Embiid dominates, Morant returns, George and Powell round into form
The calm before the storm. We got just four games on this tranquil Saturday slate ahead of a jam-packed Sunday that will feature all 30 teams! At this point in the year, we’re into silly season for a lot of teams, but some squads are still fighting for a favorable position in the standings. We got a healthy dose of both in Saturday’s quartet of contests, and we’ll get into them now!
76ers 133, Pacers 120
The Sixers can be no lower than the 4 seed following Saturday’s win, and the Raptors can be no higher than the 5 seed. The Sixers are a game back of Milwaukee, but the Bucks own the tiebreaker, meaning Philly can only climb as high as the 3 seed with a win and a Celtics loss on Sunday.
- Joel Embiid dominated this one with 41 points and 20 rebounds. It’s the first 40/20 game from any player over the last two seasons and the third of his career. All of them have come against the Pacers. Only Anthony Davis (4) has more 40/20 games since 2012.
- Giannis Antetokounmpo is doubtful Sunday, meaning the scoring title is locked up for Embiid. He’s the first center since Shaq (‘99-00) to win the title.
-T.J. McConnell drew a spot start and totaled 12 points, six dimes, a rebound, a steal and a block.
- Gabe York got his first taste of NBA action and finished with seven points, two assists, a rebound and a block in his professional debut. He doesn’t move the fantasy needle for the final game of the 21-22 campaign, but ‘tis the silly season, right?
-Oshae Brissett went for 20 points, seven rebounds, an assist and a steal. It’s his sixth 20-point effort in 23 games since joining the starting lineup.
-Danny Green was back in the starting lineup and managed 15 points, four triples, four boards, three assists, three steals and a block across 29 minutes. He started for the second straight game and stayed hot on offense after scoring a season-high 18 on Thursday against his former team. Green has hit 10 triples and racked up six stocks in his two most recent starts.
- James Harden ended with 22 points, 14 assists, four rebounds and a steal while shooting 7-of-16 from the field and 2-of-9 from beyond the arc. He’s handed out double-digit dimes in six straight and averaged 13.2 in that span. His shooting and scoring have left much to be desired, and the Sixers will need him to be more efficient if they hope to advance in the cut-throat Eastern Conference.
- Paul Reed, aka “Bball Paul” logged 11 minutes and turned them into eight points, five rebounds, four steals and a dime. The fan-favorite went for five points, seven boards and a steal across 11 minutes in his last game, and he’s made the most of his limited time on the court. Unfortunately, the 76ers still have a chance to climb the standings, so Reed is unlikely to see much more time than what he’s seen in his last two.
Grizzlies 141, Pelicans 114
Ja Morant returned from a nine-game absence, and the Grizzlies kept right on ‘a rollin.’ Memphis earned its 56th win Saturday which ties the franchise record for wins in a season set by the 2012-13 Grizzlies. These two teams are far from identical, as the 12-13 team was led by its hard-nosed defense and balanced offensive attack with guys like Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Tony Allen and Mike Conley. The average age of the starters on that team was 28.2. The average age of starters on this team? It’s just 24.2.
This year’s iteration of Grind City feels more like Show Time thanks to the splashy threes of Desmond Bane and De’Anthony Melton and the high-flying slams of Ja Morant. Don’t think this year’s team are pushovers on the defensive end. Jaren Jackson Jr. set the franchise record for blocks in a season, and Steven Adams has been as dependable as they come on the glass. This year’s team ranks fifth in offensive rating and fourth in defensive rating compared to the 2012-13 team that ranked 17th in offensive rating and second in defensive rating. The comparisons are quite exciting, and this Grizzlies team has an incredibly bright future.
This one was over at halftime, as the Grizzlies took a 17-point lead into the break. The team came out of the half with a 55-point third quarter and an insurmountable 39-point advantage into the final frame. As a result, 27 different players took the court.
- Ja Morant scored an efficient 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting and added nine dimes, four boards and a swat in just 27 minutes. He should be all-systems-go for the playoffs.
- Brandon Clarke scored 20 off the bench in just 18 minutes, hitting a perfect 10-of-10 shots. He’s one of four players this season to knock down at least 10 shots without a miss, joining Jarrett Allen, Clint Capela, Richaun Holmes and Keita Bates-Diop. If the Grizz rest their starters in Sunday’s finale against Boston, expect Clarke to play big minutes.
