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The NBA is back and DeMar DeRozan is still on fire

DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

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The All-Star break is finally over and DeMar DeRozan kept it going on Thursday, Bogdan Bogdanovic got it done for the Hawks, Devin Booker looks like the Suns’ new point guard and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lauri Markkanen are back.

Bulls 112, Hawks 108DeMar DeRozan (37 points) and Zach LaVine (20) did their thing, Nikola Vucevic had a mini double-double and full stat line despite 4-of-13 shooting, and Ayo Dosunmu had 12 points, six rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two 3-pointers on 5-of-9 shooting in 34 minutes of Thursday’s win over the Hawks. Tristan Thompson added 11 points, six boards and a steal off the bench, but played just 13 minutes. Coby White was a huge disappointment with nine points, two assists and a 3-pointer on 4-of-10 shooting in 20 minutes but was in extreme foul trouble for most of the night. The bottom line here is that once Lonzo Ball (knee) and Alex Caruso (wrist) are healthy, Dosunmu and White are going to take a hit. How significant of a hit remains to be seen and I have more faith in Dosunmu than White, but it could get very dicey once the Bulls are healthy. However, Caruso should be getting back to basketball activities any day now and Ball is hoping for a mid-March return, so they’re still not ready. Until we see either of them in uniform, Dosunmu and White are still worth rolling out there every night. DeRozan bounced back from a 10-point night and has now scored at least 23 points in 19 of his last 20 games.

For the Hawks, Bogdan Bogdanovic hit 11-of-24 shots and five 3-pointers for 27 points, five boards, three assists, a steal and a block off the bench, while fill-in starter Danilo Gallinari, starting for John Collins (foot) added 26 points, nine boards and two 3-pointers in the loss. Gallo is worth a pickup for as long as Collins remains out, but he should be getting close to playing. DeAndre Hunter was useless in just 13 minutes despite starting, Clint Capela finally bounced back with 14 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks, and Trae Young fought through a tough shooting night with 14 points and 10 dimes, despite hitting just 3-of-17 shots.

Pistons 106, Cavaliers 103Hamidou Diallo came off the bench to hit 7-of-11 shots and three 3-pointers for 21 points to lead the Pistons to a win over the Cavs on Thursday. Diallo came into the break hot and should be rostered everywhere. Cade Cunningham had 17 points, six rebounds, six assists and two blocks but hit just 4-of-16 shots. He bailed himself out by hitting 9-of-10 free throws and played 32 minutes. Marvin Bagley came off the bench for 16 points, four rebounds and a block in 27 minutes but I still don’t love him in fantasy, while Jerami Grant (16 points, 4-of-15 shooting) and Isaiah Stewart (11 points, 8 rebounds, 1 block in just 19 minutes) at least put up some numbers. Saddiq Bey was a disaster, hitting just 1-of-7 shots for three points, three rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes. Bey had scored at least 20 points in three straight and in six of his previous eight games before this nightmare, so think twice before discarding him. Hopefully, it was a fluke. And speaking of flukes, the Pistons have somehow won two straight games with wins over Boston and Cleveland. And for any Lunch Lady fans out there, Kelly Olynyk missed all three of his shots and finished with two points, four rebounds, four assists and a steal in 21 minutes. He still has the potential to get it going but it’s been a rough ride for Olynyk since he returned from his COVID leave. The Pistons still have two games remaining this week so some of these guys are worth a short-term look.

Lauri Markkanen played for the first time in over a month and hit 6-of-16 shots, two 3-pointers and 8-of-10 free throws to lead the Cavs with 22 points, six boards, one assist and one block in 28 minutes and a start. Congratulations if you picked him up tonight and if he’s still floating on the waiver wire, he’s worth a look in all formats. Darius Garland was out due to a sore lower back and Caris LeVert will miss a couple weeks with a right foot sprain, so Isaac Okoro and Rajon Rondo got heavy minutes (and starts). Rondo had 12 points, nine dimes and six turnovers in 26 minutes and Okoro had 11 points, five rebounds and two 3-pointers in the loss. Both guys are worth a look any time Garland is out. Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley were both kind of boring and Brandon Goodwin (helping to fill in for Garland) had 15 points, four rebounds, five assists, a steal and two 3-pointers. He’s worth a flier any time Garland is out. Cedi Osman hit 2-of-7 shots and two 3-pointers for nine points but fell off after a hot start last night. The Cavaliers play five games in Week 24 (March 28) and most of these guys will be hot pickups prior to that one.

