As usual, Thursday was a slow night in the NBA, as the Knicks got rocked by the Rockets for their 14th straight loss, the Raptors got surprised by the Hornets, and the Heat and Blazers battled for the only real close game of the evening, but the Blazers pulled away in the second half to make it a blowout as well. Additionally, Deron Williams is down and out, and if Jarrett Jack is still miraculously available in your league, you should stop reading this and go pick him up.
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Charlotte 103, Raptors 95
Gerald Henderson stayed hot and went off for a season-high 31 points (but had just five rebounds, three assists and nothing else), and Kemba Walker “cooled off” with 29 points, seven boards, eight assists, three steals and a 3-pointer on 12-of-25 shooting. Walker may be the player of the week in the East, even though his string of 30-point games was halted at three. He came awfully close to keeping it going with his 29 and is averaging a ridiculous 30.75 points, 5.75 rebounds, 5.75 assists, 1.5 steals, 2.0 3-pointers and just 1.5 turnovers over his last four games. The Hawks’ Jeff Teague, last week’s player of the week, is having another good one, but Walker’s even better right now. Marvin Williams started over Cody Zeller (shoulder injury) at power forward and had 13 points, nine rebounds and three 3-pointers, while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had his fourth double-double in five games with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Both Henderson and MKG are worth owning as long as Lance Stephenson is out, and MKG is averaging 11.6, 10.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists over his last five. However, the reason he’s not a must own player is that he isn’t going to contribute in any other categories outside of minimal points and solid rebounds, and he can hurt you more than he might help. Henderson is a similar player – no threes, steals or blocks, but he is averaging 16.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists over his last five.
Jonas Valanciunas was highly disappointing for the Raptors and I thought he was going to have a big night against the center-less Hornets. He finished with just 10 points, six boards and zero blocks on 3-of-9 shooting after going for 21 & 10 on Sunday. Kyle Lowry was his usual solid self with 24 points, seven boards, seven assists and four 3-pointers, but hit just 7-of-22 shots. Amir Johnson, Terrence Ross, James Johnson and Patrick Patterson were all pretty disappointing, while Lou Williams came through with 15 points, four rebounds and five assists. I use the words “came through” loosely though, as he hit just 4-of-15 shots and missed all seven of his 3-point attempts. He did hit 7-of-8 free throws to salvage a decent scoring line. Greivis Vasquez had 11 points, three boards, four assists, a steal and three 3-pointers, but had just two points and four dimes in his previous game, meaning you can’t trust him. This was a bad loss for Toronto, and it propelled the Bulls into second place in the East, as the Raps now sit a half game behind them, while the Hawks have a 2.5 game lead on the Bulls for the top spot. DeMar DeRozan is nearing a return from his groin injury, but it looks like we won’t see him until next week.
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Houston 120, New York 96
The Rockets waxed the Knicks 120-96 in the Garden, handing New York it’s 14th straight loss. Man, they sure are good at this tanking thing and are breaking bad franchise records with every loss. They’re now 5-34. All five Rockets starters scored in double figures, led by James Harden’s 25 points, with Trevor Ariza (18), Donatas Motiejunas (17), Patrick Beverley (14) and Dwight Howard (13) all following suit. Howard barely managed a double-double with 10 rebounds and added just one block in the win. Maybe Trevor Ariza reads Rotoworld and finally realized he hadn’t hit half his shots in a game since Nov. 12. He was 6-of-10 from the floor and 4-of-6 from downtown, so maybe there is a basketball god. Josh Smith disappeared in this one, hitting just 1-of-3 shots for two points in 20 minutes. It was a blowout, but this was still a huge disappointment for Smoove’s owners. He had scored between 12 and 21 points in each of his previous three games and was shooting it well, but never got it going tonight. And since taking a ridiculous 21 shots in his first game with the Rockets, he’s only taken more than nine shots in three of his last eight games. He’s going to be a mess as long as Motiejunas is starting in front of him and an argument could be made for dropping him, depending on whom you’d pick up. Jason Terry (14 points, 3 3-pointers) and Corey Brewer (11 points) may look decent on paper, but they were basically playing against your local high school team in garbage time, and Brewer hit just 3-of-10 shots.
The woeful Knicks started Jason Smith over Quincy Acy, but it was Acy who had the better line with 11 points, five rebounds and three assists in 31 minutes. Smith played 23 minutes and had six points and four boards. Cleanthony Early has been getting some love from us lately and came through with 16 points, six boards, two steals and a 3-pointer on 6-of-10 shooting in 25 minutes off the bench. I think he’s worth stashing. The crazy thing about the Knicks’ starting lineup is that the leading scorer was Pablo Prigioni with nine points in 17 minutes, and the entire unit combined to score just 26 points. Yuck. Tim Hardaway Jr. played just 17 minutes and hit 3-of-9 shots for seven points, and Derek Fisher decided to roll with his bench in a hopeless matchup. Starter Jose Calderon came in hot but missed all five of his shots and failed to score, and the takeaway from this game should be that anyone in a Knick uniform is a complete fantasy crapshoot. The two surprises of the night were Travis Wear and Langston Galloway. Wear hit 9-of-16 shots and three 3-pointers off the bench for a team-high 21 points, and added five boards, a steal and a block in 26 minutes. Galloway, who you’ve probably never heard of and was playing in just his second NBA game, hit 6-of-10 shots and three 3-pointers for 19 points, four boards, three assists and a steal in 31 minutes off the bench. Wear had 11 points and five rebounds in his previous game, so he’s at least worth keeping an eye on, along with Early and Galloway. Things are very ugly in New York right now and I feel like I just got done writing up a D-League recap. It’s anyone’s guess as to who will step up in the next one, but I still think Hardaway Jr. will eventually get it going. The bottom line is not a single Knick is reliable enough for you to plug into a weekly lineup right now.
