Eight games were played in the NBA Sunday, with the biggest surprise being the Suns picking up an unexpected win over the Warriors in Oakland. In this edition of the Daily Dose we’ll take a look at some of the major happenings, beginning with the return of Joel Embiid to the 76ers lineup. Philadelphia’s matchup with Indiana was a big one, as the 76ers and Pacers are part of a three-team race for the three-seed in the East. Embiid put on a show in his return, and other standouts Sunday include Devin Booker, LaMarcus Aldridge and Taj Gibson.
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After missing eight games due to knee soreness, 76ers center Joel Embiid was back on the court for Sunday’s matchup with the Pacers in Philadelphia. Brett Brown’s team went 4-4 without Embiid, and it entered Sunday on a two-game losing streak. That run of bad play ended however, thanks in large part to the big man out of Kansas. Embiid played 28 minutes Sunday, finishing with 33 points (11-of-21 FGs, 11-of-15 FTs), 12 rebounds and two steals and leading the 76ers to the 106-89 victory. His return to the lineup changed the interior rotation in a significant way, as one would expect, with Amir Johnson serving as the primary backup and Jonah Bolden playing just one minute. With Boban Marjanovic (knee) still out of the lineup, Philadelphia has been down two centers for much of Embiid’s time on the sideline, and that’s impacted the way in which the team does things offensively.
The 76ers were far more reliant upon its perimeter scoring options during the eight-game stretch that Embiid missed. Jimmy Butler attempted at least ten field goals in seven of the eight games, but on Sunday his number was down to eight (3-of-8 FGs, 6-of-6 FTs on the day. Butler would finish with 12 points, four rebounds, four assists, one steal and one blocked shot in 21 minutes. JJ Redick, who like Butler was reaching double figures in shot attempts on a consistent basis, was also 3-of-8 from the field Sunday, finishing with nine points, three assists, one rebound, one blocked shot and three 3-pointers. Tobias Harris (16/8/4/1/1 with two 3-pointers on 7-of-16 shooting) and Ben Simmons (15/4/6/1 on 6-of-10 shooting from the field and 3-of-5 from the foul line) both reached double figures in shot attempts, with the latter’s ten shots being five fewer than his total from the game prior.
As one would expect Embiid’s presence in the Philadelphia lineup changes both the shot distribution and the quality of shots that his teammates get. The question to ask now is just how much he’ll be on the court as the 76ers march towards the end of the season. Following Sunday’s game the center stated that he may need to miss a game on occasion in order to ensure that he’s at full strength when the postseason begins. The schedule this week may have enough “spacing” to keep Embiid on the floor, as the 76ers will play Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, but Philadelphia erring on the side of caution wouldn’t be a surprise either. And with a back-to-back on the schedule next week (at Charlotte 3/19 and vs. Boston 3/20), this is something to be mindful of when considering Embiid.
Warriors lose, and Kevin Durant goes down
Golden State’s matchup with Phoenix Sunday night appeared to be a straightforward deal: Steve Kerr’s team would eventually take care of business, tacking on a half-game to its lead atop the Western Conference. But it was anything but that, as Devin Booker led the Suns to a 115-111 victory with a stat line of 37 points (13-of-23 FGs, 9-of-9 FTs), 11 assists, eight rebounds, two steals and two 3-pointers in 41 minutes of action. Booker was one of five Suns to finish the game in double figures, with Kelly Oubre Jr. adding 22 points to go along with five rebounds, one assist, one steal, one blocked shot and four 3-pointers and Deandre Ayton going for 18 points, nine rebounds, four assists, one steal and one blocked shot.
The outcome, and shooting 10-of-43 from three, are issues as far as Golden State is concerned. But of greater concern is the fact that Kevin Durant left the game in the fourth quarter with a bruised right ankle. Durant, the lone starter to shoot at least 50% from the field Sunday, left the game with a line of 25 points (9-of-17 FGs, 6-of-8 FTs), three assists, two rebounds, two steals and one three-pointer. With the sharpshooting forward in the locker room the Warriors turned to Alfonzo McKinnie and Andre Iguodala at Durant’s position, and while they combined to shoot 6-of-7 from the field the comparative lack of offense did not help matters with Stephen Curry (18 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, three steals and one blocked shot) and Klay Thompson (28 points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals and one blocked shot) both shooting 4-of-15 from three.
