Magic 122, Wizards 101 – Jonathan Isaac suffered one of the night’s two big injuries when he went down after just two minutes with a hyperextended left knee and left the court on a stretcher. However, he said after the game that he was walking and bending his knee after the game and is hopeful that his MRI will come back clean on Thursday. That’s amazing news, although it doesn’t mean we are fully in the clear just yet. Owners will want to hold tight until we get the results on Thursday, but for now I’m feeling optimistic about Isaac’s prognosis. In fact, it’s even possible he might not miss a game. The Magic are off until Friday when they play the Heat. Nikola Vucevic had 20 points, 12 boards and three 3-pointers, Markelle Fultz came through with 16 points, four boards, eight assists, two steals and a 3-pointer, and Evan Fournier had 18 points, two steals, a block and two 3-pointers in the win. Wesley Iwundu started again for Aaron Gordon (achilles) and had 10 points, six boards and a steal, and while he was a popular DFS play at first, he hasn’t really come through in Gordon’s absence. Gordon could miss several more games but Iwundu just isn’t doing enough to warrant attention in any but the deepest of leagues. D.J. Augustin went crazy off the bench with a season-high 25 points, three rebounds, nine assists, two steals and two 3-pointers in 31 minutes and is hot again after struggling in his two games right before and just after Christmas. DJA is worth a look in most leagues and tends to be a valuable DFS play, as well. And if Isaac misses time, despite the fact they play different positions, it might help DJA get a few more touches. Terrence Ross scored 15 with three 3-pointers and is the only other bench player worth looking at on most nights. If Isaac is out on Friday Ross is going to be a very popular fantasy play, while Amile Jefferson, who had two points, six boards and a block in 13 minutes on Wednesday, might become relevant. Lastly, while Khem Birch and Mo Bamba haven’t been getting it done, they’re getting minutes right now and are at least worth keeping an eye on.
The Wizards are in full tank mode and I’m a little concerned about Bradley Beal’s second half as a result (I know, I sound like a broken record). However, Beal returned from his leg injury and had 27 points, five dimes, four boards and two 3-pointers in his 30 minutes. I think I’m going to let him blow up for one more big game and then try to move him, as I can’t see why the Wizards will ride him very hard while starting scrubs and trying to lose games. But I’m glad he played last night. Starters Jonathan Williams and Ian Mahinmi each scored two points, Gary Payton II played just 10 minutes and scored four, and Isaiah Thomas hit just 3-of-10 shots for nine points and one assist in just 19 minutes. I have no idea what the Wizards are doing and it’s going to be very hard to trust any of them going forward. I guess the fact they lost the first and second quarter by a score of 31-29 meant the score was too close for comfort, so they played the bench big minutes in hopes of falling behind to a team missing two of its best players (Isaac and Gordon). Ish Smith had 10 points, five boards, three assists, a steal and a 3-pointer in 28 minutes, Jordan McRae hit 4-of-12 shots and two 3-pointers for 15 points, seven boards and a steal, Troy Brown Jr., who is inexplicably coming off the bench, had 14 points, seven boards, a steal and a 3-pointer, and Garrison Mathews, who blew up for 28 points on Monday, had 10 points in 17 minutes on Wednesday. Anzejs Pasecniks scored just four points but also had 10 rebounds in 24 minutes. At this point Beal is the only sure thing in Washington, if he’s playing, while McRae, Mahinmi, Payton, Brown, Thomas, Smith, Mathews and Pasecniks are all possible DFS fliers, but catching them on the right night is akin to playing the lottery.
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Knicks 117, Blazers 93 – The Knicks kicked off the new year with their 10th win and third straight after spanking the Blazers 34-16 in the fourth quarter. Julius Randle had 22 points, 13 boards, a steal, a block and three 3-pointers and Marcus Morris had 18 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two 3-pointers on 7-of-19 shooting. The other Knicks starters (Taj Gibson, Elfrid Payton and RJ Barrett) combined to hit just 6-of-22 shots for 13 total points. But one of the news items of the night involves my guy Mitchell Robinson. He tied the franchise record for makes without a miss by hitting 11-of-11 shots for 22 points, eight rebounds, a steal and a block in 27 minutes. The 22 points tied his season high and while it’s not a fantasy stat, he committed just one foul in this one. I recently predicted a big second half for Robinson in a podcast and I truly hope this is the game that finally gets him going. I still think he should be owned everywhere. Bobby Portis also played well off the bench with 17 points, six boards and three 3-pointers in 21 minutes and Frank Ntilikina came through with nine points, a season-high 10 assists, a steal, two blocks and a 3-pointer on 3-of-5 shooting. He also played solid defense against Damian Lillard, but Ntilikina usually follows up good games with duds. So, while I’m intrigued, I’m not racing out to grab Ntilikina just yet. I also don’t trust Elfrid Payton, at all. Portis has scored 17 points in back-to-back games after really struggling for most of December, so he’s at least worth putting on your radar in case he keeps it going.
