Luka Doncic, Damian Lillard and Nikola Jokic all put on shows on Thursday night, Kyrie Irving has gone AWOL for a couple games and COVID-19 concerns emerged when Seth Curry tested positive, putting the Sixers and Nets on quarantine watch.
COVID Watch – Seth Curry, who was out with an ankle injury, tested positive just before Thursday’s game and spent the first quarter on the bench before going into isolation. The Sixers will stay in New York and undergo contact tracing on Friday morning. Curry was on the bench for the first quarter and Joel Embiid sat next to him and has said he will self-isolate away from his family until he’s confident he didn’t contract the virus. The Sixers are scheduled to play on Saturday against the Nuggets in Philly. Is Saturday’s game in jeopardy? Maybe, but my guess is they’ll be able to get it in.
In some personally devastating news, at least in terms of fantasyland, Michael Porter Jr. will be quarantined for at least 10 more days and I’m not going to pretend to understand why or how, and I’m sure as heck not going to try to explain it. The bottom line is that he was originally scheduled to play on Thursday, then scratched, and is now not going to play for another 10 days or more. That means he’s going to miss at least the next five games with his first chance to return coming on Tuesday, Jan. 19 against the Thunder - the first game of a three-game slate for Denver that week. MPJ is currently sitting at No. 9 in fantasy rankings on a per-game basis and it’s just a shame that he can’t play right now. Will Barton and JaMychal Green should continue to get plenty of extra opportunities over the Nuggets’ next five games. Several Celtics were also listed as questionable for Friday due to protocols, so you’ll want to take a look at the Rotoworld News Feed regarding that team, as well.
And while It’s not COVID related, Kyrie Irving sat out Thursday’s game citing personal reasons and did not accompany the team to Memphis, meaning he’s not going to play on Friday, either. My guess is he’s upset about what went down in Washington D.C. on Wednesday and he’ll be back on Sunday against the Thunder, but that’s not set in stone. Additionally, it sounds like Kevin Durant will be ready to go against the Thunder (revenge game?) on Sunday, although it’s not set in stone.
Mavericks 124, Nuggets 117 OT – Luka Doncic went off for a season-high 38 points on 13-of-22 shooting with nine rebounds, 13 assists, four steals, a block and two 3-pointers in 43 minutes in Thursday’s big overtime win against the Nuggets. The news isn’t all good though, as Luka struggled from downtown (2-of-7) and the free throw line (10-of-15), and also committed eight turnovers for the second consecutive game. And on top of all that, he was seen limping and holding his left heel's Achilles during the first half. His left ankle may not be fully healthy, his 3-point shot may not be falling much, and he may be out of shape. But he still had an incredible night Thursday and helped his team do something they don’t normally do – win a close game.
The game itself was a blast to watch and Maxi Kleber hit a monster 3-pointers with the clock running down to give the Mavs a two-point lead with 2.7 seconds left and then Nikola Jokic, who had 17 points in the fourth quarter, hit a jumper to send the game to overtime where the Mavs put it away. Kleber and Willie Cauley-Stein both started again, and it looks like Tim Hardaway Jr. and Dwight Powell have lost their starting jobs. WCS had five points, nine boards, a steal and a block and Kleber added nine points, eight boards, two blocks and three 3-pointers, including the big one near the end. Dorian Finney-Smith, the team’s current starting SF, had a nice game with 14 points, eight boards, two assists, three steals, two blocks, four 3-pointers and zero turnovers, Richardson hit 5-of-15 shots and two 3-pointers for 14 points, one rebound, one assist and two steals, and Hardaway hit 3-of-11 shots and three 3-pointers for 11 points, three rebounds, four assists and a block. I don’t love Hardaway coming off the bench, but it’s important to remember he hit 11-of-14 shots and eight 3-pointers for 30 points and seven boards on Monday, coming off the pine. It sounds like we may see Kristaps Porzingis (knee surgery) sometime next week and while we don’t know what the starting lineup will be, I wouldn’t be completely shocked KP starts at PF and they keep WCS at center. We shall see.
