Derrick Rose went down, the Thunder escaped embarrassment, the Cavaliers rolled, and the Pacers and Celtics lost crucial games. Thursday was eventful, despite just 12 teams in action. Follow me on Twitter by clicking here.
Cavaliers 107, Nets 87 – LeBron James returned from a rest and joined Kevin Love with a double-double as the Cavs destroyed the Nets on Thursday night. Timofey Mozgov had 10 points, seven rebounds and a block, while Kyrie Irving struggled with 10 points and three assists on 4-of-14 shooting in the win. He was dealing with an illness, so I guess the good news is that he played. This one was over by halftime and Channing Frye took advantage of some garbage minutes to add 13 points, eight boards and three 3-pointers off the bench. Iman Shumpert added six points, eight rebounds, and a steal in 20 minutes in the easy win. James passed Dominique Wilkins for No. 12 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list last night, sitting on 26,689 points. J.R. Smith was also ill and had 10 points after missing shootaround.
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The Nets got 18 points and eight boards from Thaddeus Young on a night when Brook Lopez was rested. Henry Sims started at center but had just four points and five boards, while Shane Larkin bounced back from an off night with 13 points, five rebounds, eight assists, two steals and two 3-pointers. He’ll start at point guard the rest of the way and is worth a pickup, despite some inconsistency. Bojan Bogdanovic hit 5-of-12 shots and a 3-pointer for 14 points, five rebounds, and three assists, and starter Wayne Ellington missed all eight of his shots and failed to score. Thomas Robinson had 10 points and 11 boards off the bench and has been playing well lately, Donald Sloan had 11 points and five dimes, and Sean Kilpatrick’s hot run is officially over, as he hit just 2-of-9 shots for four points and two assists. Markel Brown has been playing better and had six points, five rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in the ugly loss, while Chris McCullough added seven points, six rebounds, two steals and a block. With the Nets in shutdown mode, Larkin, Bogdanovic, Robinson and Brown all look like they might be worth a flier, while Kilpatrick could get hot again at any time.
Magic 114, Pacers 94 – The Pacers took a big hit with this loss as Evan Fournier stepped up with 25 points and three 3-pointers in the win. Victor Oladipo was fun with 18 points, seven boards, seven assists, two steals, a block and two 3-pointers, and Elfrid Payton added 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the win. Aaron Gordon was quiet with six points and four boards, and Dewayne Dedmon had eight points and six boards in another start. In one of the bigger news items of the night, Nikola Vucevic finally returned from a groin injury and had 24 points, six boards and a block on 12-of-15 shooting in 25 minutes off the bench. Hopefully you got him back in your lineup for this one. Andrew Nicholson had 11 points and five boards, but missed all four of his 3-point attempts, while the rest of the bench was quiet for the Magic. The Magic’s playoff dreams are officially dead, despite the win.
The Pacers now sit just one game ahead of the Bulls for the final playoff spot after Chicago beat the Rockets on Thursday. Paul George was nice with 27 points, eight boards and five steals on 11-of-23 shooting, and Monta Ellis had 13 points and a 3-pointer on 5-of-11 shooting. Myles Turner, Ian Mahinmi and George Hill combined to hit just 8-of-25 shots and none of them scored in double digits. Mahinmi had scored at least 18 points in his previous three games, so he’ll bounce back. Lavoy Allen may have helped owners who punted him in DFS, double-doubling with 12 points, 11 rebounds and two steals, and C.J. Miles scored nine points with three 3-pointers in 17 minutes. The Pacers will be riding their starters hard the rest of the way in hopes of hanging onto a playoff spot.
Bulls 103, Rockets 100 – Jimmy Butler is finally rounding back into form and had 21 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two steals, a block and a 3-pointer on 8-of-13 shooting, and Pau Gasol double-doubled with 12 points, 10 rebounds, a steal and a block. Derrick Rose played just 12 minutes before leaving with a left elbow contusion. The Bulls really need him if they’re going to make the playoffs, so I’m not sure I could bring myself to drop him just yet, even though he failed to score. Watch for updates on him going forward and cut him if you feel like you have to do it. If he’s out, Aaron Brooks looks like a potential starter. He started the second half for Rose, but had just three points and three assists in 16 minutes. E’Twaun Moore is probably a better fantasy option without Rose, and had eight points, four assists and two 3-pointers in 22 minutes. Bobby Portis started, but as usual, disappointed with two points and two rebounds in 10 minutes. It’s been a lost season for Portis. Mike Dunleavy started, but played just nine minutes to finish with one point. Nikola Mirotic caught fire again off the bench for 28 points, four boards, three assists and five 3-pointers, while Doug McDermott added 15 points, nine boards and a 3-pointer. If you own Portis or Dunleavy, drop them for Mirotic and McBuckets. Taj Gibson sat out with his broken rib we don’t know when he’ll play again, which is another great reason to own Mirotic. The Bulls are just a game behind the Pacers for a playoff spot in the East.
James Harden had 24 points, eight assists, two blocks and two 3-pointers, and Patrick Beverley hit 9-of-13 shots and three 3-pointers for 22 points, five rebounds and seven dimes in one of his better games of the season. Dwight Howard had just seven points, but also had 13 rebounds, a steal and three blocks, while Trevor Ariza had 14 points, two steals and three 3-pointers on 3-of-10 shooting. Michael Beasley added 20 points and 11 boards off the bench in 31 minutes, and is averaging 15.4 points and 6.4 rebounds over his last five games. Pick him up if you need a warm body. The Rockets are going to keep fighting, sitting just a ½ game behind the Jazz and Mavericks for the No. 8 seed in the West.
