August 1, 2020, 6:40 am
Hello! “Welcome back, NBA!” That’s pretty much what the action from Friday night’s games exclaimed to the rafters. There was no short supply of exciting basketball action with two games going into overtime. Yes, these guys mean business and are playing for keeps. These seeding games are no joke and many teams not just want to improve on their standings but also make statements as they warm up for the playoffs.
Add(s) for the Night
There were many impressive performances from outlier players who stepped up their game this evening and with only seven games left for the teams that played tonight, it’s tough to do a deep-dive into who are worth grabbing off the wire.
To simplify the process, it’s best to take a look at the team’s current game plans as they tend to shine some light on the context of the production of players in these games.
Sure, Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot popped off for 24 points, hitting five 3s in the process, but can you really trust him to replicate this feat in the Nets’ next game? Not likely.
Gary Trent Jr., SG/SF, Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers played a tight rotation on Friday, deploying just eight players in what was a tightly contested OT win vs. the Grizzlies. Trent was one of three guys off the bench who the team leaned on to deliver and that he did. His 26 minutes, while not eye-popping, is decent considering he was able to deliver 17 points (four 3s), two dimes and a block.
The Blazers need someone to keep the offense going from the bench and Trent, who is a solid shooter, fills that role quite perfectly. He’s going to bring a decent scoring game with an emphasis on 3-point shooting to the table, so if that’s what your fantasy team needs right now, don’t hesitate to give him a long look.
Lonnie Walker IV, SG, San Antonio Spurs
Walker started for the Spurs tonight and rewarded them for the trust given to him with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting, adding three rebounds and four dimes in 32 minutes.
The Spurs appear committed to giving Walker some leash to let loose and play his game. As long as he doesn’t commit any rookie mistakes, his minutes should be secure moving forward.
It should be noted, however, that the Spurs were without Bryn Forbes this evening who was on the sidelines with a sore right quad. That said, even if Forbes does return to action, it doesn’t look like he will impact Walker’s starting job.
It’s a tough call to drop a player after “just one game,” but you have to consider that that one game was 14.3 percent of the eight games of the resumption of the season. There’s no room for error here. So if someone is not playing up to snuff, it’s a good idea to move on because in fantasy restart leagues we cannot afford the luxury of patience given the number of total games being played.
Harrison Barnes, SF/PF, Sacramento Kings
Despite playing 37 minutes in tonight’s game, Barnes failed to produce any significant numbers to warrant keeping him beyond this point. 10 points, seven rebounds and two steals is something you’re likely to be able to find off the wire. Or better yet, you can move and find someone else who has a more wide-open field to do some damage for his team.
The Kings’ focus is squarely pegged on their trio of guards – De’Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Buddy Hield, Hield’s awful showing tonight notwithstanding. There’s simply not enough left on the table for Barnes to bring the fantasy juice for his owners.
Also not working in his favor is his historical penchant for delivering vanilla performances at times, something we all need to socially distance ourselves from at this stage in the game.
Moritz Wagner, PF/C, Washington Wizards
Wagner was a late-round flier for some people in restart-league drafts, hoping against hope that he’d be able to step up in the absence of Davis Bertans, who opted out of playing in the NBA’s restart.
Unfortunately for the managers who decided to roll the dice on Wagner, who by the way, was actually decent in some spots before the hiatus, he played only 14 minutes and was a no-show in the box score. He was a failed bet and it’s now time to cut bait and look elsewhere in the FA pool for usable value.
Firstly, here’s a rundown of players who’ve tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and played tonight: Marcus Smart, Justin Anderson, Russell Westbrook, James Ennis III, Ricky Rubio, Aaron Baynes, Buddy Hield, and Thomas Bryant
Jonathan Isaac (left knee) was able to play 16 minutes and made the most of his time on the floor, going for 16 points, two 3s, six boards and one steal.
Aaron Gordon played through a sore groin, but still managed to put up a low-end double-double with 10 points and 11 boards.
Markelle Fultz (re-conditioning) came off the bench in the Magic’s game and saw 19 minutes of playing time, scoring eight points.
Jusuf Nurkic (fractured leg) and Zach Collins (shoulder surgery) made their returns to the Blazers in tonight’s re-opening of the season after lengthy absences from the court. Nurkic was back to his old tricks and put up a monster line with six blocks. Collins started at power forward but had a less impressive showing.
Damian Lillard (foot inflammation) showed no signs of being slowed by the injury that kept him from scrimmaging with the team as he rocked a 29-5-9 line with two triples in 45 minutes.
Dario Saric, slowed by a sprained left ankle prior to this game, came off the bench and was reasonably productive, chipping in 16 & 6 in a winning effort over the Wizards. Cameron Johnson replaced him in the starting lineup.
