It’s that time of the season, when fantasy players look to navigate their playoffs while having to deal with frequently changing rotations. There were seven games on Sunday’s schedule, and there were multiple key players who either did not play or had to miss game time due to either ejection or injury. One night after going off for 34 points and 20 rebounds, Memphis’ Jonas Valanciunas suffered a right ankle injury during a loss to the Clippers, and both DeMarcus Cousins (flagrant two) and Nikola Jokic (technicals) were sent to the showers ahead of the final buzzer. Here’s a look at what happened Sunday in the NBA, beginning with the Hawks’ wild overtime win over the Bucks in Atlanta.
Hawks 136, Bucks 135 (OT)
With multiple Bucks starters sitting this one out, there were a host of players in new positions from a rotation standpoint Sunday afternoon in Atlanta. Milwaukee had just one regular starter, center Brook Lopez (19 points, six rebounds, three assists, one steal and three 3-pointers), and two of the other four (Tim Fraziers and Bonzie Colson) were making their first starts as members of the team. Frazier, who played a total of 35 minutes in his first six games as a Buck, played all 53 minutes in the one-point loss and accounted for 20 points (8-of-17 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), 15 assists, seven rebounds, one steal, five turnovers and two 3-pointers. This was the seventh game of at least 20 points and 15 assists in franchise history, and the first in the NBA since Monta Ellis in 2013.
As for Colson, he played 41 minutes and finished with totals of 15 points (5-of-18 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs), 16 rebounds, two assists, one steal, one blocked shot, one turnover and one three-pointer. The rookie out of Notre Dame played a total of four minutes in the three games prior.
Sterling Brown led the way for Milwaukee with a career-high 27 points (10-of-22 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs) while also tallying nine rebounds, three assists, three steals, one blocked shot and five 3-pointers in 33 minutes played. Reserves Pat Connaughton and George Hill both scored in double figures, with the former posting a line of 17 points and 12 rebounds with one assist and the latter accounting for 18 points, six rebounds, one assist and two 3-pointers. Milwaukee is back in action Monday, with Eric Bledsoe (rest) expected to play and the statuses of Giannis Antetokounmpo (ankle) and Khris Middleton (groin) yet to be determined.
As for the Hawks, rookie Trae Young scored the game-winner as time expired but overall this wasn’t his best day from a shooting standpoint. In 35 minutes he shot 5-of-19 from the field, finishing with 12 points to go along with 16 assists, five rebounds, two steals, one turnover and two 3-pointers. Young’s shooting percentages weren’t the best, as he was just 2-of-9 from beyond the arc, but the assist and rebound totals combined with the lack of turnovers are positives for those who rostered the rookie out of Oklahoma. Three starters scored at least 23 points in the win, with John Collins (12 rebounds, four assists, three blocked shots and three 3-pointers) and Alex Len (six rebounds, three 3-pointers) scoring 23 apiece and Justin Anderson tallying 24.
Anderson, who made his first start of the season in Friday’s loss to Portland, also accounted for 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and four 3-pointers in 31 minutes played. DeAndre’ Bembry filled the stat sheet in his 22 minutes off the bench, finishing with 16 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals, one blocked shot, one turnover and two 3-pointers. If Taurean Prince (foot) has to miss time beyond Sunday, Bembry could be an interesting option in deeper leagues as the regular season nears its conclusion. Another name to be mindful of: Deyonta Davis, who played 22 minutes and finished with six points, six rebounds, two blocked shots and one assist. He’s the backup center with Dewayne Dedmon (ankle) done for the season, so there will be the opportunity for the young big man to prove himself capable of contributing in the NBA.
Mavericks 106, Thunder 103
With Luka Doncic (thigh) ruled out Courtney Lee made his first start as a Maverick, but it was another former Knick that stood out in the team’s win in Oklahoma City. Trey Burke played 31 minutes off the bench, shooting 10-of-18 from the field and finishing with 25 points, eight assists, two rebounds and four 3-pointers. Doncic being out has an impact on two fronts: his position, as he’s an off-guard at best defensively, and the number of playmakers at Rick Carlisle’s disposal. That opened the door for Burke, with starting point guard Jalen Brunson (18 points, four assists, two rebounds, one 3-pointer and three turnovers) playing 31 minutes and fellow reserve Devin Harris (15 points, one rebound, one assist, four 3-pointers and two turnovers) playing 17.
Also, Dirk Nowitzki established a new season-high as he grabbed 13 rebounds on the day. The future Hall of Fame forward didn’t have his best day shooting the basketball, scoring seven points on 2-of-10 from the field, but he contributed on the flass and blocked a shot as well. Dwight Powell made just four of his 14 shot attempts, finishing with 11 points, nine rebounds and a team-worst five turnovers.
Paul George posted his posted his 24th double-double of the season Sunday, as he tallied 27 points (8-of-20 FGs, 6-of-7 FTs), 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals, one blocked shot, five 3-pointers and three turnovers in 39 minutes played. George was one of three Thunder starters to score at least 20 points, with Russell Westbrook (25 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, two steals, three 3-pointers and three turnovers) and Steven Adams (20 points, 15 rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots) being the others. With regards to Westbrook, he also picked up his 17th technical foul of the season on what was viewed by many to be an overreaction on the part of the officials. Of course technicals can be rescinded by the league office, but if this call were to be upheld the All-Star point guard would be one technical away from an automatic one-game suspension.
