• We’re in the twilight days of the 2017-18 NBA regular season and still we get no reprieve from devastating injury news. Today’s headline is that Kyrie Irving has been ruled out for both the remainder of the season as well as the entire playoffs after requiring a second surgery on his ailing knee. Ouch, Celtics fans. I feel you. Kind of like most of my fantasy leagues this season, it’s going to be close, but not enough firepower in the end. That said, you do have Brad Stevens who will have to dig deep into his bag of miracles for boys in green to come out of the East.

    Battle-weary Warriors

    The Warriors put up an uninspired and “pathetic” (Steve Kerr’s word) effort in a 106-126 blowout loss to the Pacers. Yes, the Pacers. The quiet underdogs of the East, who should not be taken for granted. How could they not win? They have the year’s top breakout superstar in Victor Oladipo. Dipo had another impressive game with 21 points, six rebounds, seven dimes, three triples and three steals. Just another day at the office for the Most Improved Player in the league. He did get some help. Bojan Bogdanovic caught fire and deliriously bombarded the Dubs from downtown with six treys en route to his game-high 28 points. Shameful perimeter defense Warriors! Shame!

    Kevin Durant score his usual 27 points and Klay Thompson chipped in with 16 markers of his own. But clearly, their spirit was not in this game. Even the team’s heart and soul, Draymond Green had a sub-par night with nine points, three boards and five dimes.

    We know that it’s a matter of them flipping on a switch come the playoffs, but can they shift in time? Or are they simply no longer hungry enough and have just been too battered by injuries to go the extra mile? It’s a strong possibility.

    Bucks Were Stopped Here

    Speaking of upsets… Wow! The Nets put the Bucks to shame with this 119-111 win. Allen Crabbe and D’Angelo Russell combined for 47 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo had a rough shooting night (7-of-21 from the field) but still filled up the stat sheet with 19 points, 10 boards, seven dimes and four steals.

    Nets rookie Jarrett Allen was able to flash some of that promising outlook for next season with 10 rebounds and five blocks. He’s still raw, but games like this are reminders that he can be a big man to consider late in drafts come 2018-19. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson dropped a 14-11 double-double with four blocks of his own. Between both bigs, they pretty much had the Bucks stopped in the paint.

    Not even Khris Middleton’s 31-point game was not enough. Some holes in the Bucks’ game were made evident in this loss. They need better presence in the paint to complement their versatile stars’ game and tonight, it was not there.

    Rockets Keep Soaring Higher

    The Rockets escaped with a 96-94 win over the Lillard-less Blazers on Thursday. The good news for the Blazers is that their star guard intends to get back on the court on Saturday.

    As expected Chris Paul and James Harden put up big games, scoring 27 and 24 points, respectively.

    C.J. McCollum had trouble finding his shot but still finished the night with 16 points and Nurk Alert dropped a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double, but there was not enough firepower to follow through in their comeback run.

    In Lillard’s absence it would be Wade Baldwin IV who would step up in 32 minutes off the bench with 14 points, two treys and two steals.

    The Wizards Have a Rebuilt Wall

    The Wizards got some of the old John Wall back on Thursday as he dropped an impressive 26 points, 14 dimes, four rebounds, two triples and three steals. He’s closer to 100 percent now and clearly some of that rust that was slowing him down in previous games is no longer an issue. Unfortunately, that spirited performance was not enough to outclass a “King on a Mission.” LeBron James powered his Cavs to a 119-115 victory with his 33 points, nine boards and 14 assists.

    Kevin Love looked good with 16 points but still no George Hill (ankle). Jeff Green did some damage on offense with 21 points.

    On the fantasy end, Otto Porter did “Otto Porter Things” 18 points, eight rebounds, a steal and two blocks on some efficient shooting from both the field and the line. Bradley Beal flirted with a trip-dub with 19 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

    Down Goes Rubio

    The Jazz lost both Ricky Rubio (sore hamstring) and Jae Crowder (corneal abrasion) but still managed to pull out the 117-95 win over the Clippers on Thursday. Credit goes to Donovan Mitchell (19-5-5) and Rudy Gobert (15-10-3) who took care of business on both ends.

    It was not too tall a task with Tobias Harris and Lou Williams being limited to 11 and 12 points respectively. Even DeAndre Jordan was outplayed in the paint and recorded his first single-digit rebounding game since February 27th.

    The Jazz have an interesting and promising core that has found a way to jell after the All-Star break. A few improvements in their depth could help their rebuilding process go a long way in 2018-19.

    Still No Jimmy Butler

    Jimmy Butler was listed as “active” but received a DNP-CD with the T-Wolves likely playing it extra cautious with their star swingman. At least, he’s a step closer towards a return. Karl-Anthony Towns did his best to carry the team with a 26-point, 13-rebound performance, but it was not enough to get his pack in the hunt.

    The Nuggets got another big game from Nikola Jokic who tallied 16 points, 14 rebounds, nine dimes and a stuffed stat sheet. Jamal Murray was also a big factor with 22 points. Paul Millsap and Wilson Chandler struggled finding their shots, but Will Barton did a bit of everything and was the perfect glue guy to round out another impressive effort by the Nuggets to secure their 100-96 win.

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