• Zach LaVine looked to be annihilating the Hawks from orbit on Friday when he scored an obscene 39 points in the first half. But Atlanta locked their sights on him after the break, managing to hold LaVine to 11 points in the second half and grab a 120-108 win. The Bulls star finished with “just” 50 points on the night. 

    And if scoring 50 in a loss wasn’t painful enough, LaVine was ultimately overshadowed by Jayson Tatum, who dropped a career-high 53 points in the Celtics’ 145-136 overtime win over the Wolves. He shot 16-of-25 from the field, 6-of-10 from three and got to the line for a career-best 16 attempts, nailing 15 of them. Tatum is once again thriving in the latter-half of the season, averaging 27.1 points on 49.7 percent shooting over the last month. The Celtics have won four of their last five games (albeit, against weak competition) but are still barely above .500 in the standings. Tatum will need to keep playing like he has over the last month if the Celtics plan to avoid making an appearance at the Play-In tournament. 

    Alongside LaVine and Tatum, Zion Williamson also impressed as the Pelicans put down the Sixers in a 101-94 victory. Point-Zion was in full effect as he matched his career-high with eight assists, pairing that feat with 37 points and 15 rebounds. With Lonzo Ball (hip) out tonight, Williamson was the team’s most capable (or at least, most threatening) facilitator. 

    And while these three young stars smashed the box score, Bradley Beal may have outshone them all with an absurd clutch play in the final moments of the Wizards’ 110-107 win over the Warriors. Down three with less than 10 seconds left in the game, Beal hit a clutch 3-pointer and drew the foul, getting to the line for a four-point play that put the Wizards up 108-107. Deni Avdija then nabbed a clutch steal, which forced the Warriors into fouling Beal once again. He knocked down both foul shots to ice the game and ended with 20 points on 43.8 percent shooting. Those numbers don’t look impressive when placed alongside LaVine, Tatum or Williamson’s box score, but in context, Beal’s on court play was just as important as the three young stars’ big games. 

    Add(s) of the Night

    Mo Bamba, C, Orlando Magic

    It appears one of the Fantasy world’s favorite per-minute monsters may finally have room to roam in Orlando. Bamba has played over 20 minutes in two consecutive games and put up excellent numbers in both. He had 14 points, two threes, six rebounds and three blocks tonight in 22 minutes and he likely would’ve been on the court longer had he not taken a brief trip to the locker room to address an apparent hip injury during the second quarter. Thankfully, it wasn’t serious and he returned to play out the 106-111 loss to the Pacers. With the Magic waiving Khem Birch earlier this week, the team is only really left with three players (Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr. and Chuma Okeke) to eat up minutes at the four and five spots. Birch’s absence does not directly correlate to more playing time for Bamba, but it does create the appearance that the organization is comfortable relying on him more frequently. As long as he can maintain playing time above 20 minutes, his talents should make him worthy of 12-team rosters. 

    Drop Zone

    Eric Bledsoe, PG/SG, New Orleans Pelicans

    Bledsoe had been enjoying an elevated role for the two weeks leading up to tonight’s 101-94 victory over the Sixers. With Lonzo Ball (hip) and Josh Hart (thumb) both out for extended periods at the same time that Brandon Ingram (toe), Zion Williamson (thumb), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (ankle) and Kira Lewis Jr. (calf) suffered shorter-term injuries, Bledsoe was essentially the team’s only reliable player for a two-week span. Accordingly, he was playing over 30 minutes every night during that time period after averaging just 29 minutes on the season. He turned that increased playing time into per-game averages of 15.9 points, 2.6 threes, 4.3 assists and 0.6 steals. Nothing mind-blowing, but enough to make it onto a roster in most leagues. With Ingram and Lewis returning to the floor tonight, Bledsoe played just 28 minutes and put up a meager nine points (3-of-9 shooting), one three, four rebounds and two assists. His time in the spotlight is over. 

    Injury List

    Friday Injury Notes

    Bradley Beal (right hip contusion) was probable and ultimately did end up playing in the Wizards’ win tonight.  

    Rajon Rondo (right adductor soreness) was ruled out of Friday’s 126-109 win over the Rockets. Fellow Clippers guard Patrick Beverley (left hand fracture) was also out, as it was announced earlier in the day that he would have surgery on his hand and be sidelined for three weeks. Reggie Jackson started for Beverley and was superb, scoring 26 points with six triples and seven assists. Keep in mind that Paul George (rest) had the night off, but nonetheless, Jackson should be on standard-league radars while Beverley recovers. 

    The Heat said today that Victor Oladipo (knee) would not be travelling with the team for their upcoming road trip, which subsequently rules him out for the next four games. 

    John Wall (rest) sat out the first leg of the Rockets’ back-to-back set tonight. We presume that means he’ll be good to go against the Warriors tomorrow. 

