Thursday was the last big break we’ll get between now and the real playoffs, as just two NBA teams were in action. The Bucks beat the Pacers 111-107, and even though you already knew that, you probably still don’t believe who went nuts for the Bucks. Check out a review of Thursday’s game and a look at some news and notes in Friday’s Dose.
The Bucks got a season-high…no, actually make that a career-high 34 points from Ersan Ilyasova. I know, right? With the Bucks and Pacers the only two teams in action on Thursday, and also having a game on Tuesday’s slow night, there is no reason that Ilyasova shouldn’t have been owned and in lineups this week. And while he’s consistently been one of the most inconsistent players over the last few seasons, there were signs of this outburst coming. Ilyasova finished with six rebounds, two assists, two steals and five 3-pointers to go along with the 34 points, hitting 12-of-14 shots in the process. If you picked him up on Sunday night or Monday morning and plugged him into your lineup, there’s a pretty decent chance you’re winning your playoff game right now. ‘Ghostface Ilya’ (stolen from Mike Gallagher) is now averaging 17.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.8 steals, 0.8 blocks and 2.4 3-pointers over his last five games, and is shooting 45.9 percent over that stretch. If you have a sob story like “I forgot to put him in my lineup” or “I picked up Solomon Hill instead,” please don’t tell me. It’s just too sad to think about.
Khris Middleton scored 17 with two 3-pointers, Giannis Antetokounmpo hit 7-of-10 shots for 16 points, but had a mildly disappointing line given the strong shooting, and Michael Carter-Williams had 13 points, five rebounds, eight assists and four steals before fouling out, but would have been much better had he hit more than three of his 11 shots. Zaza Pachulia stayed relevant with 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals in 32 minutes, and is now averaging 13.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 2.0 steals (and just 0.2 blocks) on 58 percent shooting.
As a result of Pachulia’s strong run and heavy minutes, John Henson played just 16 minutes (but still had two blocks) and has become a forgotten man. Jared Dudley returned from a knee injury and had two points in 12 minutes, and O.J. Mayo returned from a hamstring injury and had three points in 13 minutes. Neither player is trustworthy or startable right now, but you should at least keep an eye on Mayo. As a result of the win, the Bucks sit firmly in the No. 6 spot in the East, and are likely to finish the season there.
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The Pacers needed this win badly, and now sit a ½ game behind the Celtics, on the outside looking in for the No. 8 seed. Right now, Miami is 21 games out and is the No. 7 seed, the Celtics are 23 games out and hold the No. 8 seed, while the Pacers, Nets and Bobcats are each 23.5 out of first place, leaving them a half game out of the No. 8 seed. Detroit is 27 games out, meaning they’re 3.5 games behind the trio of teams in front of them. Chicago is the No. 3, Toronto the No. 4 and Washington No. 5 seed, but there could be some movement there if one of them goes hot or cold. As you can see, the Eastern playoff battle is far from over, which is good news if you own players on those teams.
David West sat out with an illness, so Indy started Luis Scola at power forward. He had 15 points, nine rebounds, a steal and a rare block, and is worth keeping an eye on if West misses any more time. C.J. Miles finally showed up again and led the team with 26 points and four 3-pointers. The 26 points weren’t a season high, but it was easily his best game of the month, as his last 20-point outing came on Feb. 24. I don’t trust him, but he’s hit 12-of-24 shots and seven 3-pointers over his last two games, so he could be heating up. George Hill went off for 24 points, five dimes and six 3-pointers, and C.J. Watson came off the bench for 23 points, seven assists, two steals and two 3-pointers, and also hit 13-of-15 free throws in the loss. All three players are benefitting from the absence of Rodney Stuckey, who missed his second straight game with a calf injury. He’s questionable for Sunday’s game, and if he’s out, I’d rank the Pacer guards as Hill, Watson and Miles. Roy Hibbert was awful, hitting 3-of-5 shots for just 10 points, three rebounds, a steal and two blocks in 27 minutes. He failed to even score and had five rebounds on Wednesday, which is disheartening, as he came into that game on a bit of a hot streak. Maybe he’ll right the ship on Sunday against the Mavs, but I’m not holding my breath with him facing Tyson Chandler.
Paul George didn’t play on Thursday and we still don’t know exactly when he’ll make an appearance. But you can bet that the Pacers will try to have him available for the playoffs.
