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Major playoff implications at stake after Saturday’s busy NBA slate

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA regular season is drawing to a close, but the Association gave us a busier-than-usual Saturday slate packed full with eight games. Major playoff implications were at work here, so I’ll make sure to hit on those while discussing the player performances and fantasy impact. Rather than write out a bunch of paragraphs, I’m keeping this simple and easily digestible (no Pepto needed) with a summary of the game, any important storylines and bullet points for all of the need-to-know information.

These eight games were a mixed bag filled with several close calls, some abhorrent blowouts and even a delay due to fire. Let’s dive into all the madness and mayhem from this action-packed evening!

Spurs 107, Pelicans 103

Both teams are vying for a spot in the play-in tournament, and Saturday’s win puts the Spurs just one game back of New Orleans and 1.5 games back of the Lakers for the 10th seed. The Pelicans and Lakers play Sunday, in a game that suddenly has a lot of intrigue.

  • Dejounte Murray recorded his 17th career triple-double with a 15/13/11 line. He has the most triple-doubles in franchise history, and all have come within the last two seasons. His 13 this season are just one behind David Robinson’s career mark of 14. Murray is sure to go within the first two rounds of fantasy drafts next season.
  • Josh Primo went for 12 points, a rebound, a block and a triple across 34 minutes. The Spurs’ first pick in last year’s draft doesn’t need to be on fantasy rosters even with increased minutes.
  • After scoring a season-high 30 points Thursday, Devonte’ Graham scored six on 2-of-10 shooting Saturday, highlighting the inconsistencies that have plagued him all season.
  • CJ McCollum went off yet again, scoring 32 points to go with six boards, four dimes and a pair of stocks. This performance marks McCollum’s seventh 30-point game in 18 appearances with New Orleans. He’s been tremendous for his new team and ranks 45th per game over the last month.
  • Jose Alvarado should have his last name changed to “El Dorado” after that golden performance. He put up a career-high 23 points to go with five boards, five dimes, two threes, a block and a steal. He ranks 56th per game over the last two weeks but is only rostered in 23% of Yahoo leagues. Make sure to change that.

Kings 114, Magic 110

Orlando had this one in the bag as Cole Anthony’s bucket brought the Magic’s lead to 105-97 with two minutes left. Sacramento didn’t give up and scored the final eight points of the game, including seven in the final minute, capped off by a Davion Mitchell game-tying layup with 12 seconds remaining. This one went into extra innings, and it was back-and-forth for another five minutes. Down 110-107 in the final minute, Donte DiVincenzo hit a tying three with 54 seconds remaining, and Harrison Barnes nailed a go-ahead triple with just 12 seconds left to take the lead for good.

With the loss, Orlando falls to 20-55, tied for the worst record in the NBA with Houston.

  • Davion Mitchell has provided second-round value over the last week. He came into this one riding a two-game streak with at least 25 points and seven dimes, and he delivered yet again with 22 points, nine dimes, seven boards, two triples, one steal and a block.
  • There’s a chance we don’t see De’Aaron Fox the rest of the season, so Mitchell is a must-roster player and is available in 51% of Yahoo leagues. He averaged 18.2 points and 5.2 dimes in 11 prior starts.
  • Trey Lyles pulled down a career-high 18 rebounds and continues to be the most reliable frontcourt option for the Kings in the absence of Domantas Sabonis. Lyles has been a top-85 player over the last two weeks and is rostered in just 16% of Yahoo leagues. Make sure to pick him up if you’re in need of percentages, points and strong rebounds.

Raptors 131, Pacers 91

This one got delayed toward the end of the second quarter when a speaker caught fire (funny enough, the song playing at the time was “Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys). Indiana was probably hoping the game would get canceled, as the team lost by a whopping 40 points. There weren’t too many fantasy takeaways here, but we’ve still got some actionable advice.

  • Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield are obviously must-plays who will see a ton of minutes every night when available.
  • Oshae Brissett has been a strong option as of late, and whatever big man is available should be a great play as well.
  • Jalen Smith finished with 15 points, six boards and three blocks, and he still needs to be on more fantasy rosters.
  • Justin Anderson totaled 18 points, six boards and four dimes. He’s only 1% rostered on Yahoo, which is criminal. Make sure to add him while you can.
  • Chris Boucher had one of his good games with a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double. He remains volatile on a night-to-night basis.
  • Precious Achiuwa led the bench with 18 points, and he added six boards, four assists and four triples. He’s still just a deeper-league guy best used for points.
  • Much to the chagrin of fantasy managers, Fred VanVleet was forced out of this one early because the delay of game was too long, and his knee wouldn’t stay warm. There was no reason to play him in a game that was already out of hand. He should be available for Toronto’s next game.

