Kristaps Porzingis is a name many had trouble pronouncing—let alone spelling—when he walked across the stage in June, but drop KP6, Three Six Latvia or Godzingis into any basketball discussion, and it hasn’t even taken a quarter of the season for Porzingis to become a household name.
Anthony Davis shook off another injury scare in guiding his team to its biggest win of the season, LeBron James went into overdrive before stalling out in overtime and Bradley Beal is finally fulfilling the potential that the Washington Wizards have been waiting to see him step into.
Brooklyn @ New York: Knicks 108, Nets 91
We can stop talking about a rivalry between these two teams and it isn’t because one is so clearly better than the other.
Carmelo Anthony, fully over his illness, bounced back emphatically with 28 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and five triples on 9-of-18 from the floor, while Kristaps Porzingis recorded yet another double-double with 19 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks (three 3-pointers) in just 26.5 minutes of action. That’s now three straight In-N-Out specialties for Three, Six Latvia, and he’s averaging 18.7 points, 11.0 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and 1.7 3PM during that stretch of time. Enjoy the ride.
Despite this blowout being over after the first quarter, the Nets got productive evenings from Thaddeus Young (18 points, 11 rebounds, one steal) and Brook Lopez (21 points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal, two blocks). Both guys have been consistent, under-appreciated assets all season, and Brooklyn isn’t paying them big money to watch the rebuilding project from the sidelines.
It was a disappointing game for most of the Nets roster, but especially so for Jarrett Jack (five points, one assist, two turnovers), Joe Johnson (nine points, four rebounds, four assists, ejected for Flagrant-2) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (two points, three rebounds, 18 minutes). If you need to cut RHJ in a shallower format for a hot free agent, I’d understand the rationale. Shane Larkin (six points, three assists, three steals) has started to earn Lionel Hollins’ trust, and Jack—who averages over 31 minutes per game—has now seen fewer than 30 in three straight contests.
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Phoenix @ Washington: Wizards 109, Suns 106
The Bradley Beal show is in full effect, folks. Make sure to get your tickets.
Beal was the reason a shorthanded Washington team outlasted a fiery Phoenix squad, racking up 34 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and five triples on 12-of-23 from the field. John Wall was a better DFS play than season-long deploy with 17 points, five rebounds, nine assists, two steals and two triples (seven turnovers) on 5-of-13 shooting, but it was the backup backcourt in Ramon Sessions (18 points, 8-of-12 FGs) and Gary Neal (12 points, six rebounds, two triples) that sealed the deal for D.C. Otto Porter’s productive night (13 points, seven rebounds, one steal, two blocks, 50% shooting) was offset by an uncharacteristic five turnovers, and Jared Dudley managed just three points (0-of-7 FGs), two steals and 23 minutes on a night where the Wizards had just Ryan Hollins and DeJuan Blair to choose from for big men. It’s amazing that Washington won this game.
The Suns got Markieff Morris (10 points, four rebounds, 28 minutes) back from his knee injury, but it was Jon Leuer (13 points, 6-of-7 FGs) who remained in the starting lineup. That move should be a temporary one, but Leuer has played well enough to earn minutes that need to come from somewhere. Tyson Chandler (hamstring) was once again a spectator, but Alex Len (six points, four boards, two blocks, 15 minutes) is not a reliable source of production in standard formats.
When the Suns are shorthanded, it’s going to be on Brandon Knight (19 points, five rebounds, five assists, one steal, one block, four 3-pointers, five turnovers) and Eric Bledsoe (22 points, four rebounds, seven assists, two steals, 9-of-18 FGs) to do even more than usual. T.J. Warren’s time (11 points, 22 minutes, four fouls) is coming, but it’s going to be a bumpy road to the final destination. Buckle up.
Milwaukee @ Detroit: Pistons 102, Bucks 95
Jason Kidd isn’t going to have a choice now. With Jerryd Bayless suffering a left ankle sprain and limping off in the third quarter, Greivis Vasquez nursing his own ankle injury and Tyler Ennis sidelined with shoulder soreness, Michael Carter-Williams (six points, seven rebounds, five assists, three turnovers, 26.5 minutes) is suddenly on the verge of reclaiming regular minutes. Even with a clear path to opportunity, MCW is what he is—just like Emmanuel Mudiay—until further notice.
