• Thursday night brought us a slate of five games and thankfully it did not have too many news items on injuries. Instead, we were blessed with more than a few excellent fantasy performances to warm our hearts for a change.

    For starters, let’s get the injury news out of the way.

    Austin Rivers dislocated his finger in the Clippers’ game against the Trail Blazers. He could be in line to miss a few games, leaving the Clips extra thin at the wing. If he should miss time, expect more production from Lou Williams and Wesley Johnson.

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    Bullish on Markkanen

    Lauri Markkanen has been great as a starter for the Chicago Bulls and recorded his second double-double performance in his last five games with 14 points and 12 boards. Markkanen leapfrogged Nikola Mirotic (concussion) and Bobby Portis (suspension) on the depth chart. Markkanen should remain the player to own even when those two return to action. His numbers will dip but the starting gig is his to lose.

    Jerian Grant has quietly been averaging 7.3 assists per game and had a solid performance last night with 11 points, seven dimes and two steals. Kris Dunn is expected back soon but Grant has a firm hold on the starting job for now.

    Robin Lopez continues to be solid as a rock for the Bulls. He dropped 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks.

    It was easy for the Bulls to come away with this 91-86 win.

    Kent Bazemore filled up the stat sheet with 16 points, five boards, three dimes, three steals and a block for the Hawks. He did a good job stepping up while Taurean Waller-Prince (three points, 28 minutes) fell flat.

    Mike Muscala had himself a nice double-double with 14 points, 10 rebounds, a steal and a block in a spot start for the injured Ersan Ilyasova.

    “Big Al” steps it up

    Al Horford was a model of efficiency on Thursday for the Celtics. He made 11-of-14 shots from the field and 4-of-5 shots from beyond the arc to lead his team with 27 points, nine rebounds and four dimes. The spotlight has been on Boston’s younger players as of late but Horford reminded us last night of why he’s such a valuable big man in fantasy basketball.

    Kyrie Irving played solid as well with 24 points of his own and seven assists.

    Jaylen Brown struggled with his shot from all over, making just 2-of-10 shots from the field and 3-of-6 from the line. He did get a steal and a block to go with his nine points and nine boards.

    Marcus Smart (ankles) returned to action and eight points and four assists and a steal in 27 minutes off the bench.

    The Bucks were led by the stellar performance of Giannis Antetokounmpo, who dropped 28 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, three steals and a block. This is the first game Antetokoumpo scored less than 30 points this season. Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon (ankle) added 15 points apiece in the loss.

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    Cruising in Memphis

    The Grizzlies dropped the Mavericks, 96-91, led by the efforts of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, who scored 25 and 22 points, respectively. Gasol added 13 boards, while Conley chimed in with four dimes and a couple of treys. The Grizzlies got a boost on defense from Jarell Martin, who blocked five shots in 32 minutes.

    The Mavericks lost as their star rookie, Dennis Smith Jr. struggled in this game. He made just 4-of-14 shots from the field to finish with nine points and nine assists.

    Harrison Barnes did his best on the offensive end, delivering 22 points, 11 rebounds and not much else. Dirk Nowitzki was productive in 28 minutes on the floor with 14 points, seven boards and three steals. Nerlens Noel disappeared in 20 minutes with just five points and eight boards to his name.

    Griffin delivers in the clutch

    Blake Griffin helped the Clippers edge out the Blazers in a 104-103 win with a smooth 3-pointer as time expired. Not only did he deliver the win for his team, Griffin also was a beast in the box score with 25 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two treys and a steal. He’s been cooking since the start of the season and looks like he’s in for a big year. The key for him now is to simply stay healthy.

    Griffin’s partner in the paint, DeAndre Jordan, had a field day as he cleaned up on the glass with 18 rebounds. DA also had six points and three blocks. Kind of the line you’d expect from him on a good day.

    Patrick Beverley did not record an assist in 34 minutes but was able to score 13 points and bring down seven rebounds.

    Aside from Griffin’s clutch trey, the biggest surprise of the night came from Al-Farouq Aminu who erupted for 19 points on the heels of his 5-of-8 shooting from deep. He looked good as he completed his full line with six boards, two assists, three steals and a block.

    Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum “did their thing,” scoring 25 and 23 points, respectively.  Jusuf Nurkic got into foul trouble and was limited to 12 points and eight boards in 27 minutes.

    Boogie gets a huge revenge game

    DeMarcus Cousins went bonkers as he destroyed his former team with 41 points, 23 rebounds, six assists and three treys. DMC was simply unstoppable and went HAM on the Kings to lead the Pelicans to a 114-106 victory.

    Jrue Holiday gave him some support with 20 points and seven assists in 41 minutes. He’s a sell-high guy right now, with his value sure to drop when Anthony Davis (knee) and Rajon Rondo (sports hernia surgery) return to action after dealing with their respective injuries. Another player whose value is getting a short-term boost is Jameer Nelson, who exploded off the bench with 18 points, four treys and six assists.

    The Kings were led by De’Aaron Fox who scored 14 points in 25 minutes off the bench. Willie Cauley-Stein and Buddy Hield added 12 points each.

    Remember, you can always reach me on Twitter: @FantasyHoopla, if you want to chat about fantasy hoops!

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