March 16, 2017, 12:56 am
We’re at the stage of the fantasy NBA season where every decision matters. Tough judgment calls have to be made. The question is, “do you have the heart of a champion, to make those kinds of moves?”
Real-life teams who are out of the running are shutting down players while placing their focus on younger guys who could represent the future of the franchise. In most re-draft fantasy leagues, however, we only care about the here and now.
It was an interesting Wednesday night, to say the least. DeMarcus Cousins, who always wears his heart on his sleeve, got another technical foul and is now on the brink of another one-game suspension. LaMarcus Aldridge, who actually had a literal heart issue (arrhythmia), returned to action for the Spurs; and despite being a bit rusty, was present and ready to help them make a run at another title. John Wall owners’ hearts collectively skipped a beat when the guard was originally listed as questionable to return to the game with an injured foot, only for him to return after the halftime break and play his full complement of minutes.
The defending champions, Cleveland Cavaliers, have been struggling; but Kevin Love is reportedly ahead of his 6-week timetable and could return this weekend to help lift his team.
I have a bye this week in one league and I’m not sure I have the heart to drop Kevin Durant for my semi-final match-up. Tough call.
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Charlotte Hornets 77, Indiana Pacers 98
Paul George was a one-man wrecking crew for the Pacers, torching the Hornets for 39 points, hitting 6-of-10 from downtown.
This was definitely a game where Charlotte could have used Nicolas Batum’s perimeter defense. Speaking of Batum, he had a CT scan on his brain to help figure out the cause of bad headaches that have been keeping him out of commission over the last couple of games. The results came back negative. Still, we don’t know when Nic will return to action, and until then Jeremy Lamb is a good add especially as a handcuff.
Kemba Walker struggled in this game but should bounce back in the next one. He does play better alongside Batum, FYI, so games like this can be expected.
On a positive note for the Hornets, Frank Kaminsky looks healthy enough to be productive, so much so that he led the team in scoring with 20 points in 31 minutes off the bench. He’s worth a pickup in standard leagues due to his ability to chip in across the board.
Dallas Mavericks 112, Washington Wizards 107
The big news here was that John Wall gave his owners a scare when he went to the locker room after injuring his left foot. He was initially questionable to return, but like the iron man that he is, John came back to start the second half and finished the game with 26-11-3.
Otto Porter appears completely free and clear of his post-Bojan Bogdanovic acquisition rut and dropped a cool 14-10-5 double-double of his own. To Bojan’s credit, he still got his in 24 minutes off the bench and delivered 19 points (three treys).
Dirk Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes, and Seth Curry did their thing and stepped up for the injured Wesley Matthews. Even Nerlens Noel was mildly productive in his return to action with 12 points off the bench.
The eye-opener of the game was how J.J. Barea outplayed starter Yogi Ferrell. Barea was the team’s main ball distributor, handing out 13 assists in 20 minutes off the bench. Yogi scored nine points and dished out three assists in 25 minutes. Yogi is trending down, while Barea is worth a look in deep leagues.
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Minnesota Timberwolves 104, Boston Celtics 117
The Celtics’ core trio of Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, and Avery Bradley brought home the win and Boston holds onto its second seed in the East. It pains me to say this, but Jae Crowder is just dreadful. It’s been several games now, but he’s actually a “sit” candidate despite the Celtics’ 4-game week ahead. Ouch.
The day Ricky Rubio learns to score, it will devastate the fantasy landscape. Today was that day. Rubio led, I repeat, led, Minnesota in scoring with 23 points. He also hit three triples and handed out seven assists. Holy cow! I’ve always been a naysayer when it came to Rubio, but his recent string of impressive games has me wanting a mulligan on those thoughts and statements in the past.
Nemanja Bjelica, who was picked up in several leagues due to his recent strong play, went down with an ankle injury after 11 minutes and is slated to get an MRI. It’s a tough call, but he might just have to be a catch-and-release play if he’s expected to miss time.
New Orleans Pelicans 112, Miami Heat 120
Goran Dragic exploded for 33 points after missing a game with a black eye. He strutted his stuff and the Heat crowd even chanted “MVP! MVP!” as he caught fire against the Pelicans. Hassan Whiteside dropped a sick 20-17-2 double-double and didn’t care that he was up against one of the league’s most imposing frontcourts.
Wayne Ellington is the three-point shooting specialist you want to own on your team as of late. He’s been silent and deadly. Yes, like a ninja, but with a basketball instead of ninja stars and in a basketball arena instead of the corridors of a castle in feudal Japan. Nevermind. You get the metaphor. Just grab him already. He shot 5-of-8 from deep in this one and has been just outstanding overall in recent games.
DeMarcus Cousins not only got T-ed up in this game but also left it with over a minute remaining and headed to the locker room and did not return. He got banged up when he got inadvertently kicked by James Johnson. He’s no softy, so his technical foul situation should be the bigger concern here.