Nikola Jokic went off for the Nuggets with a season-high 38 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and four 3-pointers on 14-of-31 shooting and Jamal Murray added 21 points, nine dimes and three triples for the Nuggets. Jokic had 35 and 15 in his previous game which was preceded by a 19-12-12 triple-double. Matt Stroup and I had been hoping for mid-season Jokic to start the season and it actually happened. Will Barton got into early foul trouble but still managed eight points, seven boards, a steal and two 3-pointers in 34 minutes, while JaMychal Green stayed hot off the bench with 10 points, nine boards and two 3-pointers in just 19 minutes. Both guys should continue to roll for the next five games with MPJ sitting in an isolation box, doing his best David Blaine impression. Excuse me while I go bite my pillow and cry on the floor in the corner of my office. And if you actually got the ‘go bite my pillow’ reference let me know on Twitter. P.J. Dozier subbed in early when Barton got into foul trouble and had nine points, three boards, one assist, two steals and a 3-pointer in 26 minutes and if you’re in a deep league he might be worth a look. He’s played at least 20 minutes in four of his last six games.
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Nets 122, Sixers 109 – The Nets had a great showing despite missing Kyrie and KD and were led by Caris LeVert, who had 18 points, five boards and five assists in the first half. That marked the first time he’d ever done that in his career and he finished with 22 points, seven boards, 10 assists, two steals and just one turnover in 32 minutes. He hit just 9-of-25 shots, missed all five of his 3-pointers and hit just 4-of-10 free throws, which are all buzzkills, but he’s going to be the man every time Kyrie or KD sit. Jarrett Allen started for the second straight game and had 15 points, 11 boards, three assists and a block on 5-of-6 shooting after going off for 19 points, 18 boards, three steals and two blocks in his previous game. That’s two big lines in his only two starts of the season and it finally looks like he’s passed DeAndre Jordan on the depth chart. Joe Harris was the big story for the Nets though, knocking down 11-of-19 shots and hitting 6-of-9 3-pointers for a season-high 28 points, six boards, four assists and a steal with zero turnovers. He’s hit a 3-pointer in 69 consecutive games but will obviously take a hit once KD and Kyrie are back. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot filled the stat sheet with nine points, four boards, one assist, three steals and block and two 3-pointers, but he’s another player who will take a huge hit on Sunday. But if you want to roll with him on Saturday, it makes sense, as do all the other players I’ve mentioned here. Again, to be clear, KD and Kyrie are not expected to play on Saturday.
The Sixers looked sluggish in a second game of a back-to-back but most of the regulars were serviceable and Shake Milton came through with a season-high 24 points, seven assists and a 3-pointer on 8-of-13 shooting but didn’t do anything else. And any time Shake leads the Sixers in scoring it’s probably going to result in a loss, like it did last night. Having said that, he’s quietly hit double digits in scoring in five straight games and in all but two games this season. He’s worth grabbing if he’s still on your waiver wire. Tyrese Maxey was the surprise of the night, hitting 7-of-12 shots and two 3-pointers for a career-high 16 points, three boards, two assists, a steal and a block in 21 minutes. Just put him on your radar. The Sixers had won three straight and were 7-1 coming into this one but took an ugly loss to an undermanned team. I’ll blame it on the back-to-back.
Cavaliers 94, Grizzlies 90 – The Cavaliers got a big win over Memphis despite being without their starting backcourt (Darius Garland (shoulder) and Collin Sexton (ankle)). Sexton burned people after it was reported he’d play but was then a late scratch just before game time. My guess is he’ll be out there on Saturday against the Bucks, while Garland might be able to return sometime next week. The Cavs are quietly now 5-4 on the season and got nice contributions from Larry Nance Jr., Cedi Osman, Andre Drummond and JaVale McGee. Osman had 16 points, five boards, seven assists, a steal and four 3-pointers, but hit just 6-of-19 shots. I’m still kind of intrigued by him and have rostered him in a lot of deep leagues. Just be wary of him if you’re already worried about your team’s field goal shooting, as he’s hit just 20-of-77 shots over his last six games, good for just a disastrous 26 percent. Damyean Dotson started for Sexton and hit 3-of-12 shots and a 3-pointer for nine points, six dimes and three steals, but he’s only worth using if he’s starting for an injured teammate, which shouldn’t often be the case. Isaac Okoro’s stat line wasn’t great but he had a huge game-saving block and a dunk to seal the game on back-to-back plays late. He’s not a must-have player right now, but all the tools are there. Just keep an eye on him.
Brandon Clarke and Jonas Valanciunas were the lone bright spots for the Grizzlies and Clarke came through with 14 points and a season-high nine boards on 7-of-11 shooting in his best game of the season but didn’t do anything else. He’ll probably start finally putting it all together and then Jaren Jackson Jr. (knee) will show up to ruin kill his mojo. What a boring box score the Grizzlies put together. Can we just have Ja Morant (ankle) back already? And while we’re at it, can we let Dillon Brooks make a few more shots? He’s shooting just 38 percent on the season.