Celtics 129, Nets 106 – All five Celtics starters hit double figures, led by Jayson Tatum’s 30 points, while Al Horford bounced back with a strong double-double (11 points, 13 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, 1 3-pointer). Robert Williams is healthy again and had 12 points and 11 boards, Marcus Smart had 15 points, six assists, two steals and five 3-pointers, and Jaylen Brown scored 18 with six assists, a steal and a block in the win. Grant Williams kept it going with 10 points, three rebounds, a steal and a 3-pointer off the bench, and Derrick White came through with 13 points, five boards, three dimes and a 3-pointer in 20 minutes off the bench. Boston goes 3-3-3-3-4-3 to finish the season schedule-wise, so Grant Williams isn’t probably the best option.

The Nets, who are still awaiting the return of Kevin Durant and the debut of Ben Simmons, lost again and were led by Seth Curry’s 22 points, seven rebounds, one assist, one steal and two 3-pointers on 10-of-19 shooting. He’s become ‘the man’ for the Nets lately but that should change once KD and Simmons are back in the next week or so. Bruce Brown had a big game with 15 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three steals and a 3-pointer in 35 minutes, while Andre Drummond added 11 points, six boards, a steal and a block in the loss. Kerry Edwards had 13 points, five boards and three 3-pointers off the bench on a perfect shooting night of 4-of-4. Cam Thomas hit just 4-of-13 shots for 10 points, three assists and a steal in the loss. Nicolas Claxton played 11 minutes and had eight points and one rebound, but I’m glad I didn’t hold onto him if this is all we’re going to get. And Patty Mills was 0-for-9 from the floor for one point in a disappointing performance. KD and Simmons are due to play soon which is going to make the Nets a complete fantasy crapshoot.

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Timberwolves 119, Grizzlies 114 – D’Angelo Russell led the Wolves with 37 points, nine assists and three 3-pointers and Karl-Anthony Towns added 22 points, 11 boards, three blocks and two 3-pointers in the win. Patrick Beverley added 13 points, three boards, four assists, two steals and four 3-pointers in 28 minutes, while Malik Beasley came off the bench for 17 points and five triples in just 18 minutes. Anthony Edwards had a night to forget on 1-of-11 shooting for five points, four rebounds, seven assists and two blocks in 32 minutes. He was 0-for-6 from downtown and hasn’t looked right while dealing with a right ankle sprain over the last several games. He’s hit a pathetic 4-of-29 shots over his last three games and has scored in single digits in three straight. Hopefully, he’ll break out of the funk on Friday against the Sixers. Jarred Vanderbilt had seven points, 12 rebounds and two steals in 28 minutes before fouling out, while Jaden McDaniels was quiet with seven points, three rebounds and a block in just 16 minutes. Naz Reid had six points, three boards and three blocks in 20 minutes, but the Wolves bench is pretty dicey at this point. It looked like McDaniels might be on the verge of overtaking Vando soon, but that wasn’t the case tonight. I wish I’d faded McDaniels last night, but he’ll have a chance to bounce back tonight against the Sixers.

Ja Morant suffered a left leg injury on Thursday but was able to return and play through it, finishing with 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block, but hit just 7-of-25 shots in 35 minutes. Like most superstars, Ja is at the point of his career when he can salvage a solid fantasy line on an off-shooting night. Jaren Jackson Jr. hit 6-of-15 shots and 9-of-11 free throws for 21 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and three blocks and he continues to battle for Defensive Player of the Year honors. Ziaire Williams started again and hit 7-of-11 shots and three 3-pointers for 21 points, four rebounds, one assist and a steal in 27 minutes. Desmond Bane hit 5-of-15 shots and two 3-pointers for 14 points, three boards and a steal in 29 minutes and Steven Adams had six points, 12 rebounds, five assists and a block in 27 minutes of the loss. De’Anthony Melton added a solid line of 12 points, five rebounds, six assists, a steal and two 3-pointers in 22 minutes off the bench and Brandon Clarke had 10 points, eight rebounds, three assists and a block in 23 minutes. All of these guys will be worth a look when the Grizzlies play four times next week, but the return of Dillon Brooks (ankle) will eventually throw a wrench in things.

Suns 124, Thunder 104 – As we all waited to see what would happen with the Suns’ point guard position with Chris Paul (thumb) likely done for the regular season, Cam Johnson got the start and had a solid line of 21 points, four rebounds, five assists, a block and four 3-pointers. Devin Booker ran the point and had 25 points, five rebounds, a season-high 12 assists and a career-high six steals, meaning Cameron Payne and Aaron Holiday might become afterthoughts. Holiday was nice off the bench with 12 points, five dimes, a steal and two 3-pointers on 5-of-5 shooting in 25 minutes, while Payne sat again with his wrist injury that has kept him out a month. Elfrid Payton didn’t even get off the bench, in case you were wondering. Payne could ruin Holiday once he returns but we still don’t know when that will happen. Mikal Bridges had a 21-5-4 line with a steal, a block and a 3-pointer on 10-of-17 shooting, Jae Crowder had 17 points, five boards, four assists, four steals and two 3-pointers, and Deandre Ayton had an off night with six points, eight rebounds, two steals and a block in 30 minutes. It’s starting to look like Booker, Bridges, Johnson and Holiday are going to fill the CP3 gap for now.

