• “Better late than never” is the best way to describe the recent returns of key fantasy assets on Wednesday. Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol returned to action and made an impact for their teams, both in real life and in fantasy basketball. Their ability to drop big numbers and their likelihood to play in the remaining games of the season are big reasons for their owners to rejoice and be optimistic a big finish.

    Speaking of big numbers, History will have to wait. Russell Westbrook was a rebound shy of eclipsing Oscar Robertson record of most triple-doubles in a season. Still, Westbrook won the game for the Thunder and dropped a monster stat line, nonetheless.

    James Harden was back in the starting lineup for Houston after missing his first game of the season with a case of the flu. He made up for his one-game absence with an all-around solid stat line for his owners.

    Miami Heat 112 – Charlotte Hornets 99

    The Heat are looking sharp and downing a reasonably tough opponent in the Hornets is a good indication that they could be a postseason dark horse.

    Stud: 

    Hassan Whiteside was a force in the paint with 13 points, 20 rebounds, a steal, and three blocks

    James Johnson took advantage of his insertion into the starting lineup and dropped 26 points, six treys, four boards, three assists, and two steals

    Dud:

    Frank Kaminsky was a reliable multi-cat contributor coming into this game and by those standards, his pedestrian 13 points, one trey, and one rebound.

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    Toronto Raptors 105 – Detroit Pistons 102

    After missing 18 games Kyle Lowry returned to action and boy did he deliver. Not only did he deliver in fantasy but also was key in the Raptors’ win.

    Stud:

    Kyle Lowry led Toronto with a game-high 27 points. He also added five rebounds, 10 assists, two treys, and two steals.

    It was not an amazing game by any stretch of the imagination, but considering Ish Smith was only recently relevant in fantasy, again, his 16 points, four rebounds, and six assists were solid contributions for teams that wanted an extra boost in dimes.

    Dud:

    Andre Drummond did grab 14 boards however his lack of both steals and blocks were a big downer. He’s been a solid rebounder all throughout the season, but anytime he drops a game with defensive numbers, such as this one, it burns owners who were counting on him to deliver the goods.

    Cleveland Cavaliers 114 – Boston Celtics 91

    The floundering Cavs may have just turned a corner and retook the solo top seed in the Eastern conference with this win. No one else was going to set a winning context for the team other than LeBron James.

    Stud:

    Obviously, LeBron James led his team by example. He took initiative and made sure his team knew what’s what. LBJ had an efficient scoring game, hitting 14-of-22 shots from the field, and 7-of-7 from the line to end the game with 36 points, 10 boards, six assists, a three, and two blocks.

    Kevin Love had a 15-16 dub-dub and a trey with zero turnovers to come in with an honorable mention.

    Dud:

    Avery Bradley (illness) was clearly not yet 100 percent when he returned to action. He’s missed a lot of games this season and it’s dulled the light of his breakout season. He’s also had underwhelming games like this one, showing that he’s slow to recover. Bradley disappointed owners with four points, seven rebounds, and a steal in 34 minutes. He’s likely going to play better than this game though.

    Value:

    J.R. Smith has quietly shown that he’s back in form in recent games. Smith scored 12 points, hit two treys, three rebounds, two steals, and a block.

    Denver Nuggets 104 – Houston Rockets 110

    The win allowed the Rockets to locked down the third seed in the West.

    Stud:

    James Harden’s return was overshadowed by yet another eye-popping performance by Nikola Jokic. His slow start for the season is way back in the rearview mirror, while his horizon holds an amazingly bright future. Jokic scored 12 points, grabbed 19 boards, dished out nine dimes, got five steals, and one block. The trip-dub flirtation has become ubiquitous when talking about Nikola’s fantasy output. He’s a clear dynasty league gem and an intriguing early pick for next season in re-draft leagues.

    James Harden also delivered a near-triple-double. He scored 31 points, grabbed seven rebounds, handed out 10 assists, got one steal, and blocked three shots. Harden’s rest day may have ended up being good for him at least as far as his remaining games are concerned.