The Knicks ruined Carmelo Anthony’s return to New York, but Melo still came through with a season-high 26 points, seven rebounds and three 3-pointers on 11-of-17 shooting to lead the losers. Damian Lillard, who had scored at least 30 in three straight games, looked sluggish from the start and hit just 5-of-20 shots and 1-of-8 3-pointers for 11 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and a steal without even attempting a free throw for the first time this year. This was also the first time he hasn’t made at least one free throw this season. He still salvaged his fantasy line, but it wasn’t pretty. Maybe the New York nightlife got the best of him on New Year’s Eve. C.J. McCollum scored 17 with three 3-pointers, Hassan Whiteside was nice with 17 points, 12 boards, two steals and three blocks, and Kent Bazemore was quiet with nine points and four boards in his 29 minutes. The Blazers bench was terrible and I’m still not sure how the Blazers, who have now lost five straight games, are this bad. Although I’m also not surprised that I’m writing that about a team that starts Melo.
Bucks 106, Timberwolves 104 – Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points, 17 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and three 3-pointers, but hit just 3-of-8 free throws after a perfect night at the line on Monday and Khris Middleton hit just 5-of-18 shots and two 3-pointers for 13 points, eight boards, four assists and two steals in the win. Eric Bledsoe had 10 points, six rebounds, two assists and two blocks on 4-of-10 shooting in 20 minutes as he works his way back from his leg injury, and Donte DiVincenzo scored six points to go along with eight rebounds, two assists and a steal. His scoring hasn’t been great, but he’s generally coming through in other areas. Ersan Ilyasova’s run appears to be over after he hit just 1-of-6 shots in 17 minutes and George Hill scored just five points and isn’t probably worth messing with now that Bledsoe is back.
The Wolves played without Karl-Anthony Towns (knee), who still doesn’t even have a timetable for his return after missing eight straight games, Andrew Wiggins (flu) and Jeff Teague (knee), but almost pulled off a win against the best team in the league. Shabazz Napier started again and had 22 points, six rebounds, three assists, a block and four 3-pointers on 7-of-13 shooting. He’s quietly been starting for six games now and was doing so even when Teague was healthy. Napier is hot, having dropped a season-high 24 points and eight dimes on the Nets on Monday and is suddenly worth a look in all leagues after averaging 23 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.5 blocks and 3.5 3-pointers over his last two games. The Wolves only play three games next week, but Napier might be worth a look, even if Teague is back in action. Gorgui Dieng hit just 4-of-13 shots but had 15 points, six boards, a block and two 3-pointers, and is basically a must-start player in all formats as long as KAT remains out. Jarrett Culver had 10 points, eight boards, five assists, a steal and a block, but missed all five of his 3-pointers, hitting 5-of-14 shots on the night. He had 21 points and a fun stat line on Monday, meaning he’s also worth a look across the board right now. Robert Covington somehow attempted just four shots but still had seven points, 11 rebounds, three assists, three steals, a block and a 3-pointer, and Kelan Martin was quiet with three points on 1-of-7 shooting. The bench saw Keita Bates-Diop, Naz Reid, Jaylen Nowell and Josh Okogie all hit double figures. Reid is intriguing, averaging 12 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 2.5 3-pointers over his last two games. He’s a big man so he’ll take a hit once KAT is back but might make sense as a cheap DFS flier right now.
Lakers 114, Suns 105 – The Lakers destroyed the Suns for two and a half quarters before the Suns raced back and made it a game by winning the third quarter 38-27 and the fourth quarter 28-16 before running out of gas. LeBron James went nuts with a 31-12-13 triple-double and Anthony Davis came through with 26 points and 11 boards in the win. Avery Bradley somehow made 9-of-11 shots for a season-high 18 points after scoring eight or fewer points in his previous five games, which included a scoreless night on Dec. 19. This was a fluke so don’t take the bait. Kyle Kuzma added 19 points, four rebounds, a steal and three 3-pointers, but that was about the extent of fantasy content from the Lakers, as usual. Alex Caruso went down with a calf injury and didn’t return, but he’s basically a garbage-time specialist anyway.
Devin Booker hit 11-of-23 shots and a 3-pointer for 32 points and Kelly Oubre had 26 points, six boards, three assists, three steals and three 3-pointers on 9-of-14 shooting. The other three Suns’ starters (Dario Saric, Aron Baynes and Ricky Rubio) combined for just 14 points, and in one of the fantasy news stories of the night, Rubio went down late with a hip injury. He was in a ton of pain and had trouble walking off the court, so he could be looking at some missed games. Tyler Johnson had six points, four boards and two assists in 15 minutes and could be looking at a much bigger workload if Rubio is going to miss time. Johnson’s not a must-own player though, even if Rubio misses time. I don’t know what’s going on with Saric, as he’s hit just 3-of-15 shots in his last three games and has scored a grand total of six points in them. He’s also played just 14 and 17 minutes in his last two games and is wrecking fantasy rosters right now. I still think he’ll get it turned around sooner than later, but he looks awful right now. I picked him up off waivers in a league recently and am having some buyer’s remorse, but he simply has to be better than he has. Deandre Ayton came off the bench again and had 16 points, 14 rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block on 7-of-13 shooting. Hopefully the Suns will move him into the starting lineup now that it looks like his sprained ankle (and suspension) are fully behind him.