Sunday’s NBA schedule was a light one, with there being just three games on the slate. Among the teams in action was Denver, which moved to within a game of Golden State in the race for the top spot in the West with its 123-96 win over the Clippers. Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic were dominant for the Nuggets, managing to accomplish something that had last been done by Nuggets teammates in 2001. That’s where the recap of Sunday’s action will begin, with players such as Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross and New York guards Damyean Dotson and Emmanuel Mudiay also producing solid stat lines.
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Denver has won each of its first two games after the All-Star break, and the tandem of Millsap and Jokic has led the way in both victories. In Sunday’s win over the Clippers both players posted double-doubles, as they did in Friday’s win over the Mavericks, but there was something different about this outing. Millsap accounted for 21 points (8-of-13 FGs, 3-of-6 FTs), 16 rebounds, three steals, two assists, two blocked shots and two 3-pointers, with Jokic going for 22 points (9-of-16 FGs, 4-of-6 FTs), 16 rebounds, three assists, three steals and one blocked shot. The last time Nuggets teammates posted double-doubles with at least 20 points and 15 rebounds in the same game: 2001, when Raef LaFrentz and Kevin Willis accomplished this feat.
To nitpick a bit Jokic did turn the ball over six times, the most he’s had in a game since Denver’s February 11 win over the Heat (seven turnovers). Over the last month the All-Star center has been a top-15 player in nine-category leagues, with the turnovers (3.7 tpg) being one of the biggest reasons why he isn’t ranked higher (he’s been a top-10 player for the season to date). During this period Millsap, who’s a top-75 player for the entire season, has been a top-50 player in nine-category leagues.
In total six Nuggets scored in double figures Sunday, with Jamal Murray (16 points, six assists, four rebounds, one steal and two 3-pointers), Gary Harris (14/2/2/1 with two 3-pointers), Monte Morris (12/1/5/2/1 with two 3-pointers) and Isaiah Thomas (10/1/4/1) being the others. In Thomas' case, the 24 minutes played are the most for him as a Nugget, as he played 13 and 16 minutes in his first two appearances for the team. Given the perimeter depth at Mike Malone’s disposal there’s no reason for Denver to not exercise caution when it comes to incorporating Thomas into the rotation, which may limit his fantasy value for the time being.
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Magic center Nikola Vucevic entered Sunday’s game in Toronto on a run of six consecutive games with a double-double, and given his production the last time the two teams met it was safe to assume that Toronto would devote much of its defensive attention to him. In Orlando’s December 28 win over Toronto Vucevic put forth one of his best efforts of the season, as he accounted for 30 points, 19 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and one blocked shot in 33 minutes. Toronto did not have Jonas Valanciunas for that game, and thanks to a trade made earlier this month Toronto was able to call upon Marc Gasol to help in defending Vucevic. Unfortunately for Toronto the changes made meant nothing when it came to slowing down Vucevic, who extended his double-double streak to seven with a stat line of 23 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two steals and one blocked shot in Orlando’s 113-98 victory.
In two prior meetings with the Raptors this season the All-Star center averaged 22.0 points, 18.5 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game, shooting 62.1% from the field and 80.0% from the foul line. Whether it’s Valanciunas or Gasol working in concert with Serge Ibaka at the center position, the Raptors simply have a hard time matching up with Vucevic (which has been the case for many teams this season). And he wasn’t the only Magic player to hurt Toronto Sunday, as Terrence Ross accounted for 28 points, nine rebounds, one assist and three 3-pointers. For much of this season Ross has essentially been a player who can only be a factor fantasy-wise in two areas: points and made three-pointers. However, he has managed to grab at least five rebounds in five of the nine games he’s played in this month. He had seven such games in January, but that was in 16 games played. If Ross, who’s ranked just outside of the top-50 in nine category leagues over the last month, can continue to do more work on the glass his fantasy value will increase.
Knicks torch Spurs to end 18-game home losing streak
The New York Knicks entered Sunday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs on an 18-game home losing streak. Since David Fizdale’s team last won a home game, which happened to be against Milwaukee, numerous pro and college teams have managed to leave Madison Square Garden with a win. That changed Sunday night, as the Knicks won by a final score of 130-118 thanks in large part to their perimeter players. Damyean Dotson scored a team-high 32 points, making eight 3-pointers, to go along with five rebounds, two assists and one steal. Also putting up solid numbers were Dennis Smith Jr., who finished the game with 19 points, 13 assists, six assists and two steals, Emmanuel Mudiay (19 points off the bench) and Kevin Knox (19 points, ten rebounds and two assists). Add in Lance Thomas’ 16/7/1 line (he also made two 3-pointers) and the 15 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots produced by rookie Mitchell Robinson, and the Knicks finished the game with six double-digit scorers.
