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Basketball Daily Dose

Embiid/Harden partnership begins with a win

by Raphielle Johnson
Updated On: February 26, 2022, 11:11 am ET

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The second night of games out of the All-Star break did not lack for intrigue, beginning with James Harden making his 76ers debut. But before getting into the nine-game slate we'll take a quick look at the point guard situation in Cleveland, as the Cavs will be without their top two options for Saturday's game against the Wizards. Darius Garland (back) and Rajon Rondo (toe) have been ruled out, with the latter expected to miss 1-2 weeks. This makes Brandon Goodwin a must-stream, as he stands to move into the starting lineup. Tim Frazier has been signed to a 10-day contract, but there's no need to add him sight unseen (in a Cavs uniform, at least). 

Without further ado, let's get into Friday's action. 

76ers 133, Timberwolves 102

James Harden made his long-awaited 76ers debut Friday night, and he looked very sharp. Shooting 7-of-12 from the field and 8-of-9 from the foul line, Harden posted a line of 27 points, eight rebounds, 12 assists, five 3-pointers, and just two turnovers in 35 minutes. Joel Embiid got his numbers as well, tallying 34 points, 10 rebounds, three assists, one steal, and three 3-pointers in 31 minutes. And managers who may have been concerned about what the addition of Harden would mean for Tyrese Maxey had to be very pleased with what they saw. He went for 28 points, two rebounds, two assists, four steals, and two 3-pointers, shooting 12-of-16 from the field and 2-of-2 from the foul line. 

Doc Rivers said recently that his plan was to make sure that at least two of Harden, Embiid, Maxey and Tobias Harris were on the floor at all times, just to ensure that there isn't a major decrease in offensive production. Three of those four had productive nights, with Harris (6/3/4/1 with two 3-pointers) drawing the short straw. It's too soon to panic, but those who have Harris rostered will definitely keep an eye on his play Sunday afternoon when the 76ers visit the Knicks. Matisse Thybulle (11/7/2/3 with one 3-pointer) was the fifth starter, playing 23 minutes. He's the best fantasy option outside of the four mentioned above. 

Minnesota went with a 10-man rotation, but there was a change on the back end. With Malik Beasley (illness) being a late scratch, Jaylen Nowell (5/1/1 with one 3-pointer) played 16 minutes after being a DNP-CD Thursday night. As his line would suggest, there's no need to stream Nowell when Beasley is sidelined. Karl-Anthony Towns (25/7/3 with two 3-pointers) and D'Angelo Russell (21/3/3 with two 3-pointers) led the way offensively, while Anthony Edwards (15/3/5/1/1 with one 3-pointer) recorded a full stat line. 

The forward spot opposite Edwards is worth keeping an eye on, as starter Jarred Vanderbilt had some consistency issues prior to the break. After performing well in Thursday's win over the Grizzlies he had a rough Friday, scoring two points to go along with eight rebounds, and one assist in 17 minutes. Jaden McDaniels was the beneficiary, playing 23 minutes and accounting for 10 points, four rebounds, two assists, and one steal. Vanderbilt and McDaniels have both had their moments this season, but it's difficult to fully trust either one in standard leagues. Vanderbilt gets the slight edge due to his being the starter, but one can argue in favor of McDaniels as well.  

Hornets 125, Raptors 93 

Toronto played this one without OG Anunoby, who was ruled out due to a fractured finger on his right hand. His absence meant a return to the starting lineup for Khem Birch (1/4/2/0/1), who offered little in his 18 minutes on the floor. Precious Achiuwa (9/5/0/2/1) and Chris Boucher (eight points, four rebounds) were more productive, and represent better streaming options than Birch if Anunoby has to miss time beyond Friday (Boucher is going to be difficult to find on most waiver wires). He'll see a specialist in order to determine whether or not he can play through the injury without risking further damage. 

To be fair to Birch, he wasn't the only Raptors player who failed to show up in the Queen City. Pascal Siakam (8/3/2/1) and Fred VanVleet (8/1/4/0/2 with two 3-pointers) shot a combined 6-of-25 from the field, and Gary Trent Jr. (12/4/1/1 with two 3-pointers) wasn't much better at 5-of-12. Scottie Barnes was the exception, as he shot 13-of-18 from the field and recorded a line of 28 points, five rebounds, one assist, and two steals in 32 minutes. He stands to benefit if Anunoby has to sit for an extended period of time, as there will be more touches to go around amongst Toronto's top offensive options. What will also impact Barnes' value in the near future is VanVleet still dealing with a lingering knee issue. With Toronto playing five games next week, they may view that as an opportunity to get their starting point guard some additional rest. 

