Despite it being a very busy nine-game night, things were kind of quiet on the injury front and most of the guys who went off are already owned in most leagues. But then there’s Jaxson Hayes, Miles Bridges, Terence Davis and Patrick McCaw.
Wednesday Night Headlines
Harden vs. Trae lives up to the hype, sort of – A friend and I were joking on Wednesday morning about the James Harden vs. Trae Young matchup on the horizon and he ended it with “I bet you Trae goes for 60… shots!” Of course, I thought it hilarious and it wasn’t that big of a stretch. When the Rockets went up 45-29 in the first quarter and James Harden had already scored 22 points, we assumed the game was over. But the Hawks caught fire late in the second quarter and played well for the entire second half, turning it into one of the most entertaining games of the night. The Rockets won 122-115 in the end behind a 41-10-10 triple-double from Harden, but it was rife with inefficiency. The Beard hit just 9-of-34 shots, 4-of-20 3-pointers and committed eight turnovers, which is basically ridiculous. Yes, the Rockets won, but it wasn’t because of Harden. Clint Capela dominated (as all centers do against Atlanta) with 22 points, 22 rebounds, two steals and two blocks on 9-of-14 shooting, and Ben McLemore came through with 18 points and six triples on 6-of-9 shooting.
Our guy Trae Young did his best for the Hawks and also had a triple-double with 42 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists, four 3-pointers and just three turnovers in the loss. He hit just 11-of-30 shots, but compared to Harden’s shooting night, Trae looked like a shooting maestro. He didn’t get a ton of help, but John Collins had 17 points, 14 rebounds, a steal, four blocks and a 3-pointer and Alex Len had 14 points, 10 rebounds and a block in 23 minutes off the bench with Bruno Fernando out for personal reasons.
Luka (one rebound), Dallas (one point) come up just short – It’s not often I record regular-season NBA games, but I put the Harden vs. Trae matchup on my DVR, along with Luka Doncic vs. Nikola Jokic game. The Nuggets won 107-106 and the Mavericks struggled once again to seal the deal in a game they had a chance to win in the fourth quarter. Luka’s going to start catching some heat for the Mavericks’ lack of killer instinct with the game on the line, but he made a nice pass to Dorian Finney-Smith on the game’s final possession, who then threw it to no one (it was intended for Tim Hardaway Jr.) at the top of the key and the game was over without the Mavs getting up a shot. Luka just missed his 12th triple-double of the season with 27 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, but his fourth quarter was troubling. He didn’t score a single fourth-quarter point and was 0-for-3 down the stretch. I’m Luka’s biggest fan and have watched every Mavericks game this season. These late-game stumbles are being logged as learning opportunities and I predict that he’s going to become a fourth-quarter killer in the very near future, although he’s clearly not one right now. Kristaps Porzingis sat out again with his sore knee, but Rick Carlisle won’t give us any idea on his return date. “He’s doing better every day… His activity’s increasing every day.” That’s great, Rick, but an actual idea of when he might play would just be a real nice surprise. Maybe KP will be back for Friday’s home game against the Lakers. Or maybe he won’t be. If KP’s out again Maxi Kleber’s a decent DFS option and had 13 points, seven rebounds, a steal, a block and a 3-pointer in 23 minutes off the bench.
The Nuggets got another big line from Nikola Jokic, who hit 13-of-20 shots and four 3-pointers for 33 points, six rebounds, seven assists, a steal and a block against Dwight Powell and company. Jokic got off to a slow start this season but is ballin’ out right now. If I own Jokic I’m just holding on and enjoying the ride. And if you bought low on him earlier in the season, you’re doing the same. Paul Millsap (knee) and Will Barton (personal) were both out and the Nuggets started Jerami Grant for Millsap and Torrey Craig for Barton. Grant was solid with 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, a steal, three blocks and a 3-pointer, and is a guy that could be primed for a big second half if the 34-year-old Millsap can’t stay healthy. As for starting Craig over Michael Porter Jr., I’m not very happy about it. I though Porter was going to get big minutes and put up big numbers last night, but he came off the bench, played just 14 minutes and scored just two points. I don’t get it.
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Jaxson Hayes goes off – After being quiet and doing nothing for the last several weeks, Jaxson Hayes played 24 minutes off the Pelicans’ bench and hit 7-of-10 shots for 14 points and a career-high 12 rebounds to go along with four blocks in a 123-108 win over the Bulls. Yes, Wendell Carter Jr. was out for the Bulls, but this was the Hayes game we’ve been waiting for. I had given up on him since the Pelicans weren’t playing him, but my hopes for a second-half breakout have been refueled after this. I’m not racing to pick him up, but Hayes should be back on your stash list. Especially with if Derrick Favors ever starts to slow down for the 13-win Pelicans. Josh Hart bounced back with a decent line, offering some hope that he can get it going, while Brandon Ingram went crazy with 29 points, eight boards, 11 assists, two blocks and four 3-pointers. The 11 dimes tied a career high and everyone on the Pelicans looked a little better with Jrue Holiday on the sidelines with a swollen elbow, and Holiday isn’t sure of when he’ll be able to return to action. Lonzo Ball finally cooled off after a ridiculous hot streak, while J.J. Redick kept it going with 24 points and six 3-pointers in the win.
