There were plenty of storylines on Sunday with seven games on the schedule, but Kyrie Irving’s return from his knee fracture stole all of the headlines. We also saw some dominant performances from guys like Hassan Whiteside, Will Barton and Anthony Davis, but unfortunately Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum both went down with injuries and Giannis Antetokounmpo was a late scratch due to knee tendinitis. Let’s get right to the action!
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Wolves 100, Nets 85
Ricky Rubio paced the Wolves with 15 assists and four steals, but as usual he shot just 1-of-6 from the field to finish with eight points and a couple of turnovers. Rubio had a couple of sick no-look passes, but his upside will always be capped because he can’t hit a jump shot to save his life. Gorgui Dieng scored a season-high 20 points with 10 boards, three assists, one steal and one block in 36 minutes, and he could be a top-50 guy in standard leagues if his minutes continue to trend up. Dieng logged close to 17 minutes beside Karl-Anthony Towns and has averaged 30.6 minutes in his last five games, and there’s no reason to be concerned by Nikola Pekovic’s (body) eventual return. Speaking of Towns, he finished with 24 points, 10 boards and two blocks, and he’s starting to separate from Kristaps Porzingis in the Rookie of the Year Award race once again. Andrew Wiggins chipped in with 16 points and Kevin Martin boosted his trade value with 16 points and three treys in just 17 minutes off the bench.
The Nets fell to 7-20 on the season with the loss, and Brook Lopez was really the only player who stepped up with 20 points, 12 boards, five assists, one steal and two blocks. The Nets may decide to blow things up at the trade deadline, but Lopez’ value should be safe unless he goes down with an injury. Jarrett Jack was pretty pathetic with four points on 2-of-9 shooting with six assists, but to be fair he’s been playing really well lately and deserves a pass here. Joe Johnson is still doing more harm than good to his fantasy owners, scoring six points on 2-of-10 shooting in 31 minutes. Thaddeus Young scored 12 points with eight boards, while Bojan Bogdanovic scored 13 points with three treys, two assists and two steals.
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Heat 116, Blazers 109
The Heat were trailing at the half, but Chris Bosh scored 11 straight points in the third quarter to lift his team past the Blazers. Bosh finished with 29 points, six boards, four assists and three 3-pointers, and he continues to flirt with top-25 value. Goran Dragic (eight points, eight assists) was ejected for two technical fouls, but Gerald Green stepped up off the bench for 17 points and four treys. Green is averaging 17.2 points and 2.8 treys over his last five and is worth a look until Tyler Johnson (shoulder) returns. Luol Deng added five 3-pointers and Hassan Whiteside finally played down the stretch with 22 points, 11 boards and five blocks in 38 minutes. Enjoy that max contract this summer, Whiteside.
Damian Lillard (plantar fasciitis) and C.J. McCollum (ankle) both picked up injuries in the loss, and unfortunately the Blazers are back in action on Monday vs. the Hawks. Lillard has never missed a game in his career and he said that he expects to play, but the only treatment for plantar fasciitis is rest which is a little concerning. McCollum rolled his ankle in the fourth quarter, but he played through the issue even though he was clearly hobbled. Lillard dropped 32 points with nine assists and three treys, while McCollum scored 20 points with six assists and four treys. I still expect both players to play, but be on the lookout for an update on Monday afternoon.
Cavaliers 108, 76ers 86
After going down with a knee fracture in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Kyrie Irving made his long-awaited return against the 76ers. He did get off to a slow start, but he would eventually find his stride and finished with 12 points, four assists, two steals and two treys in 17 minutes. I won’t overreact to his solid performance because the Cavs made the 76ers look like a high school JV team, but Irving was moving well and his playing time will ramp up once he gets his legs under him. LeBron James scored a cool 23 points in 25 minutes, but his owners should just be thrilled that he didn’t sit this one out. Kevin Love added 10 points and four boards, while Matthew Dellavedova exploded for 20 points off the bench. Delly’s performance was great, but his value will only go down when Irving’s workload increases and keep in mind that Mo Williams (thumb) also sat this one out.
Robert Covington took a hard fall in the loss and finished with just five points in 21 minutes, but he’s clearly in a slump right now and was coming off a three-point performance vs. the Knicks on Friday. Nerlens Noel was the lone bright spot with 15 points, 12 boards, one block and one steal, while Jahlil Okafor scored just nine points on 3-of-11 shooting with eight boards. If you’re counting on any player in Philly right now, you have a long season ahead of you. For what it’s worth, Noel is the only guy that I’m intrigued with.
Bucks 101, Suns 95
Giannis Antetokounmpo sat out of this one due to left knee tendinitis, but the good news is that the Bucks are off until Wednesday’s game vs. the 76ers. O.J. Mayo started and scored 12 points with five boards, five assists and one trey in 41 minutes, but I wouldn’t add him unless the Greek Freek needs to miss more time. Michael Carter-Williams’ strong play continued with 20 points, nine boards, six assists, one steal and one block, and he belongs in all lineups while he’s this hot. Khris Middleton was impressive with 26 points, seven assists, two steals and two treys, while Greg Monroe scored 13 points with four assists and two boards. The big news is that coach Jason Kidd will be sidelined indefinitely because he will undergo hip surgery, so hopefully assistant coach Joe Prunty will bring some consistency to the rotation. Take your time, Kidd.