The Bucks had five players in double figures, including Khris Middleton (21 points, five rebounds, three assists, three triples, 6-of-6 FTs), Giannis Antetokounmpo (12 points, nine rebounds, four turnovers) and Greg Monroe (14 points, 13 rebounds, two steals, two blocks). Middleton has been cookin’ since right around Turkey Time (Thanksgiving), and the buy-low window to get in on the K-Midz discount has slammed shut.
It was a familiar formula that resulted in a win for the Pistons. Andre Drummond had yet another massive double-double with 17 points, 23 rebounds, three steals and two blocks, but predictably struggled at the charity stripe as he converted just 3-of-10 from that distance. Marcus Morris (23 points, four rebounds, three dimes, 7-of-14 FGs, 39.5 minutes) is back to playing big minutes, while Reggie Jackson’s current hot streak (23 points, five assists, 8-of-14 FGs) is showing no signs of slowing down. It would have been nice to see Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (eight points, no defensive stats) and Stanley Johnson (10 points on 4-of-10 shooting) add a little bit more considering the favorable matchup, but inconsistency comes with the territory on both players. For now, each is a low-end asset and nothing more.
Los Angeles (L) @ Atlanta: Hawks 100, Lakers 87
When one team shoots 50% and the other sits at just a 37.2% clip, it’s not hard to predict the outcome.
Paul Millsap’s game (15 points, eight rebounds, two steals, two blocks, 6-of-12 FGs) would have been worth talking about last season, but he’s set the bar at a new level this time around. Al Horford was the big man worth discussing in this one with 16 points, nine rebounds, five dimes, one steal, one block and one triple on 6-of-11 from the field. Despite not getting much from Kyle Korver offensively (seven points, one triple), the veteran managed to avoid the duds list and salvage his evening with six boards, four dimes, a steal and three blocks. Jeff Teague (13 points, five assists, two steals) and Kent Bazemore (15 points, two triples, four steals) rounded out a productive night for the Hawks.
D’Angelo Russell’s night won’t put him in the studs category because a four-to-seven assist-to-turnover ratio is something you can’t ignore, but with 16 points, 10 rebounds and four triples as well, Russell is beginning to carve his path toward sustainable fantasy relevance. It was also encouraging to see the rookie play a team-high 36.5 minutes with his 16 shot attempts second only to Kobe Bryant, who finished with 14 points, three rebounds, five assists, two steals, two blocks and two 3-pointers on just 4-of-19 from the floor.
Jordan Clarkson played just 29 minutes, but he still stayed productive with 13 points, three 3-pointers, two rebounds and two assists on 5-of-8 shooting. The second-year guard has really been playing well of late, and with an improved outside shot, Clarkson is now in position to take advantage of his impressive athleticism more often. It was a tough matchup for both Julius Randle (eight points, five rebounds, three steals, one block, 3-of-12 FGs) and Roy Hibbert (five points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal, one block) vs. Millsap and Horford, and that’s now two straight stinkers from the veteran center. He’s a low-end blocks specialist.
Houston @ Dallas: Rockets 100, Mavericks 96
Duds: Wesley Matthews
James Harden’s efficiency (10-of-23 FGs) is down this season, but his production (29 points, eight rebounds, nine assists, one steal, two blocks) most certainly is not. Harden has a legitimate case to be taken as high as No. 2 overall in fantasy drafts next season, and his usage rate is going to remain through the roof for a Rockets team that needs him to do it all. Without Dwight Howard (rest) available, Terrence Jones slid back into the starting lineup and responded with 17 points and nine boards in 32.5 minutes. Starting at center, Clint Capela was held without a field goal in his 28.5 minutes (two points, 10 rebounds, two blocks), and with Donatas Motiejunas’ (back) return around the corner, things are about to get interesting along the frontline. Coming off of a handful of poor performances, Trevor Ariza (18 points, six rebounds, four steals, one block, four 3-pointers) bounced back in a big way.
Dallas got a brief scare when Dirk Nowitzki (16 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals) had his left hip checked out in the locker room, but he’s okay and isn’t expected to miss any time moving forward…Nowitzki has truly been brilliant this season. Despite shifting to a bench role, Chandler Parsons (nine points, four rebounds, four assists, 4-of-12 shooting) still struggled in his 26.5 minutes, and Wesley Matthews (five points, five boards, two steals, 1-of-9 shooting) continues to struggle with his shot while playing heavier than expected minutes. Deron Williams’ line (22 points, four triples, six dimes, two steals) would have looked a whole lot better without the eight turnovers.