News & Notes
The Hawks are planning on resting players with four games in the next five nights starting on Friday against the Heat, but we don’t know who, where, or when as of yet. Stay tuned.
Hassan Whiteside is listed as doubtful against the Hawks due to his hand injury, while Dwyane Wade is questionable with a sore knee. If they’re both out, the Hawks could easily choose to rest a couple starters tonight against Miami.
Derrick Rose is pain free and hopes to start taking contact in the next couple weeks, but my guess is he won’t be back for the Bulls until the final few games of the regular season, if at all.
Thaddeus Young has been ruled out for Friday and is doubtful for Sunday. If you feel like you have to drop him for a warm body, desperate times call for desperate measures. If he continues to miss time, Bojan Bogdanovic is a good bet for success in Brooklyn.
It sounds like the Lakers may continue to sit Jordan Hill and Carlos Boozer for the next four or five games, and if that’s the case, I think it could be even longer. Ed Davis, Ryan Kelly and Tarik Black are the beneficiaries here.
Rumors persist that LeBron James and Kevin Love don’t get along, but I’m thinking it’s exaggerated. If the Cavs win it all this season, I don’t see how Love bolts. But if they don’t win a championship this season, anything is possible. But you still have to think Love knows his best chance to win a ring is by hanging in there with LeBron. And both players looked just fine on Wednesday.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope practiced through a thigh injury on Thursday and it sounds like he’s good to go for the Pistons against the Magic on Friday. He’s rocking 22.4 points and 2.8 3-pointers over his last five games, and should be owned and started across the board right now. Greg Monroe, on the other hand, didn’t practice on Thursday and we just don’t know when he’s coming back from his knee injury. With the Pistons 3.5 games back of a playoff spot, and a lot of teams to pass, the odds of Monroe playing anytime soon look like they’re becoming slimmer and slimmer.
Al Jefferson is listed as probable for the Hornets with a sore knee. Ninety five percent of the time (my estimation), if a guy is probable, he plays. Mo Williams missed practice on Thursday with a sore knee and is iffy for Friday against the Wizards. If he’s out, Kemba Walker could go nuts. If you feel like you need to drop Mo-Will to keep up the pace, you probably should. Cody Zeller is iffy for Friday with his shoulder injury and has missed seven of his last eight games. With that kind of layoff, don’t expect much when he returns. But also, don’t expect much from Marvin Williams, either.
Donatas Motiejunas is questionable for Friday’s game against the Wolves with lower back pain. With Terrence Jones also banged up and ruled out for Friday with a rib/lung injury, it looks like the Rockets got Dwight Howard back just in time. Speaking of Howard, he’s listed as probable tonight. Josh Smith, who would also benefit from Motiejunas’ absence, is dealing with a sore ankle, but is also listed as probable, while Corey Brewer is also likely to play through an oblique strain. The Rockets are as banged up as they come, with Patrick Beverley also out tonight with a wrist injury. He might end up having surgery and can be dropped, while Jason Terry looks like the winner in his absence.
Eric Bledsoe missed Thursday’s practice with an illness after playing through it on Wednesday, so I’m thinking he’s likely to play on Friday for the Suns. Brandon Knight is hoping to play on Friday against Portland, but he’s a true game-time decision after missing the last few weeks with a sprained ankle.
The tanking Wolves are listing Kevin Martin as questionable for Friday against the Rockets with his hamstring injury. He was available to play on Wednesday, so it will be interesting to see if he actually plays tonight. If he does, Chase Budinger could take a hit, but it’s also possible that Martin’s minutes could be pretty limited, if he plays at all. Ricky Rubio is listed as doubtful due to his ankle injury, which makes Zach LaVine a must-start, and Nikola Pekovic has been ruled out. Gorgui Dieng should continue to play well in his absence, while Justin Hamilton could get back to form tonight. Kevin Garnett is doubtful with a knee injury, and I’d be shocked to see him again anytime soon.
Gordon Hayward is being listed as probable against the Nuggets tonight after missing Wednesday’s game with a shoulder injury. Put him in your lineup and watch for an update this afternoon. Rodney Hood didn’t even travel to Denver due to an illness, so Elijah Millsap, Trey Burke and Joe Ingles should all get extra minutes.
Jamal Crawford says he plans on playing again this season for the Clippers, but I’m not buying it. He’s been out since March 2 with a calf injury, and my guess is that he’s done for the rest of the regular season, not counting the last couple games in April.