Eric Bledsoe led the Suns with 18 points, one assist, one board, three steals and one trey, but Brandon Knight struggled against his former team with nine points on 3-of-10 shooting with four assists. However, I’m confident that he will break out of his four-game slump soon. Alex Len scored just two points with seven boards and one block in 19 minutes, but I’m still sticking with him even though Tyson Chandler (four points, five boards) is starting again. Markieff Morris was in the rotation for the second straight game with eight points in 15 minutes, but I’m guessing that the Suns are just showcasing him for a trade.
Hawks 103, Magic 100
Kyle Korver scored 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Hawks past the Magic, adding five assists, two boards, one steal and six 3-pointers. Paul Millsap double-doubled with 13 points, 13 boards, three assists, two steals and two blocks, and he’s been the eighth best player in fantasy on a per-game basis. Al Horford scored 14 points with six boards, five assists, one steal and one block, while Jeff Teague played through his ankle issue and finished with 14 points, two boards and one assist. Teague should be a lot better vs. the Blazers on Monday.
Elfrid Payton also played through a tweaked ankle on Sunday and he outplayed Teague with 14 points, six assists and five steals in 31 minutes. His ankle is absolutely fine. Nikola Vucevic had another massive game with 20 points, 11 boards and four assists, but Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris both fell flat on their faces with four points each. Unfortunately, that’s the risk you take when you own a player coached by Scott Skiles. The funny thing is that Skiles said on Saturday that Oladipo is playing at an All-Defensive First Team level, yet he’s only averaging 25.4 minutes per game over his last five. Skiles clearly still owns Channing Frye in his fantasy league, as the washed-up forward produced 13 points, two treys and three steals in 27 minutes.
Kings 104, Raptors 94
The Kings improved to 11-16 on the season with the win, and they were once again led by Rajon Rondo who finished with 19 points and 13 assists. Rondo is flirting with top-30 value and is shattering his ADP. DeMarcus Cousins hit just 5-of-13 shots on his way to 15 points, nine boards and five assists, but he piled on the defensive stats with two steals and four blocks and he even hit his only 3-point attempt for good measure. If Boogie can stay healthy, he should be a top-10 fantasy asset in no time. Rudy Gay chipped in with 19 points, nine boards and three steals, while Omri Casspi double-doubled with 15 points, 11 boards, three assists, one board and three treys in 34 minutes. Casspi needs to be owned in all standard leagues until further notice.
Kyle Lowry was ejected for two technical fouls, finishing with 13 points, five boards, four assists, one steal and one 3-pointer. If anything, Lowry will have a little extra motivation for Tuesday’s game vs. Dallas. DeMar DeRozan stepped up in Lowry’s absence with 28 points, seven boards, one assist and two steals, but he’s still not a top-50 asset due to his lack of a 3-point shot. DeMarre Carroll (knee) and Jonas Valanciunas (hand) are set to meet with doctors this week, so reinforcements are on their way for the Raptors. On the other hand, Bismack Biyombo’s (two points, 13 boards, one block) and James Johnson’s (14 points, six boards, two steals, one block) window for fantasy value is closing.
Pelicans 130, Nuggets 125
Anthony Davis needed four IVs on Sunday night as he battled flu symptoms for the entire game, so that makes his line of 27 points, six rebounds and four blocks in just 19 minutes even more impressive. Unfortunately for Davis, the Pelicans are just 8-19 on the season, so here’s to hoping that they don’t decide to tank during the second half of the season. Tyreke Evans pulled his weight with 21 points, 10 assists and eight boards, and he should be the second best player to own in New Orleans the rest of the way. Eric Gordon was also solid with 20 points and four treys, while Jrue Holiday dropped 21 points with five assists, two steals and two treys in 25 minutes. Once Holiday’s minutes approach the 30-minute mark, he could be a major force in fantasy leagues. Ryan Anderson added 16 points off the bench, but the trade rumors won’t be going away any time soon.
Will Barton scored a career-high 32 points in the loss, adding 10 boards, six assists and a ridiculous seven 3-pointers in 36 minutes. He’s easily the favorite to win the Sixth Man of the Year Award and has been a top-45 fantasy player in the process. Barton had a 30.3 usage rate and has benefitted from Emmanuel Mudiay’s ankle injury, so there’s no reason to sell high. Kenneth Faried had one of his best games of the season with 21 points and 13 boards, but he still only saw 24 minutes because the Nuggets are loaded with frontcourt depth and tend to play a lot of small ball. Danilo Gallinari added 18 points with three assists, while promising rookie Nikola Jokic scored 13 points with three boards, two assists and one block. If the Nuggets keep losing, Jokic will continue to see a boost in playing time.