- Dillon Brooks never met a shot he didn’t like and led the team with 23 on an efficient 9-of-16 shooting with three triples, three boards and five dimes.
- Ziaire Williams got hot from beyond the arc with four triples and finished with 19 points, one of his highest-scoring totals of the season. Like Clarke, he should be in for a bump in playing time Sunday if the starters get rest.
- Jaren Jackson Jr. added four more blocks to his record-breaking season. If he sits Sunday, he’ll finish the year with 177 total blocks, eight more than Pau Gasol’s previous 20-year-old record of 169.
- Willy Hernangomez finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and four dimes in 34 minutes. New Orleans will likely rest its starters Sunday, opening up more playing time for the per-minute beast.
Warriors 100, Spurs 94
Golden State got a much-needed win, and the Dubs can clinch the 3 seed with a win or a Mavs loss on Sunday. If Golden State loses and Dallas wins, the Mavs will leapfrog into the 3 seed and send the Warriors down to the 4 seed. The Spurs’ loss means they finish the season as the 10 seed and will face the Pelicans in New Orleans on Wednesday.
- Lonnie Walker led the Spurs with 24 points, his 15th 20-point game of the season, easily a career-high. Fantasy managers in points leagues have surely loved his career-best 12.0 points per game this season, but managers in 9-cat leagues haven’t been too impressed with his one-dimensional game.
- Zach Collins went for 18/13/2 in his last start and finished with 7/11/2 with three blocks in this one. If he gets the start Sunday, he’s worth a stream for teams in need of traditional big man stats.
- Tre Jones finished with 15 points, seven dimes, four boards and a swipe. No surprises there, as he averaged 12.1 points, 7.1 assists and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 53.3% in 13 prior games without Dejounte Murray. If you picked him up and have been playing him, there’s no reason to stop now. Roll him out for Sunday’s finale.
- Draymond Green put up a classic Draymond stat line of 12 points, 13 boards, eight assists, a block and a steal. Expect more of the same in a must-win matchup with the Pelicans on Sunday.
- Jordan Poole scored 18 points on a dreadful 3-of-19 shooting, including 1-of-11 from beyond the arc. He buoyed his inefficient shooting line with a perfect 11-of-11 showing from the charity stripe. Poole added eight dimes and six boards. He’s been on a tear as of late, so don’t expect too many off-nights like this moving forward.
- Jonathan Kuminga had a completely different performance, shooting 6-of-8 from the floor, 2-of-2 from three and 4-of-4 from the foul line for 18 points and adding four boards, two dimes and two swipes. His playing time has been inconsistent this season, but he’s averaged 17.6 points, 5.9 boards, 1.8 dimes, 1.6 stocks and 1.3 triples in 18 games with at least 25 minutes. Fantasy managers should be drooling in anticipation of next season.
Clippers 117, Kings 98
No seeding implications in this one. The Kings are well out of contention, while the Clippers are locked into the 8 seed and will face Minnesota on Tuesday.
- Davion Mitchell finished with 22 points, seven assists and a rebound, and he’s delivered on his “league winner” status down the stretch. He’s been huge when given the opportunity, posting averages of 17.4 points, 6.7 dimes, 2.2 rebounds and 1.8 triples in 17 prior games with De’Aaron Fox sidelined.
- Damian Jones came into this one with monster averages of 17.4 points, 7.6 boards, 1.9 dimes and 1.7 blocks while shooting 71.9% from the field and 81.8% from the charity stripe across seven starts. He had another strong performance with 12 points, four rebounds, four steals and two dimes. He’s gotten a chance to shine in a big way for silly season.
- Paul George’s nickname should be converted from “Playoff P” to “Precision Passing P” after this one. He matched a career-high with 12 dimes to go with eight boards, two steals and a game-high 23 points. It’s safe to say he’s rounding into form ahead of the play-in tournament.
- Norman Powell went for 24 points, four boards, three triples and a block across 23 minutes in Wednesday’s return, and though he was expected to have his minutes limit reduced, he logged just 22 minutes here. There’s nothing to be concerned about, as the Clippers controlled this one handily throughout. He delivered 20 more points and four triples. Just like George, Powell looks like he’s in form just in time for the playoffs!
- Ivica Zubac logged 15 points, 12 boards and two dimes, while Isaiah Hartenstein managed 10 points, six boards, three dimes and a swat. Zubac saw 25 minutes, and I-Hart got 23. Both are solid options on any given night, though the near-even timeshare hurts the value of both players.