LeBron James was out and Kyrie Irving suffered a scary knee injury, but was able to return to Thursday's game. Dose breaks down a two-game night. You can follow me on Twitter by clicking here, as well as check out a fun podcast I participated in on Thursday by clicking here.
Thunder 103, Cavaliers 94
LeBron James’ left knee injury was Thursday’s ‘shot heard round the world,’ but teammate Kyrie Irving nearly outdid him. Irving went down awkwardly and had to be carried off the court just before half time with a left knee injury. It really didn’t look very good on television and I was sure he was done for the night, and maybe the season. He didn’t need a wheel chair like Paul Pierce did back in the day, but it wouldn’t have surprised me if they had wheeled him out in one. And lo and behold, by the time I traveled from home to Johnny B’s sports bar to watch the second half (a 5-minute trip), Irving was back in the game and going off. He got quite a scare and is probably reevaluating things now that he caught such a big break, but he’s not out of the woods just yet. Irving will be day-to-day and there’s a good chance his knee will swell up overnight. But the bottom line is that it looks like a disaster has been avoided and owners have to hope he’s out there on Friday against the Pelicans. Irving played 40 minutes and had 20 points, six assists, two steals and a 3-pointer, but hit just 7-of-21 shots as the Cavs had their eight-game winning streak snapped with LeBron watching in street clothes.
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As for LeBron, he too has soreness in the back of his left knee and while the team swears it’s not a serious injury, he’s listed as day-to-day and questionable for Friday’s game against the Pelicans. I really thought he’d play last night, so whether he goes on Friday is anyone’s guess. But as far as knee injuries to superstars go, LeBron and Irving look like they’re in a pretty good place.
The Thunder cruised to a 103-94 win and don’t look now, but they’ve won four straight games and six of their last seven. It’s no coincidence that Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant are back from their injuries, and the Thunder should cruise into playoff position over the next few weeks. Westbrook had 26 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and a steal on 12-of-24 shooting, while Durant added 19 points, six boards, five assists, two steals, two blocks and a 3-pointer on 6-of-14 shooting in 30 minutes. He’s still on a minutes count and only made one shot in the first half, but we’re getting close to Durant being back at full strength. The Thunder’s four-game winning streak is now good for fourth best in the league, trailing only the Warriors (14), the Clippers (9) and the Hawks (8).
Serge Ibaka has his owners seeing red this morning after he fouled out with just seven points, zero rebounds and two blocks. That’s right. Ibaka didn’t have a single rebound, which hadn’t happened since 2011, but at least he hit a 3-pointer. Ibaka was basically a bystander as Westbrook and Durant dominated, but the fact he didn’t have a board against the Cavs is inexplicable. He will bounce back on Friday. Steven Adams was better than usual with eight points, 10 rebounds and two blocks, Reggie Jackson played well with 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and a 3-pointer, and Anthony Morrow hit 4-of-8 shots and three 3-pointers for 11 points and a steal. With Durant and Westbrook back in full effect, it will be tough for fantasy owners to start any other Thunder players, outside of Ibaka.
The Cavs got 18 points, 16 rebounds, two assists, a steal, a block and two 3-pointers from Kevin Love, and it’s no coincidence that LeBron didn’t play. Matthew Dellavedova started in place of LeBron and played well, finishing with 14 points, five rebounds, four assists, a steal and four 3-pointers on 5-of-8 shooting. He played 34 minutes and would make for a nice spot play on Friday if LeBron can’t play and he’s still starting. Tristan Thompson played well off the bench with 14 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks, and is worth a serious look whether James is healthy or not, and Dion Waiters hit 5-of-13 shots and a couple 3-pointers for 14 points and four assists. Anderson Varejao had nine points, six rebounds, a steal and a block on 4-of-11 shooting, and is always worth a look when healthy if you’re desperate at center. Lastly, Shawn Marion moved over to his natural position of small forward, but was still awful with two points and three rebounds on 1-of-6 shooting in 21 minutes. His fall from grace has been pretty quick and painful. The Cavs shot just 37 percent without James, while the Thunder hit 44 percent of their shots in the win.
Rockets 113, Kings 109 in OT
The Rockets are now a solid 17-5 and as Aaron Bruski accurately pointed out on Twitter in the wee hours of the morning, the Rockets haven’t exactly played a tough schedule. But given the fact they’ve been without Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones and Patrick Beverley for a large part of the season, I don’t really care who they’re playing. They’re one of the league’s best teams as long as James Harden is in there. Harden got off to a slow start, but finished strong with 44 points, four rebounds, eight assists, three steals, a block and three 3-pointers on 14-of-32 shooting. He also hit 13-of-15 free throws (as usual) and committed just two turnovers. I don’t know if he is a more worthy MVP candidate than Stephen Curry or John Wall right now, but he is leading the league in scoring, and added to it tonight. He also buried me in my daily league, as I went with Durant instead of Harden.
