Day 1 of the calendar year 2019 featured five professional basketball games… including a formidable career-high performance from one Kawhi Leonard, and a stat line that Jusuf Nurkic fantasy owners will be reminiscing about for generations. Here’s the full breakdown of Tuesday’s action:
Raptors 122, Jazz 116
TOR: The Raptors got career-high point totals from Pascal Siakam (28 with 10 boards) and Kawhi Leonard, who toasted 2019 with his own career-best of 45 points. Leonard also didn’t have a single steal, block or a trey after averaging 1.7 spg, 0.6 bpg and 2.3 3s (along with 29.1 ppg) in December. The only other Raptor to hit double-digit points was Norman Powell, who scored a season-high 14 with two 3s and two blocks in 22 minutes, but has been too inconsistent to consider outside of quite deep leagues. And while Leonard and Siakam combined for 73 points, the other Raptors starters — Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet and Danny Green — combined for 18. Ibaka (8-8-3) and VanVleet (8-4-5) both had decent stat lines. Not so for Danny Green, who had one of his nearly invisible evenings with two points in 31 minutes.
UTA: The Jazz got back Ricky Rubio (back) and Jae Crowder (thumb) after one-game absences. Rubio posted 14-4-8 on 6-of-17 shooting, while Crowder stepped back onto the court and unleashed a career-high 30 (six rebounds, five 3s). Before we get too excited, this was Crowder’s first game over 20 points since the end of November, and he had a serviceable but less-than-thrilling month of December (11.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 0.6 spg and 2.2 3s.) Ultimately, he remains best deployed as a deep-league asset, and was No. 158 overall in 9-category leagues for December.
Joe Ingles failed to hit double digits for a third consecutive game, but in true Joe Ingles fashion added six boards, six assists and two steals. Donovan Mitchell cooled off, shooting (7-of-23 for 19 points) after showing some improvement in that department lately, and Derrick Favors put up 21 and nine with two blocks.
Bucks 121, Pistons 98
MIL: The Bucks got a balanced and starter-heavy attack in their dismantling of Detroit. All five starters hit double figures, led by Brook Lopez with 25 points, seven treys and two blocks. This was the second straight game with exactly seven 3s for Splash Mountain, and his third time over 20 points in his last four. In case you’re wondering, that gives Lopez 18 3s and 12 rebounds in those four.
Khris Middleton is decisively out of his shooting slump with 22 points on Tuesday, and 25.3 ppg over his last three games. Giannis Antetokounmpo made a run at a triple-double (15-8-7 with three blocks), but only had to play 26 minutes in the blowout win. Eric Bledsoe also broke out of a recent short-term slump with 18 points, four rebounds and six assists.
DET: Blake Griffin scored 29 for Detroit, Reggie Jackson added 19 while Andre Drummond scored 15 — and that’s about it. Reggie Bullock had just six points and has now scored eight, five, 13, 15 and six in his last five games. He can be a valuable source of 3s when he’s on, but the guessing game with his inconsistency is pretty brutal. Stanley Johnson (undisclosed) did not play, which cleared the way for Khyri Thomas to put up a career-high 13 points in 20 minutes in just his seventh career game.
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Nuggets 115, Knicks 108
NYK: Emmanuel Mudiay played through his ankle injury in his return to/revenge game against Denver, and had a true mixed-bag performance: 15 points, nine assists, two steals, one block and one triple, but on 7-of-20 from the field and 0-of-2 from the line with four turnovers. It’s almost like playing in Denver brought out his old bad tendencies, but for now I’m not even going to go there. Luke Kornet continued to produce with 19 points, six rebounds, four 3s and a block, giving him 18.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg and 5.0 3s in his last three games. It’s time to go add him and see where this goes if you haven’t done so already. Enes Kanter (back/disgruntled) posted 17 and 12 in just 20 minutes, his first double-double in more than two weeks.
DEN: The Nuggets welcomed back Gary Harris for his first game in nearly a month. Harris had six points in 20 minutes, while the torrid Malik Beasley continued to do his thing with 23-6-5 and five triples in 30 minutes. That gives Beasley three 20-point games in his last four, and at this point we need to pick him up and see how long he can stay this hot. The Nuggets also got a big triple-double from Nikola Jokic (19-14-15 with a season-high-tying three blocks), and Paul Millsap put up 16 and nine with two steals in just 22 minutes while going 4-of-10 from the free throw line. Monte Morris had five points in 23 minutes and is averaging just 5.7 ppg in his last three games. He could be getting closer to waiver wire material with Harris back and Beasley playing so well.