Charlotte did not have any injury issues to deal with outside of Gordon Hayward (ankle) still being sidelined, and they got some solid production off the bench in Friday's blowout. Kelly Oubre (23/4/1/2/1 with five 3-pointers) and Montrezl Harrell (20/10/3) both had good nights off the bench, while JT Thor (6/4/2/1/1) played 23 minutes off the bench. Cody Martin (Achilles) played 12 minutes in his return, finishing with eight points, two assists, two steals, and two 3-pointers. While it will take a lot to push Thor into the streaming territory, Martin could be worth a look with more playing time. Keep an eye on his workload in the immediate future, starting with Sunday's game against the Pistons. 

Terry Rozier (23/4/9/1/1 with three 3-pointers) picked up the slack for LaMelo Ball (13/5/6/1 with two 3-pointers), who shot 5-of-16 from the field and committed six turnovers. Mason Plumlee (8/10/1/1/1), who is rostered in 52% of Yahoo leagues, chipped in with a full stat line and thoroughly outplayed the aforementioned Birch. Harrell is the better fantasy option amongst Charlotte's centers, but Plumlee is capable of providing deep-league value in his starting role. 

Thunder 129, Pacers 125 (OT)

Indiana may have fallen short at home, but the team did welcome back some key players from injury. Malcolm Brogdon (15/4/4/1 with three 3-pointers) played 31 minutes in his first action since January 19, and all of his playing time came off the ball. That's certainly noteworthy given the way in which the Pacers used Brogdon before the Achilles became an issue. Tyrese Haliburton (14/5/11/2/1 with one 3-pointer in 43 minutes) and Lance Stephenson (14/3/4/1/1 with two 3-pointers in 28 minutes) handled the point guard responsibilities, and that stands to remain the case moving forward. Brogdon will certainly have the opportunity to make plays with the ball in his hands, but the addition of Haliburton could have a slightly negative impact on his usage. 

Isaiah Jackson was also back in action, playing 23 minutes and accounting for 17 points, six rebounds, and five blocked shots. Rostered in 31% of Yahoo leagues, the rookie out of Kentucky is a must-add at this point. Also worthy of a look in standard leagues are Oshae Brissett (10/15/1/2/2) and Jalen Smith (16/6/2/0/1 with two 3-pointers), with the former establishing a new career-high in rebounds. Brissett is rostered in 47% of Yahoo leagues, while Smith is down at 20%. Buddy Hield (29/7/5/1/1 with five 3-pointers) had a big night scoring-wise, while Goga Bitadze only played one minute. If you still have Bitadze rostered, it's OK to cut bait. 

Oklahoma City, which was already without Luguentz Dort (shoulder), also had to account for the absence of Josh Giddey (hip). Fellow rookie Tre Mann moved back into the starting lineup and played well, accounting for 22 points, four rebounds, five assists, two steals, and three 3-pointers in 34 minutes. Rostered in just 10% of Yahoo leagues, Mann has been an 11th-round player over the last month. That isn't "great," but he'll log quality minutes even when Giddey is back in action, which makes Mann worth the risk. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (36/8/5/3/2 with one 3-pointer) went off, with the full line more than making up for his seven turnovers. 

Aleksej Pokusevski (13/1/2 with one 3-pointer) failed to offer anything of note defensively, but he did shoot 6-of-9 from the field. If you hopped onto the Poku bandwagon before the All-Star break, there isn't much harm in staying on board for a little while longer. Darius Bazley (14/10/0/3 with one 3-pointer) has been a top-100 player over the last month, like Pokusevski, and is rostered in 50% of Yahoo leagues. Managers in need of a forward that's eligible at both spots would be wise to look at either of those two. 

