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Nickeil Alexander-Walker finally comes alive in win over Trail Blazers

Nickeil Alexander-Walker

Nickeil Alexander-Walker

Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

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The Wizards @ Nets game scheduled for Tuesday was postponed, so only five games this time around. All of these games saw double-digit victories in their final scores, so no nail-biters this time, but still plenty to unfold.

Heat 125, Pacers 96

The Heat blew this one open pretty early despite no Jimmy Butler (tailbone) or Bam Adebayo (thumb), and they still managed to hit a franchise record tying 22 three-pointers (on 49 attempts) in the easy win. Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro scored 26 points apiece, with the former hitting six triples and Herro hitting five on a combined 18-of-33 mark from the field overall. Robinson actually had a pretty nice layup package too, as six of his 16 attempts from the field came from inside the arc, which is a rarity given that he’s among the league leaders in three-point shot frequency with 82.4% of his attempts coming from range. These two were basically just scorers with Herro’s five assists being the only other contribution to the box score of both of these, but that’s just how Robinson is and Herro will usually get more than a single rebound a night. Kyle Lowry double-doubled without points and would’ve gotten a triple-double easily if the game was close, and he ended his evening with eight points, 11 rebounds, 12 assists, two steals and three turnovers in 30 minutes, and also passed Jerry West for 32nd place on the NBA all-time assist list. Miami’s usual bench guys that are getting extra run lately are proving to be absolutely lethal and have showed off the depth of this team quite nicely, starting with Max Strus’ 18/7/4 night with four treys on 7-of-15 shooting, and Gabe Vincent helping my point with a 13/3/2/1/1 line of his own, both efforts coming in starts this time around. Omer Yurtseven played two more minutes than starter Dewayne Dedmon (5/8 with two blocks) and had a full line of eight points, 13 rebounds, one assist, two steals and two blocks before fouling out, and he’s now hit double digits in the rebound department in three straight games and has played just over 20 minutes on average in those. If this holds, go ahead and give him a look if you need some boards and a dash of defensive stats. Even KZ Okpala had a nice night with 16 points with a pair of threes in 23 minutes, and fan favorite Udonis Haslem hit one 3-pointer in his six minutes but he just gets a mention because he’s Udonis Haslem, while Okpala isn’t a standard-league guy but has had some decent showings.

This may have been the Pacers’ worst game of the season, and it surely doesn’t help that Malcolm Brogdon only made it through eight minutes before exiting with right Achilles’ soreness (finished with one point, one board and two assists). He just can’t stay healthy and they’re already thin at point guard with T.J. McConnell (wrist surgery) still out for multiple months. If Brogdon misses time, which seems inevitable given his history, Indiana will have to rely on guys like Caris LeVert (17/4/3 with three triples) and rookie Chris Duarte (17/4/2 with two steals and two treys). LeVert has been better and may have a chance to get his assist numbers up if Brogdon is out for some games, and Duarte also gets a bump as demonstrated by Tuesday’s performance. Oshae Brissett had 14 points and a pretty nice line but isn’t a target despite playing minutes in the low-20s lately, while Domantas Sabonis (12/4/4, nothing else) and Myles Turner (9/7/1/1/2) were quiet in the blowout loss but at least Turner got his usual defensive stats.

Knicks 105, Pistons 91

The Knicks somehow let this one get close after being up as many as 22, and if they weren’t playing the Pistons they probably would have lost, but they get some credit for actually winning a game after dropping eight of their last 10 before Tuesday. Julius Randle had his usual with 21 points (8-of-18 FGs), 11 rebounds and three assists, but the lack of defensive stats (one steal), downward trajectory from range (1-of-6 3PT FGs) and turnovers (six) remain an issue. He’s so much better for points leagues and you can count me out otherwise, but at least he’s just clinging onto top-75 value, but it does matter that his ADP was about four rounds before that. Kemba Walker probably has coach Tom Thibodeau punching the air right now for ever benching him, as Walker followed up his 29-point showing on Saturday with a 21/8/5 line with a steal and three 3-pointers. He did shoot 8-of-21 from the floor, but all things considered there is no reason someone like him should just be warming the bench for virtually no reason, but this seems like a classic sell-high situation right before our eyes. Evan Fournier also played very well for the third straight game and is likewise coming back to life, posting a 22/2/3/1/1 line with four treys, but also needed 23 shots to get there. He’s averaging 25.7 points per game over his last three, but was averaging 6.2 points in his five games before that, so he could stink it up anytime now. Mitchell Robinson feasted and even started the second half in favor of Nerlens Noel (2/3/2/1/2 in 23 minutes without a single field goal attempt), and Robinson tallied a nearly perfect 17 points, 14 rebounds, one steal and three blocks in 25 minutes. He’s had great games in two of his last three and there’s no reason Noel should be starting over him, so we’ll see if Tuesday’s mid-game change sticks going forward. Alec Burks continues to start and had a 8/7/6 showing but on just 2-of-10 shooting, and he’s been off and on in his last few but should still be rostered in most leagues.