    Dud:

    Eric Gordon shot a dismal 2-of-14 from the field, en route to his 11 points in 38 minutes off the bench. Lou Williams was almost as disappointing with nine points in 30 minutes. He did manage to pull down seven rebounds and hand out three assists, which paltry consolations considering his owners were counting on him for big points and threes.

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    Oklahoma City Thunder 103 – Memphis Grizzlies 100

    “MVP! MVP! MVP!”, need I say more? Well, if you’re cheering for James Harden to win the award, yeah I guess this might end up being a lengthy, albeit a valid discussion/argument/fist fight. Same difference. Seriously, I just wanted my personal vote for MVP out there.

    Stud:

    Still tied with Oscar Robertson for most number of triple-doubles in a single season, Russell Westbrook was a rebound shy of being immortalized. Still, he did put together a big game and get his team the win with a clutch three. Westbrook scored 45 points, hit an insane 8-of-12 shots from downtown, handed out 10 assists, grabbed nine rebounds, and got five steals. He did commit seven turnovers but at this stage of the game, well actually pretty much a long time ago, his owners in 9-cat leagues have learned to take the bad with all of the good.

    Not to be completely left in Westbrook’s dust, Marc Gasol delivered a big game in fantasy basketball as well. Marc showed no signs of an ailing foot in this game and dropped 23 points, five rebounds, five assists, hit three treys, got two steals, and blocked four shots.

    Dud:

    Both Steven Adams and Taj Gibson were not able to shine against Memphis frontcourt and dropped underwhelming lines. Gibson had eight points and seven rebounds, while Adams scored five points and pulled down 10 boards.

    Los Angeles Lakers 102 – San Antonio Spurs 95

    The Spurs have locked up the Southwest Division title and there was little need nor motivation to destroy the Lakers. Coach Pops found a sneaky way to give his guys some extra rest. He deployed his usual starters but Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge did not play in the second half.

    Stud:

    Tyer Ennis dropped a career-high 19 points on Wednesday as he took full advantage of the Spurs’ goofy rotation. He hit three treys, dished out six assists, and got two steals. He started for an injured D’Angelo Russell and this was more of a DFS gem than anything with any long-term implications.

    Dud:

    On some level, the half-game played out by both Leonard and Aldridge ended hurting their owners more than if they slotted in someone else had news of a full rest day been made available early. Leonard played 14 minutes and quietly filled the stat sheet with 11 points, a trey, three dimes, two steals, and a block. LMA was worse with eight points and six rebounds to his name.

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    Golden State Warriors 120 – Phoenix Suns 111

    The Warriors rested defensive powerhouse Draymond Green and steady sixth man Andre Iguodala but apparently, the Dubs did not need their services to down the Suns.

    Stud:

    Stephen Curry had arguably the best fantasy line of the night with 42 points, five rebounds, 11 assists, eight threes, two steals, and two blocks with just three turnovers.

    Alan Williams stepped up for the Suns with 16 points, 17 boards, and four steals. It was nice, but kind of expected considering it was against a Green-less Warriors.

    Dud:

    Alex Len, who should have been the one to blow up instead of Williams was a big letdown for his owners with eight points and four rebounds in 12 minutes.

    Dallas Mavericks 101 – Los Angeles Clippers 112

    The Clips led from the get-go and did not look back. Basically their “Big 3” did what they did best and it translated into a win. Too bad said formula does not always come away with favorable results. This game, however, was textbook Clipper dominance in action.

    Stud:

    Blake Griffin may have led the Clips in scoring with an impressive 32-point game but it was Chris Paul who was the better performer in fantasy. CP3 had a solid double-double with 22 points, three rebounds, three treys, 11 assists, two steals, and five turnovers.

    Dud:

    Both Dirk Nowitzki and Nerlens Noel caved under the pressure of LAC’s dominant frontcourt. Dirk shot 4-of-11 from the field to finish with nine points in 28 minutes. Noel played 22 minutes and was forgettable with six points and four rebounds.

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