Thomas Bryant (stress reaction in foot) was true to his word that he’s back to 100 percent after the lengthy break and played in a team-high 34 minutes on Friday. He looked a bit rusty though, scoring 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting.
Both Eric Bledsoe and Pat Connaughton missed Friday’s game as they are still undergoing re-conditioning following their recovery from the COVID-19 virus.
Marco Belinelli sprained his ankle early in Friday’s game against the Kings and did not return after only 15 minutes on the floor.
As expected, Eric Gordon missed Friday’s game against the Mavs. Danuel House Jr. started in his stead and put up an excellent performance with 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including six made 3-pointers.
Two games needed an extra period in order to come up with a resolution on Friday night which means that the games were pretty close and went down to the wire in the dying seconds of regulation – something that never fails to make for exciting basketball.
Memphis Grizzlies 135 – 145 Portland Trail Blazers (OT)
Both of these teams showed up played hard. The Grizzlies and Blazers are currently eighth and ninth in the Western Conference standings, respectively. So this contest was important for both teams as far as their hopes of qualifying for the play-in tournament to enter the playoffs is concerned because it was against one of their closest competitors for those highly coveted spots.
Jaren Jackson Jr. delivered a phenomenal performance on the offensive end, leading the Grizzlies with 33 points on 10-of-22 shooting, including 6-of-15 shooting from deep and 7-of-9 shooting from the free throw line. Rookie Ja Morant quarterbacked their defense with a 22-point, 11-assist double-double. Last but not the least, came fellow rookie Brandon Clarke who was excellent with 21 points, seven rebounds, one steal and two blocks of his own. It was Clarke’s layup with 32.1 seconds left that tied the game at 124-124 to help the Grizzlies force the overtime.
The trio were an impressive force to be reckoned with. Both JJJ and Clarke were beneficiaries of Jonas Valanciunas getting slowed by foul trouble and only seeing 14 minutes of action, limiting his production to only 16 points and four rebounds. At the end of the day, the game was able to shine a bright spotlight on the team’s young core and how well they can perform when an important game is on the line. It was an encouraging and valiant effort but the Blazers were able to lean on their experience to pull out the victory in the end.
C.J. McCollum led the charge for the Blazers, running hot with 14-of-21 shooting from the field to end the night with 33 points of his own, adding six assists and two steals. His backcourt mate Damian Lillard shook off the effects of a previously (possibly still) inflamed foot to put up 29 points, five rebounds and nine dimes. Carmel Anthony turned back the clock to his Denver days as he slid over to the small forward position and gave the Blazers 21 points and seven boards.
However, the biggest head-turner of the night from the Portland squad came from Jusuf Nurkic, who started at center and proceeded to show flashes of his former, pre-injury glory with a well-rounded performance highlighted by 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists and six blocks. His effort on the defensive end speaks for itself but it was his strong presence in the paint that was partly responsible for giving Valanciunas some headaches and foul trouble to boot.
In the end, the Blazers took control in OT as both McCollum and Gary Trent Jr. hit key 3-pointers to give them a comfortable enough lead that they were able to keep the feisty young Grizzlies at bay.
Houston Rockets 153 – 149 Dallas Mavericks (OT)
This battle of Texan clubs was one for the books as former MVP James Harden outdueled potentially future MVP Luka Doncic to pull out this important win. The Rockets are currently fifth in the Western Conference with a 41-24 record before this win, while the Mavs are not too far away with a 40-28 slate, good for a current seventh-place spot in the standings (previously 2.5 games behind the Rockets).
Harden put up the fantasy line of the night, going off for 49 points (14-of-20 FGs, 18-of-21 FTs), nine rebounds, eight assists, three triples, three steals and three blocks. A Monster. However, history has taught us that the Rockets still lose games even with their best player exploding and going ballistic like he did tonight. So, it was a good thing that he got some good help from Russell Westbrook, who came through with 31 points, 11 rebounds and eight dimes.
Even with the Rockets’ backcourt duo combining for 70 points, the real shoutout has to go to Robert Covington whose heroics at the rim as he tipped in a shot with 3.3 seconds left allowed the Rockets to tie up the game at 139 all and force overtime. In overtime, the Mavs sent Harden to the stripe one too many times and the Beard punished them with clock-free scoring. He sank 4-of-4 shots from the line in the last 27.5 seconds of the extra period which proved critical for the Rockets four-point margin.
The Rockets played only eight guys, leaning heavily on their starters, which paid off in a huge way as usual role-players like Covington, who put up 13 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals and four blocks, and Danuel House Jr., who exploded for 20 points (six 3s), stepped up in a big way. They were able to provide the extra scoring punch that the Rockets have often been looking for when they’ve lost tightly contested games like this in the past.
Wow. That was a heck of a lot of exciting basketball squeezed into two games and two extra periods. Hold onto your seats people! The NBA is back and is officially bringing its A game.