Jusuf Nurkic went down with a gruesome leg injury, Devin Booker put on a one-man show, D’Angelo Russell and Damian Lillard went off again, Delon Wright and Bruno Caboclo led the way for Memphis, and a quiet four-game night was missing Ben Simmons, due to an illness.
Blazers 148, Nets 144 2OT - We like to use the phrase ‘Nurk Alert’ around here, a lot. Maybe too much. But for once we have an actual Nurk Alert and it’s not the good kind. The Portland big man suffered a gruesome fractured left leg in the second overtime of last night’s game and had to be stretchered off the court. See ya next year, Nurk!! It’s hard for me to watch injuries like that, so if you are a little squeamish, there’s no reason to go looking for this one. Meanwhile, this means Enes Kanter is a must-own player in all formats, so stop reading this and go get him. Nurk had a huge night, too, finishing with 32 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, two steals and four blocks, so this is a massive blow to the Blazers. Damian Lillard put up similar numbers without C.J. McCollum around, finishing with 31 points, six rebounds, 12 assists, a steal and four 3-pointers, but hit just 10-of-30 shots. Some of the league’s best scorers are putting up brutal shooting nights right now as they run out of gas and get ready to rest before the playoffs get going. Seth Curry kept it going with 20 points, two rebounds, one assist, two steals and three 3- pointers on 6-of-13 shooting, and I rolled him out in a couple weekly leagues this week. He’s been the main beneficiary from the absence of C.J. McCollum, who will miss at least five more games. Rodney Hood scored 18 points in 43 minutes, and is also worth a look with three more games this week, Kanter had a 12 & 10 double-double, starter Moe Harkless, who I’m also starting in a couple leagues, had 13 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and two 3-pointers, and Zach Collins had 12 points and two 3-pointers in just 15 minutes. Al-Farouq Aminu was really quiet with just six points in 23 minutes, and I’m still not sure why his minutes were so funky last night. But he has three games to right the ship this week and should see a usage boost with Nurkic’s injury.
For the Nets, D’Angelo Russell kept it going with a massive line of 39 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, a steal and three 3-pointers on 16-of-34 shooting. He was just 3-of-14 from downtown and committed six turnovers, but at least he put up enough other numbers to help owners forget about the negatives. Spencer Dinwiddie hit 6-of-15 shots and three 3-pointers for 22 points, two rebounds and two assists off the bench, and starter DeMarre Carroll had 18, five boards, a steal and four 3-pointers in the loss. Jared Dudley came out of nowhere for 15 points, five boards, three assists and two 3-pointers, but one look at his game log should scare you away. Caris LeVert and Joe Harris were both serviceable, Jarrett Allen and Ed Davis put up some big-man stats before both fouling out, and Rodions Kurucs may have finally run out of gas with just five points and five boards in 19 minutes. That makes six straight games in single digits for Kurucs, so it looks like the party might be over.
Magic 119, Sixers 98 – Nikola Vucevic’s dream season stayed dreamy on Monday with 28 points, 11 boards, four assists and two 3-pointers, and Evan Fournier hit 11-of-17 shots and two 3-pointers for 24 points, seven assists and two steals in a surprisingly easy win over the Sixers. Oddly, Fournier didn’t have a single rebound in the game. Aaron Gordon had a quiet 12 points and eight boards, Jonathan Isaac scored just eight points with a couple 3-pointers, a steal and a block, D.J. Augustin disappointed with four points and four assists on 2-of-4 shooting, and the bench wasn’t all that great, either. In fact, I’m still trying to figure out how the Magic won this game. Orlando blew this thing open with a 32-17 third quarter, when most of the starters were on the bench, but the only reserves that did anything were Michael Carter-Williams (15-6-3-2-1) and Khem Birch (10 points, 5 boards). No one should be racing to pick up MCW and I will be shocked if he ends up ruining DJA, but it happened last night. Look for things to return to normal on Tuesday against the Heat. And it’s going to be an all-hands-on-deck situation, as the Magic make a push for the No. 8 seed in the East, trailing the Heat by just a ½ game. If there’s any time a Heat-Magic game can be qualified as must-see TV, it’s tonight.