Bulls 98, Cavaliers 94

Chicago controlled this one in the first half with a commanding 53-35 lead through two quarters. The Bulls let the Cavs hang around though, and this one was much closer than it needed to be. Chicago closed it out and maintained its place within the top-6 seeds in the East. Cleveland is now in the play-in tournament at the 7 seed behind a Raptors team that blew out the Pacers on Saturday.

  • Nikola Vucevic played solid defense and held Evan Mobley and Kevin Love to a combined 14 points. Vooch averaged 9.0 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.7 triples, 2.3 assists and 2.0 stocks in three games prior to Saturday’s win.
  • DeMar DeRozan scored 20, and Zach LaVine led the team with 25, though neither contributed much in the way of peripherals.
  • Ayo Dosunmu finished with 11 points, five assists and two rebounds. He averaged just 9.1 points and 3.4 assists in seven prior games since Caruso returned. As long as Caruso is healthy, Dosunmu is no longer a must-roster player. It was a fun ride while it lasted.
  • Speaking of Caruso, he posted an excellent line of 10 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two triples while shooting 60% from the floor. The Bulls have a favorable schedule next week, so consider adding Caruso, who’s rostered in just 39% of Yahoo leagues.
  • Darius Garland led all scorers with 28 points, though he handed out just five assists and ended his double-double streak at four games.
  • Lauri Markkanen has averaged 18/7 with 3.2 triples over his last six, and he was excellent yet again with 14 points, nine boards, two assists, three stocks and a triple.
  • Caris LeVert had his minutes limit lifted for this game, and he contributed 17 points, five rebounds, three assists, a steal and a triple across 36 minutes. He could be a fine end-of-season play for those who held onto him.

Nets 110, Heat 95

The Heat lost a fourth straight for the first time all season, and in the process, Miami drops out of the top seed in the East and falls behind Philly. Meanwhile, Brooklyn closes the gap with Toronto and Cleveland to move up from the 8th seed. The Nets are on the rise, and Kyrie Irving is now cleared for home games. The Heat are playing poorly at the worst possible time with just seven games remaining before the postseason begins.

  • Kyrie Irving had a modest 11 points on 11 shots, but his elite offense wasn’t needed in the comfortable win. He averaged 38.7 points in six games prior. Look for a bounce-back game in his home debut against Charlotte on Sunday.
  • Likewise, Kevin Durant posted just 23 points, three rebounds and five dimes after averaging 36.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 7.3 assists over his last three.
  • Seth Curry returned to the lineup and posted 17 points, five triples and a steal. He’s averaged 15.5 points and 3.1 triples since joining the Nets and has slid comfortably into the vacant Joe Harris role.
  • Tyler Herro continued his cold streak with 13 points on 5-of-14 shooting. He added four rebounds, three assists, three steals and five turnovers. The soon-to-be Sixth Man of the Year need to break out of his slump soon to help Miami get a much-needed victory.
  • On a non-fantasy note, Andre Drummond gave us some excellent meme material with a Tyreke Hill peace sign on a fast-break dunk. Well done, sir.

Grizzlies 127, Bucks 102

No Ja, no problem. The Grizzlies extended their record to a ridiculous 17-2 without Ja Morant this season and did so against one of the best teams in the NBA. Those 16 other wins sans Ja haven’t just come against scrubs though. Of those, six have come against Toronto, Philly, Miami, Brooklyn and Dallas (2x).