Lakers 130, Pelicans 102
With LeBron James shut down for the remainder of the season and Kyle Kuzma ruled out of Sunday’s game due to left foot tendinitis, the Lakers had two more holes to fill in the rotation for Sunday’s game in New Orleans. And while new starters Moe Wagner and Lance Stephenson did not have much of an impact, other players did as Luke Walton’s team coasted to a 28-point win. JaVale McGee had one of his most productive outings of the season, as he scored 23 points (9-of-15 FGs, 5-of-7 FTs) with 16 rebounds, three assists, one steal and one blocked shot in 33 minutes of play. The veteran center was one of three Lakers to score at least 23 points Sunday, with Rajon Rondo posting a line of 24 points, 12 assists, five rebounds, three steals and four 3-pointers and Alex Caruso adding 23 points, six assists, three rebounds, four steals and four 3-pointers off the bench.
The 23 points represent a career-high for Caruso, who reached double figures in seven games in March and averaged 8.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.0 steals per game for the month. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 19 points and Reggie Bullock, who made his return after missing the prior four games with a foot injury, accounted for 18 points, three rebounds, three assists, one steal and four 3-pointers in 24 minutes off the bench. After the game Bullock said that he was a bit winded, which is understandable given the time off, but he’s a player worth watching as the Lakers play out the string. While certainly capable of some solid offensive performances, the question at this point is how much will he play given the recent injuries and the fact that the Lakers have no postseason to worry about. Mike Muscala added ten points, three rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocked shots and two 3-pointers in 19 minutes.
Moe Wagner and Lance Stephenson moved into the starting lineup for Sunday’s game but neither had much of an impact, with the rookie out of Michigan scoring seven points with seven rebounds, one assist, two blocked shots and one three-pointer in 29 minutes. As for Stephenson he missed all seven of his shot attempts, going scoreless with two rebounds, one assist and one steal in 16 minutes.
The Pelicans were also shorthanded as Anthony Davis (back), Frank Jackson (concussion) and Darius Miller (adductor) did not play, and Julius Randle would leave the game in the third quarter after injuring his left index finger. The good news for Randle, who finished with 17 points, five rebounds, three assists, one steal and two 3-pointers, is that the X-rays came back negative. Young front court players Jahlil Okafor, Cheick Diallo and Christian Wood took advantage of their increased opportunities Sunday, as all three finished the game in double figures. Okafor, starting alongside Randle, played 26 minutes and finished with 15 points, four rebounds and one assist. Diallo and Wood both posted double-doubles off the bench, with the former finishing with 12 points, ten rebounds and one assist, and the latter going for 15 points, 11 rebounds, one steal and one blocked shot.
Wood has taken full advantage of his opportunity with the Pelicans, reaching double figures in three of his four games with the team. The issue for New Orleans in this one was turnovers, as they racked up 24 (Ian Clark (seven) and Julius Randle (five) were responsible for half of them.
Kings 113, Spurs 106
Not having Marvin Bagley III (illness) wasn’t an issue for the Kings, who completed the first season sweep of the Spurs in franchise history Sunday night. Bagley’s absence opened up a little more playing time for Kosta Koufos, who played 18 minutes and managed to grab a season-high 11 rebounds to go along with two points and two assists. The 11 rebounds are only seven fewer than Koufos’ total in the prior six games combined. After being on the outside of the Kings’ front court rotation the veteran center has played 12 minutes or more in five of his last six outings, with the 18 minutes played Sunday being the most for Koufos since December 17 against Minnesota (23 minutes).
Buddy Hield led five Sacramento starters in double figures with 26 points (8-of-15 FGs, 6-of-7 FTs) while also tallying five rebounds, three assists, one steal and four 3-pointers in 31 minutes. A top-40 player in nine-category leagues for the season, Hield has been just outside of the top-30 over the last month. Sacramento is no longer in contention for a playoff spot, but Hield will still figure prominently in the game plan as the team looks to finish the season strong. And that could result in more performances like the one he put forth in San Antonio. Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 15 points with five assists, three rebounds and two 3-pointers off the bench, and Yogi Ferrell added ten points, two steals and two 3-pointers in 15 minutes. Starting center Willie Cauley-Stein tallied 17 points, six rebounds and two steals, and he’s now reached double figures in four of his last five games.
On the other side Gregg Popovich was not around for the game’s conclusion, as he was ejected in the third quarter with Ettore Messina running things on the sideline from that point on. LaMarcus Aldridge led the way with 27 points (12-of-24 FGs, 3-of-6 FTs), 18 rebounds, three assists, two steals and one blocked shot in 36 minutes of action. Aldridge had three games of at least 20 points and 15 rebounds in March, one more than he had in the prior five months combined. The big change for San Antonio from a rotation standpoint was Rudy Gay moving back into the starting lineup, replacing Jakob Poeltl. Gay, who’s been more productive as a starter than as a reserve this season, tallied 18 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three turnovers and two 3-pointers in 31 minutes. As for Poeltl, he played 12 minutes and accounted for just two points (2-of-2 FTs), three rebounds and one blocked shot.
With the Spurs having four games on the schedule for next week it would not be a surprise if the team looked to get some of their veterans (Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan) some rest, which could mean more minutes for a player like Poeltl. Poeltl has blocked a total of seven shots over the last four games, a stretch in which he’s averaged 4.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots per.