The worst news of the day, for me personally, came out of Philly when it was announced that Ben Simmons wouldn’t play due to an illness. I preach about not letting your leagues run into the final two weeks of the season, but am somehow in three playoff battles right now, and all three of them run through the final day of the season. May the person with the savviest waiver-wire skills win! Unfortunately, I only get three moves this week in the league where I have Simmons, so I just had to eat it, and am down a ton after one day. T.J. McConnell started, but backfired on us, hitting 1-of-4 shots for two points, six boards and two assists in 29 minutes. Hopefully Simmons is back on Thursday. Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler were all OK, but not very great, and J.J. Redick hit just 2-of-10 shots in the loss. Several bench players got in the mix, but Philly was a fantasy black hole last night. Shake Milton had 13 points off the bench, but Philly’s box score is pretty brutal to look at. Hopefully they look a lot better on Thursday against the Nets. Either way, they look to be locked into the No. 4 slot in the East. Mike Scott left this game with lower back tightness.
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Grizzlies 115, Thunder 103 – Mike Conley (thigh/rest) sat this one out and Delon Wright, who we’ve been pimping for a few weeks, finally had ‘that game.’ He finished with 18 points, three rebounds, a career-high 13 assists and four steals on 8-of-14 shooting. He should be owned everywhere, but obviously won’t be as good when Conley is out there. Bruno Caboclo was the fantasy play of the night after exploding for a career-high 24 points, 11 boards, two assists, a steal, a block and four 3-pointers, and Caboclo and Wright dominated Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Welcome to silly season! Jonas Valanciunas went off for 18 points, 14 boards and two blocks, Tyler Dorsey started and went off for 21 points, eight boards, five assists and three 3-pointers, and starter Justin Holiday chipped in with 17 points, seven boards, five assists, two steals and three 3-pointers in a weird game. The bench was really quiet, but if you want to roll the dice on any of the guys who started, feel free. Joakim Noah also sat this one out with a sore right knee.
The Thunder saw Paul George and Russell Westbrook combine to hit just 16-of-49 shots, and Steven Adams added to the shooting woes by hitting just 1-of-7 for two points, but did come through with four steals and three blocks in the loss. Jerami Grant hit just 3-of-8 shots for seven points and two rebounds, and only Terrance Ferguson shot it well in the starting unit, knocking down all four of his shots. Dennis Schroder came through off the bench with 25 points, three boards, three assists and two 3-pointers on 9-of-14 shooting in a lost night for the Thunder. Luckily for the reeling Thunder, they’re still 6.5 games up on the Kings for the No. 8 seed in the West, but they’re limping to the playoffs, winning just one of their last six games.
Jazz 125, Suns 92 – The Jazz blistered the Suns, and all five starters went off for Utah. Derrick Favors had a 18-8-5 line, Joe Ingles had 14 points, seven dimes and two 3-pointers, Rudy Gobert got loose for 27 points, 10 boards and two blocks, Ricky Rubio had 18 points and six assists, and Donovan Mitchell hit just 4-of-14 shots for 10 points, four boards, three assists, two steals and two 3-pointers. The Jazz simply didn’t need Mitchell last night. The bench was effective for Utah, but were led by Jae Crowder and Kyle Korver, who each scored nine points.
The Suns box score is a total disaster, as Devin Booker racked up a ridiculous 59 points on 19-of-34 shooting. He hit five triples and drained 16-of-17 free throws, while the other four Suns starters combined for just 14 points. Dreadful. The bench wasn’t any better, scoring a total of just 19 points. This was literally a one-man show named Booker. Booker may continue to go bonkers the rest of the way, but the rest of his teammates are going to be tough to trust. Josh Jackson was out again with his ankle injury, which is a buzzkill. The Jazz did everything they could to stop Booker from getting 60, including intentionally fouling Ray Spalding with less than 20 seconds left. Whatever.
Tuesday’s going to be a busy 10-game night, and we’ll be here all night long blurbing away as the NBA’s dreaded silly season kicks into high gear, and kicks my three playoff teams in the gut.