Daniel Gafford lays an egg – I was excited about Gafford’s potential for the next month with Wendell Carter Jr.’s severely sprained ankle, so he came off the bench and missed both his shots, failing to score in 16 minutes. The other potential beneficiary from WCJ’s injury was Thaddeus Young, who started and racked up 18 points, six rebounds, two assists, three steals and three 3-pointers in 35 minutes. There’s still plenty of time for Gafford to emerge and get it going, but if you can still get Young, he looks like the safer guy to own. We still don’t know how much time WCJ is going to miss, but I’m sticking with ‘about a month.’ Kris Dunn had 15 points, four boards, seven assists and five steals, and now leads the league with 79 steals. He’s been nothing more than a steals specialist up to this point, but last night’s line was really promising, and the Bulls play four games in each of the next three weeks. Young and Dunn are worth picking up across the board, while I’m not ready to give up on Gafford just yet.
Patrick McCaw & Terence Davis enjoy life without Fred VanVleet & Norman Powell – McCaw started and hit 6-of-10 shots and a 3-pointer for 13 points, five rebounds, a career-high 11 assists and a steal, and Davis started and went off for a career-high 23 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, a steal and four 3-pointers. Wow. Fred VanVleet is likely to miss more games with his hamstring injury and Norman Powell is day-to-day with a shoulder injury that kept him out last night. I’m all for rolling with both McCaw and Davis until the wheels fall off. Davis was probably available in about every league going into the night and is still showing as just 2% owned in Yahoo! Leagues. Of course, he played just eight scoreless minutes in his previous game and Powell should be back soon, but he’s still worth a deep-league flier until he proves that Wednesday night was just a fluke.
Miles Bridges goes off for Hornets – Miles Bridges lit up the Raptors for 26 points, nine rebounds, a steal, a block and six 3-pointers on 10-of-15 shooting. I got some questions about dropping him in my live chat on Wednesday afternoon so you should go make sure he’s not sitting out on waivers in your league. He’s had a decent season and last night’s line wasn’t all that surprising, especially with Marvin Williams out with a broken nose. P.J. Washington had a fun 12 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and two blocks, Terry Rozier kept it going with 27 points, three steals and five 3-pointers, and Devonte’ Graham struggled for 11 points on 3-of-15 shooting. Graham has cooled off, but the minutes are still there, and he’ll get hot again soon.
Damion Lee poised for big second half – Lee had 15 points, four boards, four assists and four 3-pointers in 32 minutes last night. They waived Marquese Chriss, who had actually become part of the Golden State family, so Lee should get every opportunity from now until the draft lottery. Unknown Alen Smailagic had a career-high 10 points with a 3-pointer and four rebounds, and I’m pretty sure that I could go play for the Warriors and have a decent night at least once this season. Willie Cauley-Stein had his second double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 boards and is probably worth a look, and Alec Burks kept it going with 19 points, five boards, seven assists and three 3-pointers in 26 minutes off the bench. Pick a Warrior, any Warrior, as the tanking continues.
Bobby Portis plays after wrecking KCP – Bobby Portis avoided a suspension after trying to take Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s head off on Tuesday night and treated us to 13 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and two 3-pointers, despite hitting just 5-of-17 shots. Julius Randle was out for personal reasons which clearly helped Portis and gave him the start. If Randle’s out again on Friday, Portis should be a hot DFS play, but I’m not racing to pick him up in standard leagues just yet. He had scored a total of 10 points in his previous two games, but he also got thrown out of one of those early.
Kemba Walker ejected in loss – Walker returned from a three-game illness absence, which was great, but then argued a call and picked up a couple technicals to earn the ejection. He had just six points and four dimes in 18 minutes, and it’s been a rough couple weeks to be a Walker owner. He should be back in full force on Thursday against the Sixers. Jaylen Brown has really cooled off after his incredible last week and hit just 5-of-14 hots for 16 points in a good matchup with the Spurs. I called him a sell-high player after last week’s explosion, and he hasn’t played very well this week.
The Heat are almost too well-rounded – The Heat got solid stat lines from Meyers Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Duncan Robinson, Bam Adebayo, Kendrick Nunn, Derrick Jones Jr., Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro, and it’s becoming very difficult to figure out who to play from night to night, outside of Butler and Bam. But every player I mentioned above has the potential to go off on any given night, which is more confusing than anything.
Pacers’ T.J. Warren comes back to earth – T.J. Warren backed up his 36-point explosion on Monday with three points on 1-of-5 shooting on Wednesday night. He came in hot and had played very well over the last few weeks, so he was due for a letdown. He’ll be fine and I’m not panicking about the return of Victor Oladipo on Jan. 29, either.
Washed up Wizards – Bradley Beal sat out again with his leg injury and is going to be a headache the rest of the way, while none of the Wizards’ five starters scored more than nine points. The box score is gross. Troy Brown Jr. had 18 points, 11 boards, five assists, two steals and a 3-pointer off the bench and is a must-own player, and Admiral Schofield came out of nowhere for a career night with 18 points, six boards and two 3-pointers. Davis Bertans is due back, possibly in their next game, and the only Wizards I currently trust are Brown, Bertans and sometimes Jordan McRae, who had nine points on 4-of-11 shooting in the start.