Magic 119, Rockets 111 

Orlando's rotation increased by one player Friday, as RJ Hampton (knee) made his first appearance since January 19. The second-year guard logged 23 minutes, recording a line of 11 points, five rebounds, four assists, two blocks, and one 3-pointer. Some of Hampton's minutes came as a result of Jalen Suggs' foul trouble, as the rookie played just 15 minutes before fouling out. So, while Hampton did have a good night in his first action in just over a month, the reason for his playing time does need to be taken into consideration. He isn't an automatic pickup, but fantasy managers would be wise to keep an eye on Hampton. 

Chuma Okeke (26/9/4/3/1 with five 3-pointers) had the best game of his NBA career, recording a full line while establishing a new career-high point total. Okeke, who is a 10th-round player in 9-cat for the season, is rostered in just 40% of Yahoo leagues. With Orlando scheduled to play four games in each of the next two weeks, Okeke is worth picking up, especially in deeper leagues. Wendell Carter Jr. (24/12/2 with one 3-pointer) had a big night and continues to provide top-75 value, while Mo Bamba (6/7/0/0/1) remains Orlando's highest-ranked fantasy option, and is ranked just outside of the top-100 over the last month. Carter offers more offensively and as a rebounder, but Bamba's defensive potential has kept him on the radar. 

On the Houston side of things, Christian Wood did fantasy managers no favors with his effort from the charity stripe. He posted a line of 21 points, 11 rebounds, one assist, and two 3-pointers, but shot a putrid 3-of-13 from the foul line. Wood, who is a 61.6% shooter on the season, would have been better off taking his shots from the 3-point line (2-of-6) Friday night. Jalen Green (23/5/2/4 with four 3-pointers) has hit double figures in 11 straight games, scoring 21 or more in each of his last two. After a terribly slow start to his rookie season, Green may be rounding into form. 

Kevin Porter Jr. (6/5/1/2 with two 3-pointers) had a tough night and only played 21 minutes in his return to the lineup. KPJ told the team that he could not finish due to a sprained ankle suffered in the third quarter, but the injury isn't believed to be serious. Porter's exit meant more time for Dennis Schroder, thus preserving something for managers who may have held off on dropping him. Schroder played 28 minutes off the bench Friday, accumulating 10 points, three rebounds, and six assists. Eric Gordon (15/0/1/1 with three 3-pointers) remains a deep-league points and 3-pointers option, while Jae'Sean Tate (13/5/6/2/1 with one 3-pointer) came through with another full stat line. 

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Spurs 157, Wizards 153 (2OT) 

One of the wildest games of the season took place in the nation's capital, which was great news for fantasy managers and DFS players who made the decision to roster some key Spurs and/or Wizards. Dejounte Murray (31/13/14 with one 3-pointer) recorded yet another triple-double, while Keldon Johnson (32.7/2 with five 3-pointers) established a new career-high in points for the winners. Jakob Poeltl (28/11/8/0/2) scored 24 of his points in the paint, taking full advantage of a matchup that worked in his favor. Each of those players is rostered in at least 85% of Yahoo leagues, so none are considered to be "adds" at this point. Devin Vassell (12/8/4/2 with one 3-pointer) didn't offer much in the way of scoring, but the overall line was adequate. 

Lonnie Walker, who's rostered in just 9% of Yahoo leagues, saw an increase in minutes due to the absences of Josh Richardson (shoulder) and Joshua Primo (wrist). And he made the most of his 35 minutes off the bench, tallying 23 points, four rebounds, one assist, and two 3-pointers. Walker still isn't a great fantasy option, but he'll have some value as a DFS roster-filler on nights like this one. Zach Collins (4/3/1/2/1 in 16 minutes) will not play in Saturday's game against the Heat due to injury management. 

Washington was once again without Kristaps Porzingis (knee), and it is anyone's guess as to when he'll be cleared to make his Wizards debut. That leaves Daniel Gafford and Thomas Bryant as the only options at the center position when it comes to fantasy value, and Gafford was the man Friday night. He started and played 29 minutes, posting a line of 17 points, six rebounds, three assists, and one blocked shot. As for Bryant, he played 15 minutes off the bench, accounting for six points, three rebounds, two assists, and one block. Rostered in 49% of Yahoo leagues, Gafford is the better choice for fantasy managers in need of additional depth at center.  

