November 21, 2018, 11:56 pm
Two of the league’s biggest surprises faced off Thanksgiving eve. Unfortunately for the Portland Trail Blazers, it’s the Milwaukee Bucks that will enter the holiday season looking far more like a true contender than early-season pretender. The Blazers, playing on the second leg of a back-to-back and nearing the end of a six-game, cross-country road trip, was dominated by the Bucks on Wednesday night, falling by the eye-popping score of 143-100 – the sixth-largest deficit in the history of the franchise.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was simply too big, too strong, too fast, too long and too skilled for Portland from the opening tip. In an absolutely ringing endorsement of his MVP chances, Milwaukee’s superstar finished with 33 points, 16 rebounds, nine assists, and three steals on 13-of-20 shooting. The Bucks scored a whopping 72 points in the paint, a seeming majority of which resulted directly from drives by Antetokounmpo, whether by layup, dunk or kick-out pass that led to open opportunities elsewhere. He was a monster on the other end, too, routinely blowing up Portland’s offense with aggressive weak-side help. He created two turnovers by Lillard alone, first jumping in front of a cross-court pass while the Blazers star attacked, then digging down from one pass away to deflect a dish to Nurkic, finishing the play with a dunk in transition.
On this night, the ball often just bounced Milwaukee’s way, too. One of Antetokounmpo’s several rim-rattling dunks came after Malcolm Brogdon air-balled an open corner three-point so badly that Moe Harkless, back in the lineup and starting the second half, misjudged the carom, leading to a loose ball.
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) November 22, 2018
Antetokounmpo also drained multiple jumpers, too, including this smooth fadeaway to cap a first half the Bucks won 72-50.
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) November 22, 2018
Despite shooting a pedestrian 15-of-45 from 3-point range, Milwaukee rung up 34 assists. The Bucks, taking full advantage of a weary Portland team, went an incredible 34-of-45 from the restricted area. They pulled down 13 offensive rebounds and scored 22 fast-break points, too. This was one of the most complete offensive performances a team has put together this season, absent efficient jump-shooting or otherwise.
Unfortunately, defense was hardly the Blazers’ only issue on Wednesday night. Frustrated by Milwaukee’s length and activity for 48 minutes, Portland shot 36.6 percent from the field and just 9-of-42 from the three-point line. Al-Farouq Aminu missed 12 of his 13 shots and all nine of his tries from deep, several of which came without a defender in arm’s length – at the Bucks’ design. Assists are inherently hard to come by when jumpers aren’t falling, but the Blazers total of ’13 dimes, their lowest of the season, was indicative of something more. Portland was coerced into tricky shots from mid- and floater-range throughout this game, and sometimes even lacked the burst to produce those low-efficient looks at all.
Damian Lillard, true to form, refused to succumb to the inevitabilities of another loss. A sizable share of his 13 free-throw attempts came with this game essentially decided. Jusuf Nurkic kept fighting, too, using his size advantage on the interior to bully his way through and pivot his way around Bucks defenders. With the exception of a typically productive night from C.J. McCollum, though, the road-tired Blazers just didn’t have anything else going.
Reminder: The Bucks have been the best team in basketball this season. They entered Wednesday’s play with a +10.6 net rating, a mark that would have comfortably led the league last season. Milwaukee also got off to slow starts in their last two games, comeback wins over the Chicago Bulls and Denver Nuggets, and stressed the importance of getting off to a good start against the Blazers. Mission accomplished, as Mike Budenholzer’s team bursted out to a 24-7 lead in the first quarter.
The Blazers took care of business on Tuesday, going shot-for-shot with the lottery-bound New York Knicks to eek out a win in crunch time. A victory 24 hours later, again in hostile territory opposite a team with the second-best record in the NBA, would have been something close to shocking. For a veteran group like Portland, a loss is a loss accompanied by extenuating circumstances like these; the margin need not matter.
Stotts, thankfully, pulled his starters after the third quarter, opening the final stanza with Anfernee Simons and Wade Baldwin on the floor. As the Blazers’ coach made clear: Time to focus on Friday’s tilt in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors.
November 18, 2019, 12:16 amKyle KuzmaPF, Los Angeles Lakers
Kyle Kuzma dropped 17 points on 6-of-14 shooting in a win over the Hawks on Sunday.