Cleveland @ New Orleans: Pelicans 114, Cavs 108 (OT)
Duds: Mo Williams
LeBron James did everything he could to put the Cavs on his back, including a 23-point fourth quarter barrage, but it wasn’t enough without much help elsewhere in an overtime defeat in New Orleans. James finished with 37 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, a steal, a block, a 3-pointer and five turnovers (13-of-29 FGs, 10-of-11 FTs), while Kevin Love needed 16 shots to score 15 points (no triples) to go along with his 10 rebounds.
In an effort to shake up the backcourt, the Cavs started Matthew Dellavedova (eight points, four assists, two 3-pointers, 42 minutes) ahead of Mo Williams (eight points, three assists, 4-of-10 FGs, 22.5 minutes), but neither is going to have as much time on the floor when Kyrie Irving (knee) returns. J.R. Smith added six 3-pointers in the win (18 points), but I wouldn’t chase those numbers.
Another day, another injury scare for Anthony Davis—this one with his left ankle. Although A.D. had to briefly leave the game, he returned without issue and went on to dominate with 31 points, 12 rebounds, four steals, two 3-pointers and a block on 13-of-22 shooting. After the game, Davis said he’d have to put his ankle in a bucket of ice, but New Orleans doesn’t play again until Monday and you can bet he’ll be out there.
This could be a turning point win for a team that really needs one, and the return of Tyreke Evans (14 points, seven rebounds, 10 assists) has really sparked the starting lineup. Eric Gordon (19 points, four triples, 7-of-9 FGs) and Jrue Holiday—who came off the bench for 13 points, seven boards, five dimes and two steals on 5-of-10 FGs—also had really good games for a Pelicans squad that is getting healthy just as the point of desperation arrives.
Andrea Bargnani (tight left hamstring): It’s not a good sign when you appear more often on the injury report than the court.
Chris McCullough (right knee surgery): This is a redshirt season for the Syracuse product.
Iman Shumpert (right wrist surgery): After a successful return to practice this week, a mid-December debut is a reasonable projection.
Kyrie Irving (left knee surgery): Irving has returned to full-contact practice and is tentatively targeting a return on or around Christmas.
J.J. Barea (right ankle sprain): Barea has now been out for four straight, but he shouldn’t be on your roster.
Jodie Meeks (right foot surgery): Meeks would be fortunate to return this season.
Brandon Jennings (left Achilles): Jennings is dealing with a minor setback after developing Baker’s cyst behind his knee, but it’s not expected to significantly delay Jennings’ season debut. He’s not an appealing stash candidate.
Dwight Howard (rest): The training wheels are almost off of D12, but not quite yet.
Sam Dekker (back surgery): Dekker is unlikely to play this season.
Donatas Motiejunas (back surgery): The big man is expected to finally get on the floor in the next week to 10 days, and it’s unclear how the big man rotation will shake out as Motiejunas eases his way back into action. There’s suddenly a lot of competition for minutes down low between Motiejunas, Terrence Jones, Clint Capela and Dwight Howard.
Greivis Vasquez (sore right ankle): Vasquez has been out for about a week, but he may be looking at big minutes upon returning with Jerryd Bayless and Michael Carter-Williams leaving much to be desired.
Tyler Ennis (left shoulder soreness): This is not the shoulder that Ennis required surgery on this offseason, so at least there’s that.
Jerryd Bayless (left ankle sprain): Bayless limped off the court under his own power on Friday, but it looks like he’s going to miss some time. Michael Carter-Williams is suddenly Jason Kidd’s only choice at the point.
New Orleans Pelicans
Kendrick Perkins (right pectorals): Perk is expected to be out indefinitely.
Quincy Pondexter (left knee surgery): It’s looking more and more like the Pelicans won’t be able to cash in their Q-Pon anytime soon.
Tyson Chandler (right hamstring strain): The Suns won’t do anything that jeopardizes Chandler’s long-term availability, meaning guys like Alex Len, Mirza Teletovic and Jon Leuer will continue to see a short-term boost in value.
Kris Humphries (ankle): Day-to-day.
Marcin Gortat (personal): Gortat is tending to a family emergency in Poland.
Drew Gooden (right calf strain): Gooden is getting closer, but he’s not quite there yet.
Nene (left calf strain): See Gooden, Drew.
Alan Anderson (left ankle surger0y): AA has no timetable to return.