The Thunder welcomed back Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (ankle) with 32 points and five assists on 13-of-22 shooting and Josh Giddey had 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals on 7-of-15 shooting. Giddey’s scoring might take a hit with SGA back, but he was still nice. My guy, Aleksej Pokusevski, had 13 points, seven rebounds and a 3-pointer in just 19 minutes, while Tre Mann added 11 points, five boards, six assists, four steals and a 3-pointer in 31 minutes in the loss. Darius Bazley, Derrick Favors and Aaron Wiggins all started, but combined to hit 6-of-15 shots for a grand total of 14 points last night. I still trust Bazley, but I honestly wish the Thunder would pull the plug on Favors and just let Poku play. I still think Poku and Bazley are holds, while Luguentz Dort sat this one out with a shoulder injury.

Warriors 132, Blazers 95 – The Warriors got a balanced attack with all five starters scoring in double figures and Jonathan Kuminga (17 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 1 3-pointer), Otto Porter Jr. (10 points, 7 rebounds) and Jordan Poole (15 points, 6 assists, 2 3-pointers) all played well off the bench. Stephen Curry hit 5-of-11 shots and two 3-pointers for 18 points, five rebounds, 14 assists, a steal and a block, and Klay Thompson hit 6-of-11 shots and four 3-pointers for 18 points, five rebounds and two assists. Andrew Wiggins, Kevon Looney and Gary Payton II all scored 10 points from the starting lineup. Kuminga’s line was of particular note, and he looks like a must-have player to me right now.

The Blazers have given up on the season and started Justise Winslow, Drew Eubanks, Josh Hart, Anfernee Simons and CJ Elleby, while Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic are now afterthoughts in Portland. Simons led the way with 24 points, three rebounds, three assists and four triples, Winslow kept it going with 14 points, two rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers, and Hart and Brandon Williams both scored 12 points in the loss. Newcomer Eubanks started but didn’t do much with two points and five boards in his 21 minutes. Greg Brown played 25 minutes off the bench for eight points, a steal, two blocks and a 3-pointer in 25 minutes, and Trendon Watford played 23 minutes for nine points, one rebound, two assists and a steal. Keep in mind this game was a total blowout so there’s not a lot to learn from it. Hart hit 5-of-11 shots and missed all five of his triples for 12 points, six rebounds, four assists and a steal, and Elleby hit just 1-of-5 shots for five points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal in 22 minutes. I still think Winslow, Elleby, Watford and Brown are all worth a look in fantasy, while Brandon Williams could be a sneaky deep-league point guard pickup. But the tanking Blazers were a mess last night.

Nuggets 128, Kings 110 – The Nuggets waxed the Kings in the fourth quarter on Thursday and were led by Will Barton’s season-high 31 points, five rebounds, three assists, a block and three 3-pointers, while Nikola Jokic messed around for 25 points, 12 rebounds, nine dimes, four steals, a block and two 3-pointers on 9-of-15 shooting. Just another day at the office for Joker and he missed another trip-dub by one assist. Monte Morris is back and had 19 points, four assists, a steal, a block and three 3-pointers on 7-of-9 shooting, and Aaron Gordon had 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals in 32 minutes. Jeff Green was quiet in a start with seven points, while JaMychal Green had 12 points and a full stat line in just 15 minutes. But I don’t really trust either of them. If Morris is available in your league, grab him. And get down on your knees and bow to the greatness of Jokic. He’s ridiculous.

The Kings got 33 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, a steal, a block and two triples from Domantas Sabonis, De’Aaron Fox added 20 points and four dimes on 9-of-18 shooting, and Harrison Barnes had 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and a 3-pointer. Moe Harkless and Justin Holiday started but struggled, scoring five points apiece in the loss. Jeremy Lamb returned from his ankle injury for 11 points, three boards, two assists, two blocks and a 3-pointer, while Donte DiVincenzo played 23 minutes and hit 3-of-7 shots and two 3-pointers for eight points, two rebounds and four assists. Davion Mitchell played 30 minutes off the bench but hit just 3-of-10 shots for seven points, three assists and a steal. Again, this game was basically a late blowout and it’s tough to learn a lot from it, but the struggles of Mitchell, DiVincenzo and Justin Holiday were real. Any of these guys could blow up at any time for this team.