Spurs 118, Lakers 109 – The Spurs have been a little bit more fun lately as LaMarcus Aldridge came through with 28 points, three 3-pointers, five boards and three assists, while DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray do what they do (19 and 18 points respectively). DeRozan even had two 3-pointers, two steals, a block and just one turnover. Don’t look now, but he’s averaging 1.1 3-pointers, 1.0 steals, 0.8 blocks and a career-high 7.3 assists thus far. This might be your opportunity to try to move Aldridge if you’re worried about his rough start to the season. Dude has played in just five of the Spurs eight games, is shooting a career-low 45.8 percent from the floor and averaging 15.6 points, his lowest since 2006-07. Oh, and he’s freaking 35 years old. Keldon Johnson struggled to the tune of 2-of-10 shooting for five points but filled the stat sheet with everything but a block, while Lonnie Walker got hot and had 14 points, six boards, two assists, a block and two 3-pointers on 6-of-11 shooting. I’d still rather have KJ, but Walker’s been playing pretty well.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis will get a questionable or probable tag all season long and they were both out there in last night’s loss. LeBron had a 27-6-12 line with four triples and AD had 23 points, 10 rebounds, a steal, three blocks and four 3-pointers of his own on 11-of-17 shooting. Kyle Kuzma started for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (ankle) and had 13 points, 10 rebounds and a 3-pointer on 6-of-16 shots. If the Lakers would just make him a starter he’d be a must-have player but it’s probably not going to happen. The rest of the Lakers were pretty bad, as Dennis Schroder hit just 3-of-11 shots for six points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal while Talen Horton-Tucker came through with a decent line of 10 points, four rebounds and three assists. Unfortunately, he can’t get enough minutes to make a real fantasy impact, while Schroder failed to score in double digits for the first time this season.
Blazers 135, Timberwolves 117 – Damian Lillard put on a three-quarter clinic, dropping 39 points, seven boards, seven assists, three steals, seven 3-pointers and just one turnover on 13-of-21 shots before the end of the third quarter. He didn’t play in the fourth with the Blazers commanding a 30-point lead, or his line would have been truly spectacular. C.J. McCollum came through with 20 points and four triples in his three quarters, and Jusuf Nurkic looked a lot more like a Nurk Alert with 17 points and seven boards on 8-of-10 shooting but didn’t block a shot. Nurkic has been one of this season’s disappointments, averaging just 10.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 0.8 blocks, but he’s moving well and looks healthy. Robert Covington failed to get revenge on his former team, hitting 1-of-4 shots and a 3-pointer for three points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal in 23 minutes. Maybe it’s just not going to happen for RoCo this season as he tries to find his way for the Blazers. I still think he’ll get it turned around but if you want to drop him, I wouldn’t be mad about it.
D’Angelo Russell hit 9-of-16 shots and three triples for 26 points, three boards, three assists and a block and rookie Anthony Edwards came off the bench for a career-high 26 points, four rebounds, one assist, two steals and three 3-pointers in 31 minutes. Malik Beasley struggled on 3-of-13 shooting for 12 points, four boards, two assists, a steal and three 3-pointers. He’s got a likely suspension hanging over his head but played 28 minutes and is worth rolling out there until the wheels come off. Juancho Hernangomez made another start and had 12 points, six boards and two 3-pointers and is worth a look after blowing up for 25 points, eight rebounds, two steals, a block and five 3-pointers in his previous game. He could continue to flourish as long as Karl-Anthony Towns (wrist) is out, but then again, the Wolves only play twice next week, making all of them pretty unappealing short-term fantasy plays. Old man Ed Davis started again and failed to score in 14 minutes while Jarred Vanderbilt got just 21 minutes as the Wolves lost their sixth straight game and sit at 2-6 on the season. I wish the Wolves would just start Vanderbilt and put Davis to bed, but it hasn’t happened yet. If it ever does, Vandy will become a hot pickup. Ricky Rubio’s struggles continued as he missed all four of his shots and scored two points, but he did at least come through with five rebounds, 10 assists and five steals.
If you’re bored on Friday night I’d suggest firing up the showdown between the Ball brothers as the Hornets take on the Pelicans on national television. And let’s all thought positive thoughts about Christian Wood (knee) and hope he plays against the Magic. I miss him, even though he’s only been out one game thus far.