting 6-of-13 from three over the last five games is a positive development for Randle. As a result of his recent play Randle's remained in the starting lineup in spite of Mirotic's return, with the latter being entrusted with the task of giving the second unit a scoring boost.
And with Davis' status for Monday's game yet to be determined, both represent quality fantasy options for those who have yet to finalize their rosters.
Reggie Jackson's struggles continue
While Blake Griffin (35 points, five rebounds, two assists, one steal, one blocked shot and four 3-pointers) and Andre Drummond (23 points, 19 rebounds, one assist, one steal and one blocked shot) combined to give the Pistons a shot at the win over the Pelicans, the Pistons backcourt struggled mightily. Starters Bruce Brown, Glenn Robinson III and Reggie Jackson combined to score nine points on 4-of-15 shooting from the field. While it would be a bit unfair to place too much blame on Brown and Robinson, as the absences of Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson pushed them into the starting lineup, the same cannot be said of Jackson.
Jackson scored two points (1-of-6 FG, 0-of-2 3-pointers) with seven assists and two steals in 26 minutes, and over his last five games he's averaging 11.4 points, 4.8 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 27.8 minutes per game. During this stretch Jackson, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, has shot just 39.3% from the field and 23.8% from three. And it should come as no surprise that Detroit has lost four of those games. While Griffin and Drummond will lead the way for the Pistons, given the team's injuries on the perimeter more will be needed from Jackson is Detroit is to gain some semblance of consistency.
Brook Lopez knocks down five 3-pointers
Sunday's showdown between the Bucks and Raptors matched the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, and in the end if the Mike Budenholzer's team that picked up the 104-99 victory. Milwaukee had a balanced attack offensively, with Giannis Antetokounmpo (19 points, 19 rebounds, six assists, one blocked shot and one three-pointer), Malcolm Brogdon (18 points, two rebounds, two assists, one steal and three three-pointers) and Brook Lopez (19 points) leading the way. In the case of Lopez, who finished the game 5-of-8 from beyond the arc, this was the fifth time this season that he's made at least five three-pointers in a game.
The 7-footer had just six such games in the two seasons prior, and his presence has benefitted the Bucks with regards to the team's offensive spacing. With a center willing to take those shots – and capable of making defenses pay for not guarding him – that opens up driving lanes for the likes of Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe. Lopez is shooting a career-best 36.0% from three on 6.7 attempts per game, slightly better than his career percentage (34.0%). And over his last five games the center's averaging 12.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, with thre latter figure being 1.5 rebounds better than his average for the season (4.3 rpg).
Kyle Lowry's struggles in home loss
Since sitting out Toronto's December 1 win over the Cavaliers due to a sore back, Lowry has struggled mightily from a shooting standpoint. Sunday evening Lowry went scoreless, missing all five shots from the field (all three-pointers) and finishing with seven assists, five rebounds and one blocked shot in 34 minutes. In his last four games Lowry is averaging just 3.8 points, 8.3 assists and 3.8 rebounds per contest, shooting 14.3% from the field and 12.0% from beyond the arc.
Given the lack of production, could Lowry's back still be giving him trouble? If the back is still an issue for Lowry the upcoming schedule won't be easy to navigate either, as the Raptors begin a four-game road trip (that ends 12/16 in Denver) Tuesday night against the Clippers. That's the first game of a back-to-back, with Toronto taking on the Lakers the following night.
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Rudy Gay posts fifth double-double in Spurs win
Despite making just five three-pointers (on 14 attempts) the Spurs beat the Jazz 110-97 Sunday night in San Antonio, and one of the reasons why was the play of Rudy Gay. Gay tallied 23 points (10-of-16 FG, 3-of-4 FT) with 15 rebounds, two assists, one steal and one blocked shot in 34 minutes, posting his fifth double-double of the season and first since November 23 against the Pacers (11 points, 12 rebounds). Averaging 16.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game over the last five, Gay has scored at least 18 points in four of those games and 23 or more in two of the last three.
Donovan Mitchell scores 27 points in loss
After scoring just six points in Utah's December 6 blowout win over the Rockets, Mitchell scored 27 (all in the second half) against the Spurs. However this performance occurred in a loss, and in scoring his 27 points Mitchell shot 8-of-21 from the field (3-of-8 3-pointers) and 8-of-10 from the foul line. The second-year guard, who also accounted for five rebounds, two steals, one assist and one blocked shot in 35 minutes, is shooting just 42.7% from the field and 29.2% from three this season. While the overall field goal percentage isn't far off from the number Mitchell posted a season ago (43.7%), he's shooting nearly five percentage points worse from three (34.0% in 2017-18) on fewer attempts per game (6.5, compared to 7.0 last season).
Kemba Walker leads Hornets past Knicks
Bronx native Kemba Walker made his return to Madison Square Garden Sunday night and he was solid, scoring 25 points (8-of-20 FG, 5-of-5 FT) with six rebounds, six assists, four steals and four 3-pointers in 31 minutes in Charlotte's 119-107 win over the Knicks. The four three-pointers are the most that Walker's made in a game since he matched that number in a November 25 loss to the Hawks.
While he shot 40% from the field on the night, the fourth straight game in which he's shot that percentage or worse from the field, Walker had plenty of help as four other Hornets scored in double figures. Among that quartet were Tony Parker (16 points) and Jeremy Lamb (19 points, five rebounds), with the latter rebounding from a seven-point, four-rebound effort in Friday's win over the Nuggets. Marvin Williams (13 points) and Cody Zeller (12 points) also finished in double figures, with Zeller making all seven of his shot attempts (5-of-5 FG, 2-of-2 FT) while also tallying seven rebounds, three steals, two assists and one blocked shot in 26 minutes.
Kevin Knox posts first career double-double in loss
While Sunday's performance for the Knicks as a whole was a disappointing one, as Charlotte took control of the game in the second quarter, the play of their rookie forward was encouraging. Knox established new career-highs in both points (26) and rebounds (15), shooting 10-of-25 from the field (4-of-8 three-pointers, 2-of-2 FT) and also picking up one steal in 41 minutes of action. Knox is the second teenager in NBA history to post a stat line of at least 25 points and 15 rebounds in a game, with the first being LeBron James. There's still plenty of work for the Kentucky product to do, but his aggressiveness on the offensive end of the floor Sunday night was good to see.
With regards to Knox's fantasy value he may be an option in deeper leagues, but he has struggled with consistency as a decent percentage of rookies tend to do. And should Allonzo Trier, who did not play Sunday due to a strained left hamstring, be sidelined for an extended period of time that will likely open up even more scoring opportunities for Knox. Also playing well for the Knicks off the bench was guard Frank Ntilikina, who scored 18 points (7-of-11 FG) with one assist and four 3-pointers (on four attempts) in 21 minutes off the bench. While he didn't provide much outside of the points and three-pointers, Ntilikina was assertive offensively and the end result was a season-high point total.
Monday's Schedule (all times Eastern)
Washington at Indiana (7 PM)
Detroit at Philadelphia (7 PM)
New Orleans at Boston (7:30 PM)
Sacramento at Chicago (8 PM)
Cleveland at Milwaukee (8 PM)
Utah at Oklahoma City (8 PM)
Orlando at Dallas (8:30 PM)
Memphis at Denver (9 PM)
LA Clippers at Phoenix (9 PM)
Minnesota at Golden State (10:30 PM)
Miami at LA Lakers (10:30 PM)