  • Just two games after popping off for a season-high 23 points, Melton topped that with 24 on Saturday as he added six triples, three rebounds, three steals and two boards. He’s been a top-120 player over the last two weeks while knocking down 3.3 triples per contest in that span. Now if only he could get more than 22 minutes a night…
  • Desmond Bane came into this one averaging 25.7 points, 5.7 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 4.7 triples over the last three games. He kept the strong play going with 20 points, five assists, three rebounds and two steals.
  • After going for 6/17/6/3/3 in Thursday’s win, Steven Adams pulled down 11 more boards and added four points, five dimes and three stocks. His FT% and lack of offense drag his value down, but he’s done enough across the board recently to help out fantasy squads in crunch time.
  • Tyus Jones double-doubled with 13 points and 10 dimes. In five recent starts without Morant, he’s averaged 8.4 dimes while handing out at least 10 in three of them. If you’re looking for a reliable source of assists, he’s available in 71% of Yahoo leagues.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo went for 30 points, 11 boards, four dimes and four swats, so the loss wasn’t for a lack of trying on his end.
  • The Bucks are 6-7 without Giannis this season but just 4-10 without Jrue Holiday. Milwaukee will hope to get him back soon after he missed Saturday’s contest due to ankle soreness.

Nuggets 113, Thunder 107

The Thunder managed to keep it close yet again, and this group of upstart youngsters covered against a Denver team that was favored by an unfathomable 17 points. Oklahoma City is second only to Memphis against the spread this season, covering a ridiculous 63.8% of the time. When will the sportsbooks learn?

  • Nikola Jokic averaged 22/17/5 in his last two games against the Thunder, but he was even better in this one with 35/12/8/2/2. The reigning MVP isn’t going to cede this year’s race to Joel Embiid.
  • Aaron Gordon had 20 points and nine boards, but no one is surprised, as he did it against one of the weakest frontcourts in the NBA. He doesn’t typically put up numbers like this, but he’s not too far off either.
  • Bones Hyland cooled off on offense, but he had a strong all-around performance with nine points, six assists, three rebounds, two stocks and a triple. He’s available in 54% of Yahoo leagues. Make sure he’s not available in yours.
  • Theo Maledon started and scored 20 points for a second straight game. We’re coming down the home stretch of the season, so it wouldn’t be shocking if we didn’t see anymore of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey. Maledon could be a nice stream for next week, and he’s just 2% rostered on Yahoo.
  • Darius Bazley has been on a roll as of late, but he injured his knee and exited after just 14 minutes. The Thunder are so thin in the frontcourt that the next man up is Vit Krejci, who might find himself a silly-season option if Bazley is forced to miss time.
  • Aleksej Pokusevski finished with 17/5/5/2 and two triples. He’s had his ups and downs in most categories, but he’s averaged 2.3 stocks across his last six games. He should be picked up as this roster continues to sustain injuries.
  • Tre Mann ended with 15 points, five rebounds, three assists, two triples and two stocks after averaging 23.0 points, 4.3 triples, 4.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.0 stocks over his last three. He’s been the best fantasy option with Giddey and/or SGA sidelined.

Rockets 115, Blazers 98

Houston won 125-106 on Friday and took another W in Saturday’s rematch. The Rockets and Magic will be neck-in-neck to finish the season with the NBA’s worst record, though Orlando lost to Sacramento in overtime Saturday.

  • Jalen Green had another strong performance, and his play since the All-Star break has been markedly improved. Check out his numbers pre and post-All-Star break:
    • Pre: 14.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.9 triples, 38.7% FG
    • Post: 18.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.4 triples, 47.4 FG%
  • Green will likely come at a bargain in fantasy drafts next season, and he’s sure to blow past his draft-day ADP if he can sustain this level of play for a full season.
  • Alperen Sengun doesn’t get enough nightly minutes to be a consistent fantasy factor, but the talented rookie has flashed his upside on more than one occasion. He did so Saturday with a career-best 27 points to go with seven rebounds, three assists, two triples and a block.
  • Christian Wood came into this one with four double-doubles in his last five with averages of 21.0 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 3.0 triples and 2.2 stocks in that span, good for top-35 value. He cooled off here with 13 points, six boards, three stocks and two triples.
  • Brandon Williams totaled just 9/5/5 across his last two combined, but he bounced back nicely here with 15 points, eight assists, four rebounds, a block and a steal.
  • Drew Eubanks averaged 16.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting 66.7% over his last eight, and he extended his double-digit scoring streak to nine with his 14-point, 15-rebound performance Saturday. Continue to roll with him.
  • Trendon Watford, who’s averaged 15.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.4 stocks across his last eight games, hyperextended his left knee with just three minutes to go in this one. He finished Saturday’s loss with 15 points, 10 boards, five assists and two steals. Keep an eye on his status moving forward, as guys like Keon Johnson and Ben McLemore might see a bump in minutes if Watford is sidelined.