• LeBron James made his return from a 20-game absence on Friday, but his big night was overshadowed by Jayson Tatum and the Celtics’ incredible comeback win over the Spurs in overtime.

    The Spurs got off to a hot start and were on pace for a blowout win, outscoring Boston 39-16 in the first quarter. Dejounte Murray had the best first half of his career with 20 points through the opening two quarters. The Celtics fell to a 32-point deficit and were met with boos from their home crowd. Jaylen Brown failed to score until the 3:00 minute mark of the second quarter, but found a groove after halftime and helped bring the game back within reach.

    Still facing a double-digit deficit at the start of the fourth quarter, Tatum stepped up to deliver a virtuoso performance. With a bevy of clutch shots, he put up 21 points in the final 12 minutes of regulation and, with 30 seconds left to play, nailed a step back three to give the Celtics their first lead of the night. If the game had ended there it would have been a tremendous success for Tatum, but overtime opened the door to a record-breaking night.

    Tatum scored 10 more points in overtime and finished with a career-high 60. That meant he matched the Celtics franchise single-game scoring record originally set by Larry Bird while becoming the only player in the team’s history to score 50 or more twice in one season. The Celtics solidified their comeback win at 143-130 and the Spurs were left with nothing more than their 10th loss of the month.

    Quick Hits

    1. To drive home just how magnificent Tatum’s career night was, he shot 20-of-37 from the field, 5-of-7 from three and 15-of-17 from the line. He somehow didn’t turn the ball over a single time and chipped in eight rebounds, five assists and a block.
    2. DeMar DeRozan also deserves his due for a great effort tonight. He scored 30 points while going 16-of-19 from the foul line and doling out a season-best 14 assists.
    3. As mentioned, were it not for Tatum’s interruption, LeBron James’ return would’ve been the biggest story of the night. He’s been sidelined since March 20th with a right ankle sprain (the longest absence of his career) and was back on the court tonight without any serious minutes limit. Accordingly, he played 31 minutes and finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals, a block and one three. Despite the return of their king, the Lakers still couldn’t get a win over the actual Kings, losing 106-110. With nine games left in the season and the Lakers sitting six games back from the fourth seed, we are now essentially guaranteed to see an incredible first-round matchup between the defending champs and either the Nuggets or Clippers.
    4. The Kings also welcomed back Marvin Bagley III tonight, who’s been on the sidelines since March 17th due to a fractured left hand. In 20 minutes, he scored 11 points with one three, four rebounds, an assist and two steals. The experience of rostering Bagley this season has yet again been a frustrating one, both for his fantasy managers and the Kings themselves. He was on the fringes of 12-team leagues before his extended absence and I don’t expect him to be a standard-league contributor in his first weeks back, so fantasy playoff hopefuls shouldn’t be afraid to leave him on the wire.
    5. The Cavs got Collin Sexton (head) back tonight against the Wizards following a three-game absence, but just as quickly lost Darius Garland to a left ankle sprain. Garland went down in the third quarter and did not return, with coach J.B. Bickerstaff later clarifying that the young guard’s ankle was “pretty swollen” after the game. Cedi Osman should be able to maintain a position in 14-team leagues if Garland has to miss time.
    6. With the Wizards’ 122-93 win over the Cavs, it seems all but a formality that they will secure the final spot in the Eastern Conference Play-In tournament. They sit three games above the Bulls and the Raptors, as the former is still without Zach LaVine (health and safety protocols) and the latter is heading into the most brutally difficult stretch of games any team has faced all season.
    7. The Suns now sit atop the league after their 121-100 win over the Jazz. The two teams are tied with equally impressive 45-18 records, but Phoenix owns the tiebreaker as they’ve beaten Utah in all three of their matchups this season. Devin Booker led the way with a game-high 31 points on 13-of-19 shooting, Mikal Bridges produced a packed stat line that included 18 points, four threes, three steals and two blocks, while Chris Paul backed up his young proteges with a modest 12 points and nine assists. I don’t expect him to win the award, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Paul creep up MVP ballots now that the Suns’ strong second half is really sinking in.