Anthony Davis goes to the locker room in the middle, seemingly at least once a week. His ankle looks fine and AD with a big 27-8-3-3 line. Jrue Holiday was mildly mediocre with his 11 points and eight assists. Expect him to step up if/when DMC misses a game due to suspension.
Utah Jazz 97, Detroit Pistons 83
The Pistons are officially in a rut. Everyone disappointed their owners in fantasy basketball in this game with no exception. Ish Smith led the team with 16 points in 28 minutes off the bench. Yes, it was THAT kind of game. Sigh.
Gordon Hayward filled up the stat sheet for the Jazz with 25 points, nine boards, six dimes, four treys, and a steal. Rudy Gobert looked healthy and had a solid game as well with 12 points, nine rebounds, five assists, and four blocked shots.
Rodney Hood failed to score in nine minutes and is not worth the gamble in any leagues at this point.
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Memphis Grizzlies 98, Chicago Bulls 91
I’m calling it, grab Rajon Rondo. Now. He’s out of the Fred Hoiberg doghouse and has been showing flashes of his productive self ever since. Dwyane Wade is in need of an MRI for a badly sprained elbow. You know, Wade kind of things. That said, there’s even more of a need for Rondo and the rest of the Bulls to up their game. The spitfire point guard is trending up and even led the team in scoring 17 points in this one. He hit three triples, dished out eight assists, and pulled down six boards in the loss.
Speaking of getting some sunshine out of the doghouse, Nikola Mirotic has been outplaying starter, Bobby Portis, since returning to the rotation. Mirotic led the reserves in scoring with 14 points in 28 minutes. Bobby played 20 minutes and only had eight points and seven rebounds to his name.
There was nothing special of note from the Memphis side of things in this game. It was just another episode of the “Gasol-Conley show” with both stars dropping 27 points apiece.
Los Angeles Lakers 100, Houston Rockets 139
This game was all about Lou Williams bringing the “sweetness” off the bench with 30 points, on 7-of-9 shooting from downtown, four rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and a block. To be fair, James Harden also dropped yet another trip-dub with 18-12-13 but we’re all used to seeing that sight and have come to expect such things from “the Beard.”
Julius Randle had an excellent game and dropped a career-high 32 points that went with eight rebounds and two assists.
The Ivica Zubac dream is fading fast. Oops! You missed it. It’s gone. The big man played just 11 minutes and scored two points and grabbed two rebounds.
Jordan Clarkson started in place of D’Angelo Russell. JC responded with 18 points, three assists, and two steals. Russell was a letdown in 25 minutes off the bench, with five points on 2-of-10 shooting from the field. The only thing worse than that was Nick Young who missed all of his nine shot attempts and failed to score in 24 minutes as a starter.
Portland Trail Blazers 110, San Antonio Spurs 106
Yes, the Blazers upset the Spurs, but more importantly, the Nurk alert was back online in this game with 16 points, nine rebounds, four steals, and a block. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum did their thing with 36 and 26 points, respectively. Maurice Harkless has not found the bottom of his recent downward spiral and is already a must-drop at this point in standard leagues.
Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with what was arguably the fantasy line of the night with 34 points, nine rebounds, six assists, four treys, three steals, and two blocks. M.V.P. talk anyone? Anyone?
As mentioned earlier, LaMarcus Aldridge was back in action and it looks like the doctors’ go signal was enough for Pops to give LMA 32 minutes in his return. David Lee promptly moved back to the bench and can be dropped once again.
Sacramento Kings 107, Phoenix Suns 101
The Suns are reportedly shutting down Eric Bledsoe (knee soreness) for the season, making Tyler Ulis a must-add, must-own, must-start guard everywhere. He played 39 minutes and dropped a 13-13 double-double. This is a big blow for Bledsoe owners, obviously, considering how well he’s been playing. It’s rough, but Bledsoe might just be a drop right now as it is doubtful the Suns change their minds.
Skal Labissiere (yeah, gotta master how to spell that) went bonkers and exploded for 32-11 in 30 minutes off the Kings bench. He’s a guy worth a serious look, even in standard leagues right now.
Willie Cauley-Stein was great with 14 points, 11 boards, five dimes, four steals, and four blocks.
Tyreke Evans played 14 minutes off the bench and his sore ankle is not doing his waning outlook any favors. It’s time to drop him.
Milwaukee Bucks 97, Los Angeles Clippers 96
DeAndre Jordan exploded for a huge 22-17-2 double-double but it wasn’t enough to match the well-rounded team effort put forth by the Bucks. Both he and Blake Griffin are set to miss the Clippers’ upcoming game against Denver and Maresse Speights should see a temporary boost in value. Chris Paul had all sorts of struggles in this game. He scored six points and committed six turnovers in what was an uncharacteristic, inefficient night for the elite point guard.