Pelicans 101, Nuggets 95 – Luke Babbitt moved back into the starting lineup and came through with 22 points, 10 rebounds, two steals, a block and two 3-pointers in 36 minutes. If he’s still not owned in your league, go get him. Toney Douglas also started and had 20 points, 10 assists and three 3-pointers, and Jordan Hamilton added 14 points, seven boards, two steals, a block and two 3-pointers in 32 minutes and a start. Dante Cunningham and Omer Asik both started, but neither player did much, as usual. Tim Frazier had 17 points, five rebounds, eight assists and three 3-pointers off the bench, and is another hot pickup, and James Ennis added 11 points, six rebounds, three assists and three 3-pointers. He’s on a 10-day contract, but is getting minutes and producing. Alexis Ajinca came off the bench for eight points, eight rebounds, two steals and a block in just 16 minutes, and still looks relevant to me. But Luke Babbitt looks like the player to grab here, along with Douglas.
Kenneth Faried actually showed up with a 10 & 12 double-double, Gary Harris bounced back with 16 points, two steals and a 3-pointer, Emmanuel Mudiay had 13 points, four assists and three 3-pointers, and Nikola Jokic had nine points, eight boards, a steal and a block in the loss. Darrell Arthur stayed more than relevant with 24 points, nine boards and four 3-pointers off the bench, while Will Barton’s good vibes quickly disappeared with his 0-for-8 shooting and six points last night. D.J. Augustin had nine points and eight assists in 29 minutes, and as long as he’s getting that kind of run, games like this one are always possible. Arthur looks like the hot pickup in Denver, even with Faried starting.
Thunder, Clippers – The Thunder got everything they could handle from the resting Clippers, but were able to hold off huge nights from Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers for the win. Russell Westbrook had 26 points, eight boards, 11 assists, four steals and three 3-pointers, and Kevin Durant added 31 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and a 3-pointer in the win. Serge Ibaka had 16 points, nine boards and two 3-pointers, and Steven Adams had 13 points, six boards, a steal and a block. Enes Kanter had 11 points and four rebounds, and Dion Waiters cooled off with seven points in just 16 minutes. As usual, Westbrook, Durant and Ibaka are the guys to use here, while Adams, Kanter and Waiters can be used in a deep-league pinch on most nights.
Blake Griffin (suspension), Chris Paul (rest), DeAndre Jordan (rest) and J.J. Redick (rest) were all out for the Clippers. They started Austin Rivers, Jamal Crawford and Cole Aldrich and put up a heckuva fight. Rivers went nuts, hitting 12-of-19 shots and 7-of-9 3-pointers for a career-high 32 points, four rebounds, five assists and two steals, and Crawford hit 10-of-20 shots and five 3-pointers for 32 points and seven assists. Wes Johnson scored 14 with a couple threes, and Jeff Green came through with 19 points, three boards, a block and a 3-pointer off the bench. Pablo Prigioni was highly disappointing with zero points in 20 minutes, but things should be back to normal for the Clippers on Sunday. Griffin is expected back for that one, while the resting Clips should also be back in action against the Wizards.
Blazers 116, Celtics 109 – The Blazers held on for a tough win over the Celtics that puts them in the driver’s seat for the No. 6 seed in the West. Al-Farouq Aminu went off for career highs in points (28), field goals made (11) and 3-pointers (6) and added nine rebounds, a steal and three blocks to his stellar line. He’s averaging 15.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 1.2 blocks and 2.4 3-pointers over his last five games, so make sure he’s not available in your league. C.J. McCollum hit 8-of-19 shots and a 3-pointer for 17 points and eight assists, and Damian Lillard hit just 3-of-16 shots and a 3-pointer for 14 points and four assists on an off night. Moe Harkless started again and had nine points, 10 boards, a steal, a block and a 3-pointer, and Mason Plumlee added 11 points and six boards in the win. Gerald Henderson came through off the bench with 15 points, five rebounds, five assists, a steal and a 3-pointer, and Allen Crabbe had 11 points, four boards, a steal, a block and three 3-pointers in 28 minutes. Aminu’s the hot pickup here, Harkless is worth a look in most leagues, and Ed Davis (4 points, 7 rebounds), Crabbe and Henderson are all worth a look in deep leagues.
The Celtics welcomed back Jae Crowder, who hit a big 3-pointer with 1:08 to give Boston a one-point lead, but Portland then took over the game. Crowder finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and two 3-pointers in 35 minutes and he’s hopefully going to play on Friday, too. Amir Johnson had 12 points, nine boards, a steal and two blocks, and Jared Sullinger added 10 points and 10 rebounds in the loss. Isaiah Thomas led the way with 22 points, six rebounds and four 3-pointers, but added just one assist and hit 6-of-21 shots. Avery Bradley caught fire in the second half and finished with 20 points, four boards, two assists and two steals in 35 minutes. Evan Turner had 14 points, four assists, four steals and two blocks off the bench to stay relevant. If Crowder was dropped in your league, pick him up.
News & Notes
DeMarcus Cousins has been suspended for Friday and says he won’t play on Saturday, either. And with that news, I can probably kiss a playoff win against my buddy Brian Rosenworcel goodbye. Kosta Koufos, Willie Cauley-Stein and Darren Collison will be popular DFS plays this weekend.