• A return from injury, a debut for a new team and yet another epic performance from James Harden. Those are the highlights from Thursday night’s two-game slate.

    Let’s take a quick look at the real-life and fantasy basketball action that transpired.

    Editor’s Note: You can get the Hoop Ball Premium Membership for FREE (normally $29.99) by signing up as a new user with DraftKings. Check this page to see how the promotion works.

    Masking the Madness

    Kyrie Irving shed his protective mask, against team doctor’s orders, and helped rally the Celtics to victory with a run in the fourth quarter. Clearly the fitted mask, meant to protect his minor facial fracture from further damage, was bothering him. Irving ended the night with 16 points on 25 percent shooting from the field (4-of-16). The imporant thing is the Celtics take their win streak to 14, against no less than the defending champions, 92-88.

    Speaking of being bothered, Stephen Curry‘s thigh contusion was still an issue. He was not 100 percent healthy when he took to the floor last night and it showed in his 9-point performance. He did log 31 minutes, so he should work his way back into regular season form as his thigh begins to feel better.

    Kevin Durant was his usual efficient-scoring self with a team-high 24 points but the fantasy spotlight was stolen by Jaylen Brown who had a solid line with 22 points, seven boards, three triples, two steals and two blocks.

    It was a disappointing shooting night for the Warriors, but they were not as bad as the Celtics’ Marcus Smart, who missed all seven of his shot attempts from the field to finish with one point, seven rebounds and three dimes. He’s now shooting in the 26 percent range, a major buzzkill in both 8 and 9-cat formats. Al Horford had a nice 18-point, 11-rebound double-double but Big Al failed to record a three, steal, or block in this game. Again, a litle bit more buzzkill, but the dub-dub was a decent consolation.

    The Celtics are on a crazy run, dropping not just bottom feeding teams but elite favorites as well. Could this be their year? Too early to tell, but it’s sure going to be fun to watch their journey this season.

    Let’s just hope Irving does not re-injure or aggravate his facial fracture…

    Scorching the Suns with Rocket-fueled power

    This was a slaughter. Chris Paul‘s return (11 points, 10 assists) was a huge nitro-infusion for the Rockets’ already high-octane offense. The biggest beneficiary was James Harden who was cooking with 48 points, six treys, seven dimes, two steals and a block. He was unstoppable with 12-of-22 shooting from the field and 18-of-18 from the line. Yeah, it was against the Suns, but the fantasy explosion was still praise-worthy just the the same.

    Ryan Anderson joined in on the 3-point shooting fiesta, making six triples of his own, en route to his 24-point night. Clint Capela delivered with a 12-point, 10-rebound performance and Eric Gordon was noticeably quiet with 13 points in his return to the bench.

    Greg Monroe started at center in his debut for the Suns. Moose looked good out there, dropping a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Devin Booker took charge of ball distribution with 18 points and 10 dimes, doing his best to compensate for the utterly terrible play of both Tyler Ulis (eight points, four assists) and Mike James (1-of-13 shooting). We should expect more play making from Booker moving forward as the light of hope for value from those other two guards gets lost in the darkness.

    Marquese Chriss is lost in the Abyss of foul trouble still. He was limited to five points in 16 minutes of action.

    Harden rules! “M.V.P. chants” are officially in order. Chris Paul does make him better, not worse people. Get with the program.

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

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