Saben Lee was the brightest spot on the Pistons and he took advantage of Killian Hayes (non-COVID illness) being sidelined, as Lee went for a team-high 16 points with three rebounds, three assists, two steals, one block, one 3-pointer and zero turnovers in 25 minutes off the bench. Hayes’ illness is likely a short-term thing so I’m not in a hurry to roster Lee, but he’s done enough good things for me to at least monitor him going forward. Cory Joseph was the one that started for Detroit and he was fine with 15 points, three 3-pointers and not a ton else, while Saddiq Bey shot a miserable 5-of-19 from the field for 15 points, seven rebounds, three assists, one steal, and three triples. Cade Cunningham joined the poor shooting party with a 2-of-13 clip for a 7/9/8 line with a block and five turnovers, as did Hamidou Diallo (5-of-13), but he did snag away a career-high five steals with 10 points, six rebounds and an assist, and he hasn’t been bad and could be a low-end guy with Jerami Grant (thumb) out for at least six weeks. The same could be said about Trey Lyles (13 points, five rebounds, one triple one block), but he’s not getting enough nearly as many minutes as Diallo and the Lyles’ inconsistency along with minimal upside anywhere has me staying far away.

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Pelicans 111, Trail Blazers 97

Nickeil Alexander-Walker finally, and I mean finally, got it going in Tuesday’s win over the Blazers with 27 points (10-of-16 FGs), three rebounds, four assists, a career-high tying six 3-pointers and four turnovers in just 26 minutes. He had a massive fourth quarter with 18 of his points coming in that frame, and I cannot begin to emphasize just how much he needed a big game like this. Going back to his previous 11 games before Tuesday, NAW had hit over 40% of his shots from the field just one single time and converted on a putrid 33.1% of his looks in that span and was probably cut by some managers, and rightfully so. He had some nice games early on in the season and then disappeared almost completely, and he hasn’t really been doing anything else on the stat sheet to really help your team out. I still wouldn’t consider him must-roster, but it’s really tough to leave someone capable of nights like this one on your wire, so feel free to take a chance to see if he can build on it. Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart were both awesome, but that’s really not news these days as Ingram flirted with a triple-double with 28 points (12-of-22 FGs), eight rebounds, eight assists, two treys and three turnovers, while Josh Hart put up a full 20/5/5/3/1 line on 7-of-10 from the floor with three giveaways. Ingram has matched his third-round ADP over the past two weeks and is heating up very quickly, and Hart looks like one of the best sleeper (if not waiver wire hero) picks of the season so far and is still available in 31% of leagues for some reason. Jonas Valanciunas had 10 and 16 with a block and battled a bit of foul trouble, which opened up 17 minutes for Willy Hernangomez, who tallied 13 points with six boards and two assists. Hernangomez isn’t playing enough to be worth rostering, but if JV misses time for any reason, you know what to do. Devonte’ Graham was fine with 10 points, two rebounds, five dimes, one steal, two triples and two turnovers, while all of Herb Jones, Garrett Temple, Tomas Satoransky and Trey Murphy III combined for three points via a Herb triple (who is the only one of these four I’m interested in).

Damian Lillard gave it his all in the loss with 39 points on 13-of-24 from the field (7-of-8 FTs) to go with two rebounds, seven assists, one steal, six 3-pointers and one turnover in 40 minutes, and he’s been spectacular lately but he really just needs some more help. Norman Powell usually isn’t to blame and he was solid in 42 minutes with a 16/4/2/1/1 line with a pair each of threes and turnovers, while Nurkic was quiet on the glass but had a nice 17/5/4/2/1 evening in 33 minutes, and the fact that there’s a block there is good given it’s his only block over the last five games (which is really weighing down his barely top-100 value). Larry Nance Jr had another sneaky good line with 10 points, six rebounds, two assists, four steals and even two 3-pointers in 28 minutes and he should be rostered until further notice as Portland’s new starter. Robert Covington, whose place Nance Jr. took, had his usual defensive stats within his 7/5/2/2/1 effort and you just have to accept he’s not going to help you with scoring but at least gives you 2.4 combined steals and blocks per game.

