Damian Lillard is going to have to build a late-season MVP case if the injuries continue to mount at this rate in Portland.
Both Nicolas Batum (back) and LaMarcus Aldridge (left hand) were forced to exit after one half of action, and Portland is going to be in a world of hurt should it sustain additional injuries. The team’s defense has taken a major steak back since Wes Matthews was declared out for the season, and although it’s too soon to project the fallout here, one thing is for sure: Lillard’s owners should be expecting their man to be soaring high heading into the end of the fantasy season. It doesn’t sound like Aldridge will be back anytime soon.
On a five-game evening, it was Stan Van Gundy who got the best of Tom Thibodeau, while Eric Bledsoe was busy doing his best James Harden impression as the Suns lit the Beard’s Rockets on fire. And in another day that ended in Y, the Warriors got the victory while keeping the legend of Rudy Gobert stifled (see what I did there?) from the field.
Nets 123, Pacers 111
Let’s just start with the obvious: Even the biggest League Pass junkie hit the ‘skip’ option on this one and decided to go out instead. And that’s fine considering where we are in the season, but the fact that both the Pacers and Nets are battling (each other) for a postseason spot speaks to where things stand at the back end of the Eastern Conference at this time.
This just wasn’t a good showing from an Indiana squad that has performed well greater than the sum of its parts in recent weeks, although the team has now lost five straight. Giving up 60-burgers in both halves of this game, Frank Vogel’s squad was not up to task in a winnable home game. And although the Pacers had six in double-digits, just George Hill stood out with his line of 18 points, four rebounds and nine assists on 8-of-15 from the floor. Luis Scola got hot for 17 points (6-of-7 shooting) in 20 minutes, but that isn’t something for owners to chase. CJ Miles hit four three-pointers en route to his 14 points, but those are replaceable statistics, and he couldn’t do more despite Rodney Stuckey (calf) departing after just 13 minutes. And David West’s serviceable but low-end line of 13 points, four boards and four assists can be found elsewhere.
Even with 111 points, the Pacers are still boring without Paul George. It is what it is.
I’m not sure how Deron Williams’ continual disappointing with the Nets hasn’t become a larger theme, but it was one of those rare nights where D-Will actually had a decent game with 17 points and six dimes (no turnovers, 7-of-15 shooting). Unfortunately he had just a couple triples and a steal to go along with the other stats, and even Williams’ good nights look bad right now. Some of the air in Williams’ line also comes out when considering the Nets put up 123 points, and Jarrett Jack’s overall performance (13 points, eight assists, 9-of-9 from the foul line) might have been preferable for some.
In what should be known as the Brook Lopez special, the big man had another nice night with 26 points, four rebounds and four blocks. Now with 58 points, 22 rebounds and nine blocks over his last two contests (29.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 4.5 blocks), Lopez belongs locked and loaded in all lineups. Saturday was actually the first time Lopez grabbed fewer than seven boards since March 4, so the big man has done a better job on the glass as the Nets—and fantasy owners—rely on him to produce consistently down the stretch.
Pistons 107, Bulls 91
Despite another dominant double-double from Pau Gasol (27 points, 10 rebounds, one block), 19 points from Aaron Brooks (6-of-12 shooting, three triples, five assists) and 13 points from Taj Gibson in just under 19 minutes, the Bulls gave up 63 second-half points to a Detroit team that managed to hang just 44 in the first 24 minutes. Nikola Mirotic, who had been seeing red,
managed just eight points, five rebounds and four assists on 1-of-8 shooting.
Joakim Noah had another big game for Chicago with six points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and a steal in 29.5 minutes of action, and although he’s expressed frustrations with his minutes limit, he’s making the most of his time. Since March began (entering Saturday), Noah was averaging 7.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 8.0 assists (can we just recognize how insane that is for a center?!), 0.7 steals and 0.6 blocks over 10 contests. It’s not glamorous, but it certainly gets the job done—and then some. I’d say Noah’s fantasy game is a perfect reflection of his personality on the court, and I mean that as a great compliment.
Still down Greg Monroe (knee), Detroit saw its point guard of the future in Reggie Jackson go off for 22 points and 11 assists on a solid 9-of-16 from the field. That’s now three straight games with 10-plus assists for Reginald General Jackson, and he’s averaging 18.7 points, 13.7 assists and 1.3 triples over his last three games—Detroit is 2-1 in those contests. Detroit also put Caron Butler in a time machine before the game, and he delivered with 20 points, five rebounds and a steal with four triples on 7-of-11 shooting. Even the rookie Spencer Dinwiddie (10 points, 10 assists, can grow one spectacular mustache) got in on the action by the end of this one, and he managed to record a double-double in just 20.5 minutes of action. Like Stan Van Gundy, I really like what he brings to the table.
Suns 117, Rockets 102
Houston: We may have a problem.