Portland 99, Miami 83
Wesley Matthews played through his knee injury and hit 6-of-10 shots and three more 3-pointers for 18 points, two rebounds, five assists, a steal and a block in 30 minutes. He’s good to go. LaMarcus Aldridge led the way with 24 points and 12 boards, Damian Lillard had 16 points, but hit just 6-of-17 shots and added three assists, and Chris Kaman rounded out the double-digit scoring with 10 points, nine boards and two blocks in the win. Nicolas Batum only scored eight, as usual, but did have nine boards, four assists and two steals on 3-of-10 shooting. He’s been a disappointment, but still racks it up in most categories. His 26 percent shooting from downtown is probably his biggest issue. This game ended up being a bit of a blowout, so the bench made a little noise, but ignore anyone in Portland who’s not starting.
The Heat got 23 points, seven boards and two assist on 7-of-18 shooting from Dwyane Wade, but never looked fully engaged. He also had to leave the game to get his ankle re-taped, and despite the fact he didn’t look like the Wade we’ve grown accustomed to this season, my guess is he’s fine. Chris Bosh added 18 points, five boards, five assists and two 3-pointers, but hit just 5-of-16 shots, and they were the only two starters in double figures. Chris Andersen had five points and three boards in 24 minutes, Luol Deng hit just 3-of-11 shots for seven points (amidst trade rumors) and Mario Chalmers disappointed again with eight points and three assists on 3-of-7 shooting. The most exciting story out of Miami right now is back up center Hassan Whiteside. He’s been coming off the bench, but is playing well. He hit 5-of-6 shots and racked up 10 points, eight rebounds and four more blocks in just 19 minutes on Thursday. Whiteside is averaging 11.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.7 blocks in 23 minutes over his last three games. It seems like young bigs who can block shots are all over the place right now and you can add Whiteside to the list. He’s not a must-own player, but if you need big-man numbers, it looks like he might be able to help. And if Andersen goes down at some point, Whiteside could easily be starting for the Heat.
News and Notes
Deron Williams has a fractured rib and will be re-evaluated in a week. He was in a great deal of pain on Wednesday night and he could theoretically be out until the All-Star break. And as I said in the opening paragraph, it’s Jarrett Jack time for the Nets, and he should now be owned in all leagues.
The Pacers are a MASH unit right now. George Hill is out on Friday vs. the Celtics with a groin injury, while Roy Hibbert (ankle), Rodney Stuckey (groin), C.J. Watson (foot) and Ian Mahinmi (foot) are all questionable. I’ll be very surprised if Hibbert plays tonight, making Lavoy Allen worth a cheap look in dailies. Allen had 12 points, nine boards and three dimes on Wednesday, starting the second half when Hibbert went down. Luis Scola, who had 14 points, six boards and a block in that one, is another guy who should play well tonight. And if CJW is out, Donald Sloan will be a popular cheap play, as well. Solomon Hill is another player to keep an eye on, as he had 21 points, four boards, two assists and two 3-pointers against the Warriors on Wednesday.
The Lakers are going to try to get rookie Jordan Clarkson more minutes going forward, and he had a career-high 14 points, four boards and two assists on Wednesday. Just keep an eye on him.
The Bucks plan on giving Larry Sanders as much time as he needs to deal with his personal demons, so keep rolling Zaza Pachulia out there until further notice. John Henson (and Giannis Antetokounmpo) hardly played on Wednesday, but I suspect they’ll get decent run on Friday against the Timberwolves.
Speaking of the T-Wolves, Mo Williams left on Wednesday with a sprained ankle after racking p 23 points, 11 dimes and four 3-pointers, and if he’s out, Zach LaVine will likely start at point guard against the Bucks. The only way he’ll have any value is when he’s starting.
LeBron James is targeting a return on Thursday against the Lakers, although if he’s going to sit out until then, I’m not sure the Cavs want to waste him and take a chance against the Lakers. Then again, as bad as the Cavs have been without LeBron, it’s possible they’ll need him in that game.
Kobe Bryant skipped practice on Thursday but is expected to play on Friday against the Magic. He was a mess on Wednesday with four points on 2-of-12 shooting, but should bounce back tonight. Ronnie Price is expected to play through his broken nose, which will hurt the prospects of Jeremy Lin. Wes Johnson is still iffy with his hip injury and if he’s out, look for Wayne Ellington to draw another start for the Lakers. Nick Young missed practice with a sore right knee and is also iffy for tonight.
Zach Randolph finally practiced for the Grizzlies on Thursday through a sore right knee, so it’s possible he plays tonight against the Pelicans.
Enes Kanter is doubtful again for the Jazz with an ankle injury, meaning more goodies for Rudy Gobert. Gobert said on Thursday that he wants to keep starting once Kanter is back, and if the Utah coaching staff has looked at the numbers, he might get his wish.