Trevor Ariza hasn’t met a shot he didn’t love lately and hit just 4-of-13 shots and 3-of-10 3-pointers for 15 points, seven rebounds and three steals in the win. He’s scored in double figures in nine straight games, but is shooting just 34 percent over his last five. And from downtown that number dips to 33 percent, as he’s 16-of-48 over that stretch. The good news is that he’s also rebounding and stealing the ball, and if he improves his shot selection, he will put up some monster lines. Patrick Beverley is hot and had 15 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, a steal and four 3-pointers in 40 minutes. He’s been aggressive offensively and owners just have to hope he doesn’t change it up once Howard is back. Bev is also still available in 21 percent of the Yahoo! leagues out there, so make sure yours isn’t one of them. Donatas Motiejunas had 14 points, three rebounds, a steal and a block on 6-of-11 shooting, and his emergence is one of the reasons I’m not a huge supporter of waiting for Terrence Jones to finally return. Then again, if you’ve been holding onto Jones for this long, you might as well hang in there, as we should be nearing the end of his sabbatical. Jason Terry was relevant with 35 minutes, but hit just 4-of-12 shots and three 3-pointers for 13 points and nothing else. Isaiah Canaan being sidelined helps Terry’s cause, but you can’t depend on him with Beverley back on the court.
The Kings got 24 points, three rebounds, seven assists, three steals and two 3-pointers from Darren Collison, who hit 10-of-20 shots. And given the fact he was going against one of the league’s best defenders in Beverley, I think it was a quite an accomplishment. Collison’s having a nice season and I have no idea why he was so ineffective when he was with the Pacers, but he’s eating well for the Kings. Ben McLemore was great with 21 points, two rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers on 9-of-15 shooting, but the Kings went away from him late. McLemore had two very bad games last Sunday and Monday, but has been back in the saddle over his last two games. Think about picking him up if you’ve got a player you’ve been wanting to cut.
Rudy Gay never got it going last night and hit just 4-of-18 shots, but at least finished with 13 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, three steals and a 3-pointer. Beverley was guarding him at times during this game, which could partially help to explain Collison’s big line, and Gay’s poor shooting night. Reggie Evans was a total bust with just five points and four rebounds in 18 minutes, and also missed five of his six free throws. Jason Thompson was partially to blame with one of his best games of the season and had 13 points and a season-high 15 rebounds in 35 minutes, while Derrick Williams added 17 points, five rebounds and two 3-pointers in 34 minutes off the bench. Thompson has been quietly playing very well in the absence of Cousins, averaging 11.0 points and 10.2 rebounds over his last five games. He’s the guy you should probably be looking to pick up until Cousins is back. Williams has actually played much better since DeMarcus Cousins went down, scoring between 14 and 18 points in three of his last five games. But the problem is that he scored just six and seven points in each of his previous two games, while he’s also helped by the absence of Omri Casspi, who is out with a knee injury. If I’m taking a flier on a wildcard player right now, I’d rather go with the Pacers’ C.J. Miles, who should be guaranteed minutes and might be able to stay hot after he blew up for 30 points and seven 3-pointers on Wednesday. The Kings turned the ball over a whopping 21 times that resulted in 13 steals for the Rockets, which turned out to be the difference in the game. Especially when you consider the fact the Rockets were outshot 46 to 40 percent, but still won the game.
Kobe Bryant Calls Teammates Soft
Kobe Bryant made some noise on Thursday after being filmed ripping his teammates during practice. It was nice of him to actually participate in a practice, and there are several theories floating around about why he did it. 1. He can’t stand his teammates, (1A) especially Nick Young. 2. He’s trying to get them fired up so the Lakers can go on a run and make a push for the playoffs. 3. He’s alienating everyone on the team in order to lay the foundation for him to demand a trade out of L.A. (shout out to my friend @Bmac for that one). No. 1 is completely plausible, No. 2 seems pretty ludicrous, given the talent level he’s dealing with, and No. 3 seems like the most logical answer to his actions yesterday. Kobe, like Carmelo Anthony, appears to be a ticking time bomb, as I just can’t see him sticking this out all year if the 6-16 Lakers don’t improve in a hurry. A mystery back injury could be coming for Kobe at some point later in the season.
Carmelo’s Knee, News & Notes
Carmelo Anthony’s knee injury is very worrisome, but he’s still listed as questionable for Friday’s game against the Celtics. He could be more ‘out indefinitely’ than ‘day-to-day,’ but we should know more by tonight.
Dwight Howard (knee) – Could return as soon as Saturday. As an owner, I’m hoping it happens.
Tony Parker (hamstring) – He’s probable for Friday after missing a game with a hamstring injury.
Kawhi Leonard (hand) – It sounds like he’s going to play on Friday against the Lakers, but then again, Gregg Popovich might give him that one off, since the Spurs will basically be playing against a D-League team and Kobe.
Joakim Noah (ankle) & Pau Gasol (shoulder) – He’s already been ruled out for Friday, which means more goodies for Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson. Gasol missed Thursday’s practice, but is expected to play on Friday.
Nikola Vucevic (back) – Practiced on Thursday, leaving him a game-time call for Friday.
Wes Johnson (ill) – Iffy for Friday.
Jamal Crawford (elbow) – Expected to play on Friday.
Joe Johnson (ill) – Says he’s going to play on Friday after missing a couple games.
Tony Wroten (knee) – Practiced Thursday, could play tonight vs. Nets.