December 29, 2017, 4:46 am
Five games, five storylines. An amazing comeback, a process failing to deliver, and unsung heroes stepping up for injured starters.
The year is ending and our eyes are trained on the future. We look ahead to 2018 and see what awaits us NBA fans, and that future is bright.
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Aaron Gordon is back and he performed well with 14 points, seven boards in 30 minutes. Elfrid Payton flirted with a triple-double and both their efforts were instrumental in landing the Magic a 102-89 win over the Pistons. Another eyeopener here was the double-double performance by Bismack Biyombo. He won’t score this much all the time but we expect to see big games from him down the road.
Andre Drummond was a beast on the glass with 18 boards to go with his 17 points and Tobias Harris had an encouraging 21-point game. Ish Smith played well, again, in another start for the injured Reggie Jackson.
Smith and Biyombo are must-own guys while the players they are starting for remain sidelined.
Luck of the Irish
It wasn’t luck that allowed the Celtics to come from behind and edge out the Rockets, 99-98. It was grit, drive, and a spirited effort that got it done. All of those things, and that the Rockets don’t really defend very well, or much at all.
Kyrie Irving dropped 26 points, Jayson Tatum stepped up with 19 points, while Marcus Smart filled up the stat sheet, overshadowing the 34-point, 10-assist game by James Harden. Eric Gordon played well once again, sans Chris Paul (abductor). Enjoy that boost while it lasts. Paul shouldn’t miss too many more games.
Time to Lick Some Wounds
Injuries, injuries, and more injuries. That’s what the Timberwolves are dealing with. They’re already missing Jeff Teague (knee) and the team lost Tyus Jones (finger) and Andrew Wiggins (ankle). Ouch! Jones and Wiggins’ statuses are up in the air until we get more info on the gravity of their respective injuries. Jimmy Butler struggled with his shot and still finished with 20 points and seven dimes. We should see him run the point and a little bit of Aaron Brooks (hopefully not too much), should Jones miss time. On a positive note, Karl-Anthony Towns hit four triples en route to his 22-point game and full stat line.
To the Bucks’ credit, Eric Bledsoe played some excellent defense, leading the Bucks with 26 points and five steals. Giannis Antetokounmpo dropped a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double, but the steals blocks are still not there. Maybe next game? Maybe? Please? On another positive note, John Henson did not miss a shot and finished with 14 points. Sadly, even he did not block any shots in this game.
Age is Just a Number for Pau Gasol
The 37-year-old racked up another double-double with 17 points, 11 boards and seven assists. Color me impressed. LaMarcus Aldridge led the charge with a 25-point game. Heck, even Danny Green made a rare appearance in this game with 15 points and five treys. Don’t hold your breath for him to repeat this performance. However, if he does, he’ll be worth a grab.
No Kawhi Leonard though. Hopefully, we’ll see him play more in 2018.
On the Knicks’ side the trio of Kristaps Porzingis, Courtney Lee, and Michael Beasley brought the goods. Frank Ntilikina looked good in 32 minutes off the bench, with nine points, 11 dimes and three steals. Stash him now for a potentially bright 2018 ahead.
It’s All About the ‘Bazz
Joel Embiid was awesome as he hit 6-of-12 3-pointers on his way to his 29 points. He’s special. That’s for sure. Unfortunately, even his impressive game was not enough to carry the Sixers for the win. Stats are nice, winning is better. In fantasy, stats is winning and we now just have to see him deliver the goods in back-to-back games to celebrate his greatness.
Robert Covington was still hampered by his injuries and was limited to four points.
The storyline here was how Shabazz Napier shook off a slow first half and came up huge for the Blazers. How huge? 23-point, career-high huge. As tempting as his performance in this game may be, Damian Lillard is not expected to be out much longer. He was instrumental in supplementing C.J. McCollum‘s 34-point explosion. Jusuf Nurkic overcame his bout of foul trouble and played a solid fourth quarter, finishing the game with 21 points and 12 rebounds.