The All-Star break is finally upon us, but first let's take a quick look at Thursday's two-game slate because we got a good one on our hands. Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo had dueling triple-doubles, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray went off and Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson carried the Wolves past the Lakers with a combined 52 points. For NBA news and fantasy advice, find me on Twitter here!
Nuggets 134, Bucks 123
There were times earlier in the season when it was fair to ask if Nikola Jokic was worth his first-round price tag in fantasy drafts, but I think tonight’s line alone answered that question with a resounding yes. Jokic recorded the fastest triple-double (14:33) in NBA history Thursday night, shattering the previous mark of 17 minutes held by Jim Tucker in 1955. Not only he did make NBA history, but he did it with one of the best lines of the season, scoring 30 points (11-of-14 FGs, 5-of-5 FTs) with 17 assists, 15 rebounds, one steal, two blocks and three 3-pointers in 34 minutes. That’s just the 17th game in NBA history with 30 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists, joining the likes of James Harden, Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. He did have eight turnovers, but who cares!
This was Jokic’s fourth triple-double in his last 10 games and he’s been borderline unfair in that span, averaging 19.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, 9.1 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.9 blocks on 53.3% shooting from the field and 86.4% from the line. Jokic had plenty of help as well, as Gary Harris put up 28 points with two assists, one rebound, one steal and five triples and Jamal Murray scored 26 points with five rebounds, five assists, three steals and five triples. Murray has been in “constant pain” with a chest issue this week and Harris has been battling a right foot injury, but luckily the All-Star break arrived just in time.
Will Barton played at least 40 minutes in his third straight game, scoring 19 points with seven rebounds, five assists, one steal and four triples. Coach Mike Malone has said in the past that Barton is his only player capable of handling these types of workloads, so his minutes could stick around the mid-30s, at least until Paul Millsap (wrist) comes back.
Trey Lyles had 12 points, two blocks, one steal and two triples, but played just 17 minutes and has lost quite a bit of steam due to the resurgence of Wilson Chandler. With Millsap and Mason Plumlee (calf) due back sometime after the break, Lyles is a drop in standard leagues. As for Chandler, he’ll lose some value when the Nuggets are at full strength, but at least he’s shown he has a pulse in the last week. He had 11 points and a full line tonight and has played 34+ minutes in three straight with averages of 18.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.0 blocks, 1.3 steals and 2.0 triples.
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As for the Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo had one of his best games of the season and recorded his first triple-double of the campaign, setting the franchise record for most triple-doubles (9) in the process. He notched 36 points with 11 rebounds, 13 assists, three blocks and one 3-pointer in 39 minutes, hitting 14-of-21 shots and 7-of-12 free throws. Giannis has been battling knee soreness this season and missed four total games as a result, but the All-Star break should do the NBA’s leader in minutes a lot of good and I’m not expecting him to rest down the stretch with Milwaukee fighting for seeding.
Eric Bledsoe pulled his weight with 27 points, eight assists, three rebounds, five steals and three triples, and he’ll head into the All-Star break trailing only Paul George in steals per game (Bledsoe is at 2.12 and George is at 2.21). Khris Middleton is still on pace for a top-36 finish in standard leagues and had 17 points, seven rebounds, two steals, one block and one triple, while Jabari Parker had a promising game, scoring 12 points with five rebounds, one steal and one triple in 17 minutes. Once we get back from the break, I could see Parker flirting with 25+ minutes towards the end of February.
John Henson (hamstring) was out again, but should be back after the break. Thon Maker was humiliated tonight by Jokic, but Tyler Zeller had some nice moments, scoring 14 points with five rebounds, one assist and one block in 30 minutes. He had 14 points and eight rebounds in his previous outing, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he leapfrogged Maker in the rotation. Just keep an eye on him in deeper leagues.
Wolves 119, Lakers 111
Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins combined for just 18 points on 6-of-20 shooting, but KAT at least salvaged his line with 19 rebounds, four assists and two blocks. As for Wiggins, he grabbed four rebounds and that was it. Empty stat lines (outside of scoring) are nothing new for Wiggins and this was his second brutal game in a row after he hit 2-of-14 shots for seven points vs. Houston. His body language has also been really bad and it’s not what you want to see out of a 22-year-old who is fresh off a max contract. Even one of Minnesota’s beat reporters said he “played like he was full of asbestos.” I’m glad I have zero shares of him and I don’t plan on changing that any time soon.
Taj Gibson came out of nowhere to score 28 points with seven rebounds and two blocks, and while nights like these are rare, he’s pretty reliable if he’s the third or fourth big man on your roster. I’m just salty that he has completely stolen Gorgui Dieng’s thunder from last season. Jeff Teague had another solid game with 20 points, six assists and two triples, and Tyus Jones is no longer a threat like he was earlier this season. Jimmy Butler added 24 points, five rebounds, four assists, three blocks and a steal and has his team sitting in fourth place out West heading into the break with a 36-25 record. Playoff basketball is coming back to Minnesota.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been all over the place lately, but had a strong game on Thursday with 17 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, two steals and three triples. The Lakers have big plans in free agency and don’t owe KCP any money beyond this season, so I think they have more interest in giving Josh Hart more run at KCP’s expense. Despite Hart’s quiet night (eight points, four rebounds and one steal), I’d actually rather own the rookie going forward. We’ll see what happens.
The frontcourt is still a mess in Los Angeles and Ivica Zubac gave the coaching staff something to think about, putting up 19 points on 8-of-8 shots with 11 rebounds in 20 minutes. Zubac did play well late in the 2016-17 season, and it would make sense for the Lakers to give him more minutes, especially with Brook Lopez on an expiring deal. I’ll need to see another strong game from him before hopping on the hype train. As for Lopez, he’s a hold for now.
Kyle Kuzma was quiet in 19 minutes, scoring eight points with two triples. The Lakers could go with the hot-hand approach moving forward, and Julius Randle had it tonight, scoring 23 points with nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block. I wish I knew what the frontcourt rotation will look like after the break, but it’s going to be murky for at least a little while longer.
Isaiah Thomas hit just 3-of-15 shots for seven points, but hey at least he didn’t pick a fight this game. Progress right? In all seriousness, drafting him in the late middle rounds is one of my biggest regrets so far and I have no idea what’s going to happen when Lonzo Ball (knee) returns. Thomas is an easy guy to root for, but I have no idea if he’ll ever be the same player he was in Boston.