Dwight Howard (knee) is still out, Terrence Jones (lung) is going to be out for a while, Kostas Papanikolaou (ankle) has been out a while and Josh Smith (calf) is now on the injury report. For a team that was already starting Donatas Motiejunas and Joey Dorsey as its starting frontcourt, to say the club is getting thin might just be an understatement.
James Harden had a very off night in this one to follow up his 50-point showing with just 16 points on 5-of-19 from the floor. Although he had five assists and two blocks, his five turnovers left a lot to be desired from The Beard on Saturday. Trevor Ariza was the story for Houston in the loss with a very nice double-double of 15 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, two steals and three triples, and anyone still campaigning for Chandler Parsons to have remained with the Rockets—at that price, especially in comparison to Ariza’s deal—should find a new talking point to examine. Elsewhere, Houston got 18 points, three boards and six dimes (8-of-13 shooting) from Motiejunas, 17 points and five boards from Josh Smith and Corey Brewer got in on the fun as well with 14 points, seven rebounds and two steals in 30 minutes of action.
The Suns got 17 points per Morris brother in the win, and both Marcus (17 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, two steals, two triples) and Markieff (17 points, five rebounds, six assists, a steal and a triple) found versatile ways to contribute. Alex Len (ankle) returned in this one (five points, six rebounds, one steal, 2-of-10 shooting in 18 minutes), and that sent Brandan Wright (eight points, nine rebounds, a steal, two blocks, 30 minutes) to the bench, but it didn’t matter considering Wright got the lion’s share of minutes and remained a very productive player. Expect Wright’s role to remain bigger than it was prior to Len missing time most recently with the latest ankle injury, and if Len aggravates the issue again, Wright is going to be staring at a salivating opportunity for the stretch run of the campaign.
Phoenix also got an insane effort from its starting backcourt in this one with Eric Bledsoe going off for 34 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals a block and two triples on 11-of-18 shooting, including 10-of-11 from the free throw line. Without Brandon Knight (ankle) available, PJ Tucker started at shooting guard and responded with 19 points, four boards, three assists, a steal, a block and three 3-pointers on 8-of-12 shooting.
Even without Mike D’Antoni calling the shots, Phoenix can still be the fantasy fun factory.
Grizzlies 97, Blazers 86
Portland’s injury issues just went from bad to worse.
Wesley Matthews (Achilles) is already lost for the season, and because the Aldridge-Batum combo lasted just one half, Damian Lillard scoring 27 points in a valiant effort wasn’t enough. The club needed more from Arron Afflalo (eight points, three rebounds, 36.5 minutes), the player who was brought in to fill the void created by Matthews’ absence, and that’s been a running theme since his arrival. Unfortunately, Portland has taken a major step back since AA’s insertion into the starting lineup, and that’s not going to get better if either Aldridge or Batum are forced to miss any kind of time right now.
As a team that was already exposed as pretenders, Portland would be fortunate to get out of the first round in 2015.
Memphis got 23 points from Jeff Green to lead the scoring in the win, while Tony Allen flashed his impressive (and often underrated) versatility 10 points, 11 boards and six steals in 35.5 minutes without Courtney Lee (hand) available. Marc Gasol (13 points, nine rebounds, five assists, one block) was still productive despite his 4-of-15 shooting, and Memphis was able to come out with a win despite Zach “I’m Not Soft” Randolph scoring just 17 points on 20 shots. Of the Grizzlies’ most notable players, it was Mike Conley’s 21 points, nine dimes and three triples on 8-of-11 shooting who did the most damage. It was certainly a nice line to see for owners desiring Conley at his best right now.
Warriors 106, Jazz 91
The Jazz are going to struggle in any game where Gordon Hayward has more shots (13) than points (11), and even though he’s capable of contributing in other categories when he’s not scoring the rock (seven assists), Utah needs the same thing Hayward’s fantasy owners require of him: Every-night game. That means bringing it every night.
Derrick Favors’ brilliant game (21 points, 11 rebounds, a triple, steal and two blocks on 8-of-15 shooting) is just the latest demonstration in what has been his official breakout season, while somehow Andrew Bogut and the Warriors managed to silence Rudy Gobert to the tune of just five points, nine rebounds and a steal with no blocks despite seeing 34 minutes of action. The bulk of the remainder of Utah’s scoring came on 39 half-empty points from rookie Rodney Hood (19 points, one three-pointer) and Trey Burke (20 points, five assists), but at least Burke had a half a rack of helpers in addition to his fistful of triples.
Golden State kept it moving without Klay Thompson (ankle) in the lineup, and MVP candidate Steph Curry paced the path to success with 24 points, three rebounds, three dimes, three steals and three longballs from distance. Draymond Green continued to play the versatility card with 15 points, six rebounds, seven assists, two steals and was 11-of-13 on free throws, and he’s going to be among the most popular keeper candidates going into next season for rather obvious reasons. Andre Iguodala added 13 points, three boards and a steal on 4-of-shooting, while Leandro Barbosa—yes, that Barbosa—caught fire for 19 quick points in just 28 minutes of action.