Mavericks 114, Timberwolves 102

The Mavs were without Luka Doncic (left ankle soreness) and Kristaps Porzingis (right toe soreness), along with Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber and Reggie Bullock, who are all in health and safety protocols. Jalen Brunson went nuts for 28 points (10-of-18 FGs, 5-of-8 FTs), two boards, six assists, three steals, one block, three 3-pointers and two turnovers in his 40 minutes, and he continues to be awesome with the Mavs decimated lately and is a must-start guy right now. Dorian Finney-Smith was the only one to play more than Brunson and tallied a 19/6/5 line with three treys and two steals in 41 minutes and similarly is in must-start territory right now with the Mavs banged up, while Sterling Brown started and had a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double with three assists but has done a whole lot of nothing before this, so he’s just a potential streaming option next time out. Even Dwight Powell was pretty good with 15 points and eight boards but no defensive stats, while Frank Ntilikina did nothing in a start, Marquese Chriss had eight boards in 16 bench minutes and there was even a Boban sighting with 10 points in eight minutes. Theo Pinson gets a mention as he was just signed by the team yesterday, and he had a 7/4/2/4/1 showing in 22 minutes and became the only player besides Terance Mann to record such a line in less than 25 minutes of action this season, so that’s fun, but I’m not targeting him.

Karl-Anthony Towns had a nearly pristine night despite his five turnovers, shooting 9-of-14 from the field for a 26/14/7 line with three 3-pointers and a pair of swats in 38 minutes and he’s been a first-round guy for just about the entire season and has a shot to post massive lines on any given night. Malik Beasley got the start with Patrick Beverley entering protocols and was most importantly efficient with an 8-of-15 shooting effort on his way to 22 points, three rebounds, two assists, six 3-pointers and four turnovers in 35 minutes, and he’s your guy if you need some points and triples for a few games but there’s a slim chance he makes half of his shots next time out. D’Angelo Russell had a 14-point, 12-assist double-double with a steal and a three-pointer, but he shot 4-of-18 from the floor and his triple was his only make from there in 11 tries. His efficiency has been an issue all season but his passing and defense is better at least, so if you can stomach nights like these, you can stomach most D’Lo games. Jaden McDaniels was pretty good with 11 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals in 39 minutes and is yet another short-term add with Jarred Vanderbilt in protocols as well, while Leandro Bolmaro started but played just 11 minutes with just two rebounds and one turnover to his name, so he’s not even a streaming or DFS option if he starts again.

Suns 108, Lakers 90

The Suns looked awesome in the blowout win over the Lakers, with seven guys scoring in double figures and playing elite defense everywhere at all times. Devin Booker led the attack with 24 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, one steal, six treys and five turnovers in 32 minutes, and this was his first full workload since returning from his hamstring injury and I think he’s fine. Deandre Ayton double-doubled with 19 and 11 on a 9-of-11 shooting mark, adding two assists, two steals, two turnovers and still no blocks in 27 minutes, while Mikal Bridges had a rare off night via 5-of-17 shooting but still had a fun and turnover-free 14/5/1/1/2 line. Chris Paul scored 11 with nine assists and a steal and my only issue with him in fantasy despite his success thus far is that he doesn’t always have to be great on a team that’s so good, but this will still do. JaVale McGee posted a 10/10 double-double with a block in just 16 minutes off the bench, and I still think he can be rostered with Ayton healthy with a ridiculous per-36 line of 24.5 points and 16.9 rebounds per game. Both Cams had solid lines with Johnson scoring 14 points with eight boards, one assist, two steals and four 3-pointers and Payne recording a 10/5/5 line with three steals in 23 minutes.

LeBron James turns 37 in a few days and has officially been playing in the NBA for more than half of his entire life, yet he still has to carry this team on his back night in and night out. He scored a game-high 34 points (13-of-19 FGs, 6-of-6 FTs) with seven rebounds and two each in the assists, steals, turnovers and triples categories, but he landed on Jae Crowder’s foot going up for a shot in the third quarter and tweaked his left ankle. He was definitely in some pain but he got up and continued to play through it, but there was little reason to play him much more given the makeup of the game. He’ll be on the injury report ahead of Thursday’s matchup with the Spurs, and while some adrenaline likely helped him play through the pain in this one, he may miss some time to get his ankle right. Russell Westbrook gets no analysis for his 22/10/5 line with two steals and seven more turnovers, and Trevor Ariza was the only other Laker to do anything else with 12 points, five rebounds, two steals and three triples in 21 minutes. Oddly enough, he has yet to miss a shot this season, but he did nearly airball a free throw tonight - I’m more interested to see how long it takes for him to miss a shot than I am in having him on my fantasy team. Then we have the trio of Isaiah Thomas, Talen Horton-Tucker (first game back from protocols) and Carmelo Anthony, who combined for 13 points on, wait for it, 4-of-31 shooting. That’s right. THT was 1-of-13, Thomas was 1-of-11 and Melo was 2-of-7, which brings their combined shooting clip to 12.9%. If I’m not mistaken, that is not going to win you games, and LeBron can only do so much without Anthony Davis’ help, so they need to see what they can do to start winning more consistently.