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (24/1/4/2 with four 3-pointers) produced a solid line in his 43 minutes, and he's been close to a top-100 player over the last month. That being said, he's still rostered in just 34% of Yahoo leagues despite being a starter. Should KCP's percentage be higher? Possibly, but not by much. I'd rather roll with Deni Avdija (14/9/1/2/1 with two 3-pointers), who's rostered in 27% of Yahoo leagues. A positive for both players, at least in Yahoo leagues, is that they're eligible for three different positions (PG/SG/SF for KCP, SG/SF/PF for Avdija). 

Washington's point guard situation also merits interest, with Raul Neto (22/4/9/1 with four 3-pointers) being a better option than Ish Smith (10/3/5/1) due to the combination of his being a starter and better 3-point shooting. Neto is rostered in 10% of Yahoo leagues, with Smith not far behind at 8%. The bad news for both is that the Wizards play three games in each of the next two weeks, so the fantasy returns may be a bit limited. And Kyle Kuzma (36/8/7/2/1 with three 3-pointers) had another big night as Washington's unquestioned top scoring option. We'll see if anything changes once Porzingis gets cleared but, as noted above, we don't know for sure when that will be. 

Heat 115, Knicks 100

New York's rotation underwent a few changes in the team's first game after the break, with the most notable being the exit of Kemba Walker. He's being shut down for the remainder of the season, and with Derrick Rose (ankle) undergoing a minor procedure that could keep him out another 1-to-2 weeks, the Knicks are light on options at the point. Alec Burks (12/8/2 with two 3-pointers) got the start and played 34 minutes, with Immanuel Quickley (7/2/2 with one 3-pointer) getting 17 and Miles McBride (one assist) two. Burks isn't a point guard, but his defense is what keeps the veteran in Tom Thibodeau's good graces. For this reason, he's worth taking a flier on in standard leagues. This is bad news for managers who may have hoped to see more of either Quickley or McBride; those two won't offer much as far as fantasy value is concerned. 

If anything, the absences at the point will mean more opportunities for Julius Randle to initiate the offense, and he tallied a team-high eight assists in Friday's loss. But that was the only positive for him, as he shot 2-of-15 from the field and also accounted for 11 points, eight rebounds, and one steal. Randle remains a top-100 player in 9-cat, but he hasn't been the player that many expected after a stellar 2020-21 campaign. The Knicks starter who did go off was RJ Barrett, who scored 30 points in the first half and finished with a line of 46 points (career-high), nine rebounds, two assists, and six 3-pointers. Barrett, who shot 13-of-22 from the field, left some money on the table, however, as he was 14-of-22 from the foul line. 

Lastly, the Knicks lost one of the few young players that Thibodeau has been willing to play extended minutes, as Quentin Grimes went down with a partial dislocation of his right kneecap during the first quarter. His absence should free up additional minutes for Cam Reddish (8/0/1/1 with two 3-pointers), but he only played 16 Friday night. He's rostered in just 11% of Yahoo leagues but is not worth grabbing right away. I'd keep an eye on Reddish's minutes in Sunday's game against the 76ers before making a move. 

While the Knicks received bad news on the injury front, that was not the case for Miami. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Heat are hopeful that Victor Oladipo (quad) will be cleared to play by the second week of March. He spent the All-Star break with Miami's G League affiliate and had no issues with the quad while ramping up his workload. Oladipo's eventual return would be bad news for Duncan Robinson, who played just 14 minutes due to foul trouble and missed all five of his shot attempts. Tyler Herro (25/7/2/3 with four 3-pointers) picked up the slack there, logging 31 minutes in the process. Gabe Vincent (6/1/4/2 with two 3-pointers) also picked up a few of the minutes that would normally go to Robinson, but he'll also lose minutes once Oladipo gets cleared. 

Jimmy Butler (23/2/2/2) had a relatively quiet night by his standards, shooting 9-of-20 from the field and 5-of-9 from the foul line, but there's no need for concern. Bam Adebayo (16/16/4/1/4) and Kyle Lowry (19/9/4/2 with two 3-pointers) also hit double figures for the winners, who host the Spurs on Saturday and will play four games next week. 