    Add(s) of the Night

    Lonnie Walker IV, SG/SF, San Antonio Spurs

    Walker has impressed in the two games he’s played since Derrick White (ankle) was ruled out for the season. Against the Celtics tonight he scored 24 points on 9-of-12 from the field and 4-of-7 from three, while he had 18 points with three triples against Miami this past Wednesday. His minutes and shot attempts have clearly taken a jump without White, so feel free to pick him up if you’re in need of scoring and threes.

    Drop Zone

    Xavier Tillman, PF/C, Memphis Grizzlies

    Tillman was admirable in the Grizzlies’ 92-75 win over the Magic tonight as he put up eight points and two threes alongside eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. Solid numbers, but Jaren Jackson Jr. (injury management) was resting and will be back in the lineup next game. Tillman’s role is essentially non-existent when Jackson and Jonas Valanciunas are both active, which is going to be the case more often than not.

    Injury List

    OUT on Friday

    Bogdan Bogdanovic (hamstring)

    Kemba Walker (oblique strain)

    Terrence Ross (back)

    Chuma Okeke (left ankle)

    Jaren Jackson Jr. (injury management)

    Grayson Allen (hand)

    Kevin Durant (rest)

    Giannis Antetokounmpo (knee)

    Donte DiVincenzo (toe)

    Zach LaVine (health and safety protocols)

    Lauri Markkanen (illness)

    Donovan Mitchell (ankle)

    De’Aaron Fox (health and safety protocols)

    Harrison Barnes (left adductor)

    Out on Saturday

    Jerami Grant (knee soreness)

    Mason Plumlee (rest)

    Cory Joseph (ankle inflammation)

    Wayne Ellington (calf strain)

    Myles Turner (partial plantar plate tear)

    Lu Dort (hip strain)

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (plantar fasciitis)

    Tyler Herro (foot soreness)

    Steven Adams (right first MTP sprain)

    Nickeil Alexander-Walker (high ankle sprain)

    Will Barton (hamstring strain)

    Monte Morris (hamstring strain)

    Serge Ibaka (back tightness)

    Kyle Lowry (rest)

    Chris Boucher (MCL sprain)

    Gary Trent Jr. (lower leg contusion)

    Questionable for Saturday

    LaMelo Ball (wrist fracture)

    Draymond Green (trapezius contusion)

    Kelly Oubre Jr. (wrist soreness)

    Domantas Sabonis (sore lower back)

    Malcolm Brogdon (hamstring soreness)

    Jeremy Lamb (knee soreness)

    Goga Bitadze (ankle sprain)

    Kristaps Porzingis (knee soreness)

    Maxi Kleber (lower leg soreness)

    Kawhi Leonard (foot soreness)

    Doubtful for Saturday

    Hamidou Diallo (knee soreness)

    Weekend Preview

    The Raptors, Mavericks, Hornets, Heat, Thunder and Rockets all have games on both Saturday and Sunday. With such a heavy suite of back-to-backs, there’s ample opportunity for clutch pickups. A streamer from any of those teams will give you a two-game bump for just a single add, so consider some of these options:

    Malachi Flynn – Adv. Roster Percentage: 56%

    Kyle Lowry (rest) has been ruled out for Saturday, while Fred VanVleet will presumably play, but could very easily sit out the second half of the back-to-back on Sunday. Flynn has already been performing like a 12-team guy over the past three games despite playing alongside both of the team’s veteran guards, so with a guaranteed start ahead of him tomorrow night, the rookie should be the top streaming option for the weekend.

    Cody Martin – Adv. Roster Percentage: 7%

    Martin is averaging 9.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals over the Hornets’ last three games, placing him inside the top-60 in both 8- and 9-cat for the week. LaMelo Ball (wrist) appears likely to return by Sunday, but he should push Devonte’ Graham to the bench and leave Martin largely untouched. Any teams searching for a last-minute boost in rebounding and steals should have Martin near the top of their list.

    Jalen Brunson – Adv. Roster Percentage: 60%

    Like Anthony, Brunson has been a standby all season long for his scoring efforts. He’s generally good for double-digit scoring while adding in a handful of assists (3.5 dimes per game on the season). Kristaps Porzingis (knee) is questionable for tomorrow’s game as well, and the Unicorn getting some rest would open up more offensive opportunities for Brunson.

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