There were just two games on the schedule for Thursday night, but there was certainly no shortage of intriguing stories. The Bulls came from way behind to obliterate the Heat, Stephen Curry put up 45 points just for fun and Arron Afflalo was forced out of action due to a scary arm injury. I’ll break it all down and let you know what you can expect from each of these teams moving forward.
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Chicago 89, Miami 78- Despite trailing by 19 points at halftime, the Bulls came roaring back after the break to clinch an emphatic win over the Heat on Thursday. The Bulls were able to hold the Heat to just eight points in the third quarter, and the most impressive thing about this was that they did it without the help of defensive stalwart Jimmy Butler, who missed the game due to a calf injury. Pau Gasol led the way with 16 points, 15 boards, one assist and a block, but his owners have gotten used to lines like these considering he is leading the league in double-doubles (51).
Joakim Noah was disappointing with just three points on 1-of-6 shooting, but he did add six boards, four assists and a steal to his name. Nikola Mirotic scored nine points with three boards, three steals and two 3-pointers, but he played just 17 minutes and it’s becoming obvious that his role is going to be sporadic while the Bulls are at full strength. However, with averages of 11.0 points, 6.0 boards and 1.5 3-pointers in 23.5 minutes per game over his last five, Mirotic is still worth owning in most leagues. Tony Snell drew the start in place of Butler and finished with seven points, five boards and one 3-pointer, while Mike Dunleavy chipped in 12 points with five boards, two assists, four steals and a 3-pointer. If Butler misses any more time, Dunleavy and Snell both benefit.
I was honestly surprised that the Bulls let Derrick Rose play in the second game of a back-to-back set, but he is going to need all the reps he can get with playoffs looming. Rose scored 12 points with four boards and two assists in 20 minutes, and while it was great to see him be a little more aggressive, he shot just 5-of-15 from the field and turned it over three times. The Bulls are going to need Rose to be at his best if they want to make some noise in the postseason, so it’s going to be interesting to see how his knee responds to the increased workload.
There haven’t been any reports out of Chicago on this matter yet, but I definitely think it’s possible that the Bulls opt to rest up some guys against the lowly 76ers on Saturday. Any owner of Rose, Gasol, Butler and Noah should keep a close eye on the injury report moving forward.
As for Miami, Thursday’s loss has significantly decreased their chances of making the playoffs, as they are currently sitting at the No. 10 spot in the Eastern Conference with three games to go. This means that the Heat will pretty much have to win out, but they are also going to need a lot of help to revive their postseason aspirations. Hassan Whiteside did his part with 19 points, 16 boards and a block, but the rest of his teammates lacked passion and didn’t look very interested after the first half.
Dwayne Wade scored nine points with three boards, three assists and a rare 3-pointer, but he pretty much shot the Heat out of the game by going 4-of-20 from the field while turning the ball over five times. I believe that Wade will be shut down as soon as the Heat are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, so his owners should be aware of that. Luol Deng scored eight points on 3-of-13 shooting with eight boards, four assists, two steals and a block, and he is another player who could potentially be shut down due to his ailing knee.
Michael Beasley (knee) returned to action and scored 13 points with two boards, one assist, one block, and three 3-pointers, but he has been very unreliable for the most part this season and this was the first time he scored in double digits since Mar. 22. Goran Dragic was quiet with 15 points, two boards, one assist and a trey, but he is coming off a 28-point performance against the Hornets on Tuesday so his owners should cut him some slack. Keep in mind that his back has been giving him some trouble for quite some time as well.
Golden State 116, Portland 105- Stephen Curry made another case as to why he should win the MVP Award with another stunning performance on Thursday against the Blazers. Curry finished with a line of 45 points, nine assists, two boards and eight 3-pointers in 35 minutes, all while shattering his own NBA record for most 3-pointers made in a season (which now stands at 276). He constantly danced around the Blazers’ defense and was oozing confidence throughout the game, and it’s going to be fun to see how far he can take the Warriors in the playoffs.
Klay Thompson wasn’t too bad on Thursday either, notching 26 points on 10-of-21 shooting with four boards, two assists, one block, one steal and three 3-pointers. The Splash Brothers are simply unstoppable when they both have it going, and the Pelicans and/or Thunder are probably having nightmares about potentially matching up with them in the first round. Draymond Green logged his second consecutive double-double on Thursday, scoring 11 points with 14 boards, three assists, two blocks, one steal and one 3-pointer. He recently said that he should win the Defensive Player of the Year Award this season, and I would absolutely agree with statement.
Harrison Barnes was solid with 12 points, seven boards, four assists and one steal, and it’s great to see his confidence levels continue to rise in his third year in the NBA. The Warriors took a risk by playing Andrew Bogut 32 minutes in a meaningless game, and he finished with 10 points, seven boards and four assists. The last three games of the regular season are at home for the Warriors, but there is still a good chance that head coach Steve Kerr holds his stars out for a game or two down the stretch. Just as the case with many other teams at this point in the season, keep a close eye on the injury report.
Curry’s scoring outburst wasn’t the only major story of the night, as Portland’s shooting guard Arron Afflalo was forced to leave the game due a triceps injury. He will undergo an MRI on Friday morning, but it certainly didn’t look good and his owners should be prepared to move on.
If Afflalo ends up missing time, C.J. McCollum would step up into a larger role for Portland and would be a must-start option the rest of the way. McCollum scored 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting with two boards, one assist, two steals, one block and a 3-pointer in 31 minutes, but he has been playing well for quite some time. Over his last five games McCollum is boasting averages of 16.4 points, 3.6 boards, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.2 3-pointers in 28.6 minutes, and his role should continue to grow.
LaMarcus Aldridge went to work with 27 points, six boards, four assists, one steal, two blocks and two treys, while Damian Lillard scored 20 points with eight assists, six boards and a 3-pointer. Nicolas Batum flirted with a triple-double with totals of seven points, 10 boards, eight assists, one steal, one block and a 3-pointer, and the fact that he played 41 minutes likely means that his wrist and back have both improved. There is no denying that Batum has had a shaky season, but he has looked like a new man ever since the All-Star break and hopefully he rewards his owners down the final stretch.
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