Kuzma is back into the swing of things and should cruise to late-round value. He added five rebounds, three triples and one block to the stat sheet.
November 18, 2019, 12:13 amLeBron JamesSF, Los Angeles Lakers
LeBron James double-doubled in a 122-101 win against the Hawks on Sunday as he put up 33 points and 12 assists.
James shot 13-of-21 from the field and 6-of-10 from beyond the arc. He also grabbed seven boards and added one steal and one block to the box score. James' co-star Anthony Davis had an off night with 14 points on 5-of-14 shooting with five assists and five blocks. Both guys are locks for top-15 value.
November 18, 2019, 12:10 amRajon RondoPG, Los Angeles Lakers
Rajon Rondo played well on Sunday as he put up 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting in a blowout win over the Hawks.
Rondo played 24 minutes, which is a season-high. He knocked down two 3-pointers and added three assists to the stat sheet. Alex Caruso played 21 minutes and had 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting. Rondo will likely be the preferred option of the two when his minutes restriction is lifted, but neither guy is worth owning in standard formats.
November 18, 2019, 12:06 amKentavious Caldwell-PopeSG, Los Angeles Lakers
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started for Avery Bradley (leg) and put up 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting in a win over the Hawks on Sunday.
KCP played just 21 minutes as the majority of this game was out of reach. Danny Green chipped in 11 points with seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks on 4-of-7 shooting. Green provides late-round value and is worth owning in most formats, while KCP is a streaming option while Bradley is out.
November 18, 2019, 12:02 amTrae YoungPG, Atlanta Hawks
Trae Young scored 31 points on 11-of-22 shooting in 39 minutes of action in a 122-101 loss to the Lakers on Sunday.
Young turned the ball over eight times and shot just 2-of-8 from beyond the arc. He dished out seven assists and grabbed two steals as well. Young is going to produce top-20/30 value this season in 8/9-cat formats.
November 17, 2019, 11:59 pmJabari ParkerPF, Atlanta Hawks
Jabari Parker put up 11 points on 5-of-16 shooting with four steals in a blowout loss to the Lakers on Sunday.
Parker has played well as of late, but this was not his best performance. He added eight rebounds, one assist and one block to the box score. Cam Reddish chipped in 11 points with three steals on 5-of-13 shooting. Reddish is still figuring out how his game translates to the NBA and can be left on the waiver wire. However, Parker should be owned in all formats.
November 17, 2019, 11:56 pmChandler ParsonsSF, Atlanta Hawks
Chandler Parsons played two minutes against the Lakers on Sunday and did not record a stat.
Parsons managed to have a plus/minus of minus-10 in just two minutes of action. He will not have much of a role with the Hawks this season regardless of injuries.
November 17, 2019, 10:05 pmEric PaschallPF, Golden State Warriors
Eric Paschall took control of the Warriors' offense on Sunday vs. the Pelicans, contributing 30 points (10-of-17 FG, 8-of-10 FT), seven rebounds and two 3-pointers.
Paschall was cooking in this one, and he has now scored 15 or more points in six out of his last eight games. D'Angelo Russell will be out for a couple weeks at minimum, and Paschall faces few challenges for touches from the remaining healthy bodies. He is not going to deliver many hustle stats or assists, but he has an excellent runway to pile up efficient points and steady rebounding figures to create mid-round value.
November 17, 2019, 9:58 pmDraymond GreenPF, Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green struggled from the field (2-of-10 FG) on Sunday, but was able to deliver six rebounds, four assists, two steals, one block and one 3-pointer.
This is a realistic expectation for what Draymond can deliver alongside the kids left on the Warriors. He is not going to deliver the early-round production many were projecting for this season, but he will still create plenty of hustle stats while going for mid-round value.
November 17, 2019, 9:51 pmE'Twaun MooreSG, New Orleans Pelicans
E'Twaun Moore put up 10 points and seven rebounds in a win over the Warriors on Sunday.
Moore put up 14,15 and 18 points in his previous three contests, so he cooled off in this one. However, he was limited to just 24 minutes as he had five fouls. Kenrich Williams also had a lackluster performance as he put up five points, 10 rebounds and four assists on 2-of-8 shooting. Williams has provided late-round value over the last two weeks and is a solid streaming option when the Pelicans are missing some key players due to injury. Moore is a deep-league scoring and shooting option, but his value disappears when Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and Frank Jackson return to the court.