The Warriors have just two games this week, with Wednesday’s matchup with the Rockets in Houston being followed by a Saturday night showdown with the Thunder in Oklahoma City, so at the very least fantasy owners had to consider the possibility of looking at other options. The Warriors didn’t sound all that concerned about Durant’s injury, but it is something else to consider when putting together those playoff lineups (especially in leagues in which rosters for the week have to be submitted on Monday).
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Devin Booker continues to shine in March
As noted above the Suns guard had a good night, as he shot better than 56% from the field for the second time in his last three games. With Phoenix lacking a consistent option at the point guard position he’s been asked to be more of a playmaker this season by first-year coach Igor Kokoskov, with his 6.6 assists per game being a career-best. Sunday’s 11-assist effort was Booker’s first double-digit effort since February 2 vs. Atlanta, and his seventh of the season. By comparison he had just two double-digit assist games all of last season. While over the last two months Booker has been a top-50 player in nine-category leagues, he’s been a top-30 player over the last two weeks. The problem for him has been turnovers, as in eight-category leagues (punting turnovers) he’s been a top-10 player during this two-week stretch. Booker had five turnovers Sunday night, and in each of his six games this month he’s racked up at least four.
Phoenix has three games this week, but there is a Friday/Saturday back-to-back to take into consideration when it comes to Booker. He’s missed time on three separate occasions this season due to hamstring issues, and while he’s healthy now there isn’t much incentive for the Suns to play him heavy minutes in both of those games at this point in the season. Does the team look to get its star guard some rest against either the Rockets or Pelicans? That remains to be seen, but an argument can be made that the Suns can’t afford to given the lack of consistent firepower.
Glenn Robinson III gets first start since January 29
With Bruce Brown (ankle) ruled out, Pistons head coach Dwane Casey could have inserted one of the team’s productive bench options (Luke Kennard or Langston Galloway) into the starting lineup for Sunday’s game against Chicago. Instead Casey decided to keep his second unit intact, instead going with Glenn Robinson III. While GRIII wasn’t all that productive, scoring two points and dishing out one assist in 13 minutes, the strategy worked as Detroit won by a 131-108 final score. Kennard, who’s averaging 17.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game over his last five, accounted for nine points, nine rebounds and four assists, and Galloway continued his hot shooting from deep.
Finishing the game with 21 points, Galloway shot 6-of-6 from three and has now made his last 12 three-point attempts since going 0-of-4 in a March 3 win over Toronto. A 35.0% shooter from three for the season, the veteran guard is shooting 50.0% this month with an average of 2.0 made threes per game. Galloway doesn’t provide much outside of three-point shooting and points (when he’s on), but at this point in the fantasy season there can be value in adding a solid perimeter shooter. Robinson isn’t a viable fantasy option, even if Brown has to miss more time. While GRIII may be the choice to start games so as to keep the second unit together, he isn’t the guy Casey’s going to call upon for significant stretches of action.
Also playing well for the Pistons recently has been Reggie Jackson, who accounted for 21 points, six assists, one steal and five 3-pointers Sunday. Over his last five the point guard is averaging 18.2 points and 3.8 assists per game with shooting splits of 58.1/58.3/71.4.
Patrick McCaw makes first start as a Raptor
Kawhi Leonard sat out Toronto’s game in Washington due to load management, opening up a spot in the starting lineup. That place would be filled by Patrick McCaw, who made his first start as a Raptor. In the 125-104 win over the Heat McCaw played 26 minutes, finishing with ten points, three rebounds, two assists and three 3-pointers. The former Warrior made all three of his attempts from beyond the arc, an incredible performance when taking into consideration how poorly he’s shot on the season. Prior to Sunday, McCaw was just 4-of-20 from three on the season, and that includes his shooting 1-of-4 in three games as a member of the Cavaliers. Given his overall track record it’s a bit unrealistic to expect the third-year wing to suddenly become a lights-out shooter. But at the very least McCaw showed no hesitation in putting up the shots, which could open things up for him offensively.