Pelicans 117, Suns 102

Phoenix's point guard situation became even more tumultuous ahead of Friday's game, as Aaron Holiday (ankle) joined Chris Paul (thumb) and Cameron Payne (wrist) on the sidelined. Nothing changed regarding the Suns' starting lineup, but this did mean that Elfrid Payton (two points, three assists) was back in the rotation after being a DNP-CD on Thursday. He logged 14 minutes, and as you can see by his stat line, the veteran guard offered little in the way of production. You can leave Payton on the waiver wire. Cam Johnson (15/1/1/1/1 with three 3-pointers), who's rostered in 53% of Yahoo leagues, is the player to add with Paul sidelined despite producing a relatively meager stat line in Friday's defeat. 

Devin Booker (30/3/5/1/2 with two 3-pointers) appears poised to blow up with CP3 out, so his 10-of-24 night is not a concern. Deandre Ayton (20/5/1/1/3 with one 3-pointer) could also see a higher usage, but the act of getting him the ball could be an issue due to the Suns' lack of healthy point guards. Torrey Craig (2/11/2/2/2) missed all six of his field-goal attempts but still managed to offer some value, playing 25 minutes after injuring his knee during the first quarter. He's still rostered in just 2% of Yahoo leagues and is worth tracking with the aforementioned Johnson being moved into the starting lineup. Craig stands to benefit from a minutes standpoint, but the scoring can be a bit shaky as evidenced by his 0-of-6 effort against the Pelicans. 

As for New Orleans, Friday's win was one in which both C.J. McCollum (32/6/4/1 with two 3-pointers) and Brandon Ingram (28/5/7) both produced quality stat lines. It was revealed after the game that the duo went to dinner on Thursday, and that certainly appears to have cleared some things up with regard to their on-court chemistry. So managers who may have been concerned about Ingram's numbers in the immediate aftermath of the McCollum trade can rest easy. Jonas Valanciunas (18/17/0/1) had a big night on the glass, while Devonte' Graham (11/1/2 with two 3-pointers) hit double figures for the second straight game (first time since January 29-31). His fantasy value remains low, but the move to the bench appears to be a positive one for him. Graham's usage was going to suffer had he remained in the starting lineup alongside McCollum and Ingram, which was bad news for a player who was already struggling.  

Jazz 114, Mavericks 109 

Dallas welcomed back two previously injured players, as Reggie Bullock (hip) and Trey Burke (shoulder) were available to play. However, while Bullock (9/0/2/2 with three 3-pointers) started and played 34 minutes, Burke was a DNP-CD. This comes as no surprise, as the addition of Spencer Dinwiddie (20/2/2/1 with three 3-pointers) made it even more difficult for Burke to earn consistent playing time. Speaking of Dinwiddie, Friday's effort was his best in a Mavericks uniform and the same can be said for Davis Bertans. Shooting 5-of-8 from three, Bertans tallied 17 points, three rebounds, one steal, and one blocked shot in 19 minutes off the bench. 

Dinwiddie is still rostered in 61% of Yahoo leagues, which is a bit high since he's behind Luka Doncic (23/7/11/1 with three 3-pointers), and Jalen Brunson (8/2/2/1) is also playing heavy minutes as a starter. Bertans is way down at 4% with regard to his rostered percentage, which makes sense due to his inconsistency and place within the Mavericks roster. Dwight Powell (22/7/0/1 with one 3-pointer) had a very good night, while Maxi Kleber (3/3/4/2/2 with one 3-pointer) struggled with his shot but did record a full stat line. Kleber, who's rostered in 35% of Yahoo leagues, is a better option than Bertans in 9-cat formats. 

Utah was down a rotation player on Friday, as Rudy Gay (illness) was unable to play. His absence frees up playing time for Danuel House (six points, one steal, and one 3-pointer) and Eric Paschall (one assist), but neither is worth streaming under these circumstances. Donovan Mitchell (33/2/5/1 with seven 3-pointers) led the way offensively as one would expect, while Rudy Gobert (14/17/2/0/3) came up big on the defensive end in the second half. 

After playing drop coverage for much of the first half Utah altered its pick-and-roll defense, and Gobert acquitted himself well when asked to switch onto Dallas' primary ball-handlers (especially Doncic). That proved to be one of the deciding factors as the Jazz limited the Mavericks to 19 points in the third quarter (and 42 for the second half). Bojan Bogdanovic (18/2/1 with two 3-pointers), Mike Conley (15/6/5/3 with three 3-pointers), and Jordan Clarkson (13/1/0/1 with two 3-pointers) also scored in double figures for the home team. 