Blazers 113, Kings 108 (OT)
POR: Two words: Jusuf Nurkic. Three more words: five-by-five. The big man had a flat-out legendary fantasy evening, unloading 24 points, 23 rebounds, seven assists, five steals and five blocks. It is apparently the first game in NBA history with at least 20 points, 20 rebounds, five assists, five steals and five blocks. He also hit 5-of-10 from the field and 14-of-16 from the line for one of the wildest stat lines of the year. All five Portland starters scored in double figures, with Damian Lillard hitting for 25 and Moe Harkless notably putting up 11 and nine with two steals, two blocks and a 3-pointer in 33 minutes. Harkless (knee) missed Sunday’s back-to-back situation, but is rolling right now when on the court, with 9.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.3 spg, 2.0 bpg and 0.7 3s his last three games. He’s certainly worth a look if you need a boost in defensive stats (and don’t we all). Also: Seth Curry got hot with a season-high 18 points in 22 minutes off the bench, but had combined for 10 points in his previous two games.
SAC: Buddy Hield led Sacramento with 27 points and five 3s in a strong all-around stat line, and Bogdan Bogdanovic finished at 19-5-5 with three steals and three 3s after a quiet first half. De’Aaron Fox (6-of-19 for 13 points) and Willie Cauley-Stein (2-of-14) both endured rough shooting nights, and Nemanja Bjelica posted a 14-point, 16-rebound double-double in the loss.
Sixers 119, Clippers 113
PHI: Joel Embiid played through his sore left knee and had 28 points, 19 rebounds, three blocks and two 3s, though he shot 8-of-12 from the line with five turnovers. Embiid also got into it with the Clippers, specifically with the always aggravating Patrick Beverley — but managed to dodge an ejection. Ben Simmons made a run at a triple-double with 14-9-8, also shooting badly from the line (2-of-6) with four turnovers. Meanwhile, T.J. McConnell continues to look like a compelling pickup in deeper leagues with 11 points, three dimes, four steals and a block in 28 minutes.
LAC: Four Clippers topped the 20-point mark: Lou Williams (22), Danilo Gallinari (21), Tobias Harris (21) and Montrezl Harrell (20). No one else scored more than eight. As for Lou, he is suddenly looking a lot more like the fantasy star we saw last year with averages of 22.1 ppg, 6.1 apg, 0.9 spg and 1.4 3s on 50.5 percent shooting his last seven games. Harrell after a cold stretch earlier in December now has 20 or more points in four of his last six games. As for Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, who had the aforementioned eight-point game, the rookie has now averaged 7.2 ppg and 1.8 apg over his last five, and is certainly testing the patience of fantasy owners in shallower leagues. I expect he’ll get it going at some point, but can understand dropping him if there are productive players out there on your waiver wire.
In other news…
*Chris Paul (hamstring) spoke to the media, and has “no clue” when he’ll be back. This does not sound especially promising. At this point though, all fantasy owners can really do is wait for him to get back, hopefully get hot, and then deal him away before the next hamstring-related setback.
*Myles Turner (broken nose) sounds like he should be available for Friday’s game against the Bulls, but fantasy owners will want to check back on this one. There remained some question as to whether or not Turner sustained a concussion.
*Kyle Lowry (back) is reportedly improving, and essentially his return is a matter of “pain management.” Lowry received pain-relieving/anti-inflammatory injections over the weekend… and while it’s unclear exactly when he’s coming back, beat reporter Josh Lewenberg says he “wouldn’t be surprised” to see Lowry return on Thursday.
*Dion Waiters (ankle) is traveling to Cleveland for Wednesday’s game and listed as questionable. Waiters has yet to appear in a game all year and returns to a crowded Miami rotation, so I’m only considering him in deeper leagues.
*Meanwhile, Mitchell Robinson (ankle) is “getting close” to a return, per coach David Fizdale.
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Other Wednesday Status Updates
Out/Doubtful/Not Expected to Play: LeBron James (groin) … Cody Zeller (hand) … Jeremy Lamb (hamstring)
… Nikola Mirotic (ankle) … Allen Crabbe (knee)… Derrick Rose (ankle) … Taurean Prince (ankle)… Robert Williams (groin).
Probable: Otto Porter (knee, would be his first game since Dec. 10.) … Anthony Davis (illness) … James Johnson (illness) … John Collins (flu-like symptoms). … Check back on all of these just in case anything changes prior to tipoff on this nine-game NBA Wednesday.