McCaw was one of eight Raptors to score in double figures, with Kyle Lowry leading the way with 24 points (8-of-14 FGs, 2-of-3 FTs) while also accounting for ten assists, seven rebounds and six 3-pointers. Pascal Siakam added 20 points, five rebounds, five assists, one steal and one blocked shot, and Norman Powell tallied 15 points, four assists, two rebounds and three 3-pointers. Leonard is expected to return to action Monday when the Raptors face Cleveland, and that game could be one in which coach Nick Nurse decides to give Lowry the night off. Should that happen Jeremy Lin, who posted a stat line of 11 points, three rebounds, two steals, two blocked shots and one assist against the Heat, stands to benefit with regards to both playing time and serving as the Raptors’ primary ball-handler.
Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday missed Sunday’s game against the Hawks with a lower abdominal strain, and like fellow guard E’Twaun Moore (left quad contusion) it will be another eight to nine days before he’s reevaluated. As a result Frank Jackson moved into the starting lineup, and the rookie guard had a good day at the office against the Hawks. Jackson played 33 minutes, tallying 23 points (10-of-18 FGs), six rebounds, two assists and three 3-pointers. Over the last five he’s averaging 15.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per game while shooting 52.5% from the field and 39.1% from the foul line. Due to the injuries, and the fact that New Orleans is well out of the playoff picture, Jackson won’t lack for minutes as the team finishes out this season. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to look into the possibility of pulling him off the waiver wire, even with the lack of production when it comes to assists.
Also worth noting for the Pelicans is that recent signing Dairis Bertans made his debut for the team. The older brother of Spurs first Davis Bertans played six minutes Sunday, missing his lone field goal attempt and dishing out one assist during his time on the court.
No Zach LaVine for Chicago
On Sunday Bulls guard Zach LaVine missed a game for the first time since January 30, as he was sidelined by a case of patellar tendonitis in his right knee. As a result Ryan Arcidiacono started alongside Kris Dunn in Sunday’s loss to Detroit, with LaVine’s absence also opening up more minutes for reserves Shaq Harrison and Wayne Selden. Arcidiacono played 26 minutes, shooting 5-of-7 from the field and finishing with ten points, three rebounds and two assists. Selden and Harrison also scored in double figures, with Selden tallying 18 points, four rebounds and two assists and Harrison posting a stat line of 11 points, seven assists and two rebounds. Also worth noting was the play of Antonio Blakeney, who scored nine points in 14 minutes of action.
After playing 13 minutes in Friday’s loss to the Pistons, Harrison played 32 minutes Sunday afternoon. Selden played 12 more minutes Sunday than he did Friday (16), with Blakeney getting back onto the court after picking up DNP-CD’s in each of the three games prior. Even with the lack of offensive production on the perimeter when Arcidiacono is paired with Dunn, this will likely remain the rotation in games that LaVine has to miss due to the amount of trust coach Jim Boylen has in Arcidiacono. LaVine is considered to be questionable for Tuesday’s game against the Lakers, and his availability will have a significant impact on the fantasy value of Arcidiacono, Harrison and Selden.
Domantas Sabonis returns to Pacers rotation
Joel Embiid’s return wasn’t the only major personnel development in Sunday’s game between the 76ers and Pacers, as Indiana backup center Domantas Sabonis saw action after missing the five games prior due to a sprained ankle. Sabonis played 20 minutes in the 106-89 defeat, and as one would expect he looked a bit rusty. The third-year big man shot 1-of-7 from the field, finishing the game with nine points (7-of-12 FTs), six rebounds, six assists and one steal. Sabonis, who also turned the ball over five times Sunday, shot 55.6% or better from the field in each of the nine games he played before suffering the injury. With his return both T.J. Leaf and Kyle O’Quinn saw their minutes decrease, with the former playing five minutes and the latter eight. Neither Leaf nor O’Quinn provided much fantasy value before Sabonis returned, and there’s even less reason to grab either off the waiver wire now that he’s back.