Dotson’s performed well in the Knicks’ two games after the All-Star break, scoring a total of 47 points and shooting 13-of-22 from beyond the arc. Over his last five the second-year guard is averaging 16.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.4 three-pointers per game, shooting 42.4% from the field, 44.7% from three and 84.6% from the foul line. As for Robinson, he continues to make significant strides during his rookie season. DeAndre Jordan (ankle) was held out Sunday, but Fizdale decided to keep Robinson in his reserve role so as to avoid early foul trouble. That approach as worked in February, as the 7-footer is committing an average of 2.9 fouls per game. Fewer fouls means more time on the court, and this month Robinson is averaging 10.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game with shooting percentages of 69.8% from the field and 69.2% from the foul line. Over the last month, Robinson has been a top-40 player in nine-category leagues.
Marc Gasol makes first start as a Raptor
Raptors center Marc Gasol has come off the bench since being acquired from Memphis at the trade deadline. That changed Sunday afternoon, as Nick Nurse went with the three-time All-Star instead of Serge Ibaka in order to better match up with Magic center Nikola Vucevic. While Gasol had a solid afternoon from a statistical standpoint, as he tallied 16 points, five rebounds, five assists and one three-pointer in 24 minutes, it was not enough to either slow down Vucevic or get the win. Toronto fell by a final score of 113-98, with Vucevic and Terrence Ross combining to score 51 points for the visiting Magic. Toronto’s center tandem of Gasol and Ibaka combined to score 30 points, with Ibaka also grabbing five rebounds in his 24 minutes of game time.
While the tenth-year center didn’t make too much of his move to the bench, the numbers show that Ibaka has been more productive as a starter than as a reserve. In 47 starts this season he’s averaging 16.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 52.9% from the field, 26.9% from three and 77.5% from the foul line. As a reserve Ibaka’s averaging 12.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 1.0 assists per game with shooting splits of 48.3/21.1/77.4. With Gasol on board as opposed to Valanciunas it’s likely that Nurse will be more flexible with the starting center spot as Toronto works to improve its standing in the East in preparation for the postseason.
DeMar DeRozan scores 32 points in a losing effort
San Antonio dropped to 1-6 on its eight-game rodeo trip Sunday night, with the team’s defense being the biggest issue in the 130-118 loss to New York. One player who had a good night (on the offensive end, at least) was DeMar DeRozan, who led all scorers with 32 points (12-of-22 FGs, 8-of-10 FTs) to go along with nine rebounds, four assists, one steal and one blocked shot in 32 minutes of play. Over his last five the four-time All-Star is averaging 25.0 points, 5.6 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game, shooting 48.0% from the field and 87.9% from the foul line. DeRozan, who scored 21 of his 32 points in the first half Sunday night, has shot 50% or better from the field in five of his last six outings.
For the season he’s averaging a career-best 6.1 assists per game, thanks in large part to being able to create more for others than he did in the past. DeRozan isn’t a three-point shooter by any stretch of the imagination, with that task being left to the likes of Davis Bertans, Bryn Forbes, Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli. However, Sunday night that quartet combined to shoot just 5-of-18 from three, which proved to be too much to overcome thanks to the Spurs’ shoddy defense. LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 18 points, three rebounds, two blocks and one assist, and Jakob Poeltl added 12 points, nine rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes off the bench.
Danilo Gallinari needs help from the other Clippers starters
The decision to trade Tobias Harris to Philadelphia at the trade deadline meant that the LA Clippers needed to find offense somewhere if the team is to avoid falling out of the playoff picture. Danilo Gallinari has played quite well this season, and what Lou Williams brings to the table on that end of the floor is not up for debate. But outside of those two and energetic forward Montrezl Harrell, finding consistent offensive production has been a struggle for this group. And that was the case in Sunday’s loss to Denver, as Gallinari (19 points, four rebounds, one assist and one steal) was the lone starter to score in double figures. The other four combined to score a total of 19 points on 7-of-27 shooting from the field.
Rookie guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was limited to one point on 0-of-9 shooting, and he also tallied four assists, one rebound, two steals, one blocked shot and four turnovers in 30 minutes. Landry Shamet and Ivica Zubac scored eight apiece with Zubac also grabbing seven rebounds, and Patrick Beverley made two free throws for his only points of the night. The veteran guard did account for six rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots, providing some value in those areas, and that’s a big reason why he’s been a top-40 player in nine category leagues over the last month. That being said, the lack of offense outside of Gallinari and Williams (24 points, two rebounds, two assists and one steal) could be what does the Clippers in when it comes to the postseason. JaMychal Green added 13 points, nine rebounds, one assist, one blocked shot and one three-pointer in 22 minutes, and he shouldn’t lack for opportunities moving forward given the Clippers’ lack of firepower.
Monday’s Schedule (all times Eastern)
Golden State @ Charlotte, 7 PM
Portland @ Cleveland, 7 PM
Indiana @ Detroit, 7 PM
San Antonio @ Brooklyn, 7 PM
Phoenix @ Miami, 7:30 PM
Milwaukee @ Chicago, 8 PM
Atlanta @ Houston, 8 PM
LA Lakers @ Memphis, 8 PM
Sacramento @ Minnesota 8 PM
Philadelphia @ New Orleans, 8 PM
Dallas @ LA Clippers, 10:30 PM