Clippers 105, Lakers 102

As those who watched this game can likely attest, the final minute was an absolute shambles thanks to video reviews and some baffling decision-making by the players involved. But the Clippers won't be complaining, as the win gives them the head-to-head tiebreaker in the season series. Tyronn Lue's bench came up big, with the Clippers' reserves combining to score 53 points on the night. Luke Kennard (18/6/2/1 with five 3-pointers) has been a top-100 player over the last three weeks but is still rostered in just 22% of Yahoo leagues. Unfortunately, the Clippers will only play three games next week, which limits Kennard's fantasy upside by a small margin. 

Amir Coffey (14/1/2/1 with one 3-pointer), Isaiah Hartenstein (11/7/6/0/2), and Robert Covington (10/7/2/2/3 with two 3-pointers) also played well, with Hartenstein seeing an increase in minutes due to starting center Ivica Zubac (six points, seven rebounds) struggling with foul trouble. Rostered in 7% of Yahoo leagues, Hartenstein isn't an "add" in standard leagues, but he is worth keeping an eye on. There should be no such hesitation regarding Terance Mann, however, as he's provided top-50 value over the last three weeks. Mann posted another quality line Friday night, tallying 19 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and one 3-pointer in 36 minutes. He's rostered in 52% of Yahoo leagues, which is too low given the recent run of form. And with Paul George (elbow) still needing time to recover, that's even more reason to spring for Mann. Reggie Jackson (17/4/6 with one 3-pointer) and Marcus Morris (10/3/1/1/1) also hit double figures for the Clippers. 

This game was the Lakers' first since losing Anthony Davis (ankle) in the team's final game before the All-Star break, so there was the opportunity to see how Frank Vogel would adjust his rotation. Due in large part to the matchup Dwight Howard got the starting nod, and he played quite well. Logging 26 minutes, he recorded a line of 14 points (5-of-11 FGs, 4-of-5 FTs), 16 rebounds, one assist, one steal, and three blocks. This feels like a situation in which Howard's role will be dictated by the opposing team's rotation, so I'm not sure about going all-in on him. However, with the Lakers scheduled to play the Pelicans on Sunday, this would be a good time to roll the dice on the future Hall of Fame pivot. 

Also in the starting lineup were Austin Reaves (6/1/3/0/2) and Trevor Ariza (2/4/0/1), who combined to shoot 3-of-9 from the field. While Reaves' defense kept him on the court for 33 minutes, Ariza played just 18. The latter is in a tougher spot, however, as the Lakers need to get Carmelo Anthony (18/5/1/2/1 with four 3-pointers) more minutes in order to account for the absence of Davis. Anthony, back in action after missing five games due to a strained hamstring, played 28 minutes and had no issues health-wise. His 3-point attempt in the final seconds fell short, sealing the win for the visiting Clippers. Rostered in 48% of Yahoo leagues, Anthony is a must-add in standard leagues for me. 

Talen Horton-Tucker (16/3/1/2 with two 3-pointers) had one of his best games of the season, but I can't bring myself to trust him. He's rostered in just 10% of Yahoo leagues, so managers may be able to get away with waiting until after Sunday's game against New Orleans to make a decision. Malik Monk, the player that many rushed to add in the aftermath of Davis' injury, shot 3-of-9 and finished with seven points, two rebounds, and six assists in 25 minutes off the bench. The expectation may have been that he would start, but Reaves wound up getting the nod. I'm holding onto Monk for now. LeBron James (21/11/3/1/1 with two 3-pointers) shot 6-of-18 from the field, while Russell Westbrook (18/3/1/1) was slightly better at 9-of-21. James and Westbrook combining for four assists was a surprise and is something to keep an eye on as the Lakers continue to play without Davis. 

Raphielle Johnson
Raphielle has been writing about college sports for more than a decade for multiple outlets, including NBC Sports. Focuses have included game recaps, columns, features and recruiting stories. A native of the Northeast, he now calls Pac-12 country home. Raphielle can be followed on Twitter @raphiellej.