    Jamal Murray (right knee soreness) missed his third game in a row on Friday, as the Nuggets eked out a 121-119 win over the Spurs without their lead guard. 

    Domantas Sabonis (left ankle sprain) and Malcolm Brogdon (sore right hip) were both back in action for Friday’s 111-106 win over the Magic after missing the last three and four games, respectively. Myles Turner (left ankle), on the other hand, remained out tonight. 

    Clint Capela (left Achilles soreness) and Danilo Gallinari (left ankle soreness) both returned for the Hawks’ 120-108 win against the Bulls tonight.

    Brandon Ingram (right toe irritation) was finally cleared to play on Friday after missing five straight games, and his teammate Kira Lewis Jr. (right calf) also returned from a three-game absence. Unfortunately, Lonzo Ball (left hip) was held out after just returning to action three games ago. The Pelicans were hopefully just being cautious not to re-aggravate his hip injury. 

    Giannis Antetokounmpo (left knee soreness) sat out his fourth game in a row tonight, with Khris Middleton (right knee soreness), Jrue Holiday (left knee contusion), Brook Lopez (back soreness) and Donte DiVincenzo (right hip contusion) all joining him on the sidelines as the Bucks sat out their entire starting lineup. More on that below. 

    Brandon Clarke (left calf soreness) was back on the court Friday after missing two games. He had a quiet 19-minute outing, ending with five points, four rebounds and a steal. 

    Evan Fournier (health and safety protocols) has yet to be cleared for a return and the Celtics divulged today that he will miss the next three games, at a minimum.  

    De’Anthony Melton (left leg soreness) sat out a third game tonight as the Grizzlies fell to the Knicks in overtime 129-133. 

    Saturday Injury Notes 

    Kyle Lowry (toe infection) is questionable for Saturday’s contest in Cleveland, while Fred VanVleet (left hip flexor) has already been ruled out. 

    Jusuf Nurkic (right knee, injury management) will miss Saturday’s game against the Pistons. 

    Jerami Grant (right knee) and Wayne Ellington (rest) have been ruled out of Saturday’s bout with the Blazers, while Mason Plumlee (concussion) is questionable. Plumlee’s absence would leave the door wide open for Isaiah Stewart to drop a massive line. 

    Darius Bazley (bruised left shoulder) has been upgraded to probable for Saturday after missing the past 16 games. If he returns against the Sixers tomorrow, he could put a bit of a damper on Aleksej Pokusevski’s production. 

    Jordan Clarkson (right ankle sprain) has been listed doubtful to play against the Kings on Saturday. 

    Kyle Kuzma (left calf strain), Marc Gasol (left hamstring tightness) and Alex Caruso (left knee soreness) have all been listed questionable heading into the Lakers’ matchup with the Nets on Saturday. 

    Jarrett Allen (concussion), Larry Nance Jr. (illness) and Dylan Windler (left knee) have already been ruled out going into the Cavs’ clash with the Raptors on Saturday. Isaiah Hartenstein has done an excellent job filling in for Allen and Nance off the bench. He’s grabbed double-digit boards in three out of his last five games and can be rostered in standard leagues by teams in need of rebounds and blocks. 

    Milwaukee is Missing

    The Bucks sat out their entire starting lineup tonight. Of the five starters, only Giannis Antetokounmpo’s injury appears to be “real” as he’d missed the three games prior to tonight’s 119-127 loss to the Gordon Hayward- and LaMelo Ball-less Hornets. The other four starters had been entirely healthy before appearing on the injury report this afternoon. 

    When teams pull these kinds of moves, obscure players from deep in the rotation are suddenly granted the opportunity to put up game-changing numbers. For the Bucks tonight, their 2020 second-round pick Jordan Nwora led the team with 22 points (8-of-15 shooting), four triples and five rebounds while old-timer Jeff Teague scored 19 to go with six dimes. 24-year-old rookie Mamadi Diakite also had a nice game for deep leagues, scoring 10 points with five rebounds and two steals. Had you taken note of the Bucks’ aggressive resting strategy before this game, you had the chance to add any of these barely-rostered players for a one-off, matchup-shifting boost. 

    These sorts of opportunities are going to start popping up more and more as we head deeper into April. Random rest days for major players can be one of the most frustrating elements of season-long fantasy leagues, especially in playoff leagues. All your hard work can be for naught when, in the middle of the championship week, a team decides to give their star player a day off to keep him fresh for their own post-season. But this is something we’re all well aware of coming into the season. If your league is extending into April, then it will only benefit you to do due diligence on the deep end of rosters. Make sure you know who the Jordan Nworas and Mamadi Diakites of other teams are, so you can snap them up if and when other starting lineups get a night off. 

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