March 14, 2016. This date will pop up towards the end of this piece, and the fun fact surrounding it is still blowing my mind. A five-game Tuesday, and the fact that we still get Ja Morant three more times in Week 12 is amazing news in itself.
Raptors 129, Spurs 104
Nothing like starting off a Dose with a blowout, as the Raptors led the Spurs by 15 at halftime and were victorious in every quarter on Monday evening on their way to an easy win. The only impressive thing about Fred VanVleet’s 33 points (12-of-23 FGs), two boards, seven assists, two steals and season-high tying seven 3-pointers in 32 minutes is that he didn’t turn the ball over, but otherwise, that looks about right for the fantasy stud and he’s hit seven triples in each of his last two games. FVV is the number two fantasy option in 9-category leagues behind only 37-year-old LeBron James (which is just crazy), and while his first few games of the season left a bit to be desired, he’s been outstanding since and has no reason to not be going forward. Pascal Siakam notched an efficient 18/12/5 line with two 3-pointers and three turnovers but no defensive stats, while Gary Trent Jr. swiped away two more and was also efficient with 21 points on 8-of-16 shooting (three triples as well). Scottie Barnes nearly triple-doubled with a 11/9/8/1/1 line and keeps showing up in a loaded draft class, and O.G. Anunoby was the only starter to shoot less than 50% from the floor with 14 points (5-of-14 FGs), seven rebounds, three assists, twos steals and two treys in 31 minutes. Chris Boucher is so frustrating and is really just a defensive stats guy with some boards if he’s playing around 20 minutes (19 on Tuesday), as he scored just four points but at least tallied seven rebounds, two steals and two swats. Precious Achiuwa (10/4/1/1/1) and Justin Champagnie (14 points, three boards, four threes, one block) were both fine but they aren’t fantasy assets.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said that he “thought rebounding and turnovers were our demise tonight,” and while the rebounding was close (52-50 Raps), the Spurs’ 20 turnovers explain a little more about what happened in this one. Jakob Poeltl double-doubled for the second straight game behind a 19/12/4 effort but didn’t have any steals or blocks and shot just 1-of-5 from the line, which was 49% lower than Tuesday's field goal percentage (9-of-13), which says a lot about how much you do not want him to shoot free throws. Devin Vassell played well again with with 15 points (6-of-13 FGs) and three 3-pointers but little else, but he had three steals against the Pistons on Saturday and they’ll be there more often than not, and reserve rookie Joshua Primo had a career-high 15 points with five boards, four dimes and two blocks, and he’ll be a fantasy factor one day but likely not this season. Derrick White took just seven shots in 22 minutes for 12 points, four rebounds, two steals and a block, Keldon Johnson didn’t do much at all and Joe Wieskamp had an empty 13 points but that’s about it for a Spurs team in the midst of a four-game skid.
Grizzlies 110, Cavaliers 106
This one was close but the Grizzlies got the win to make it their sixth straight, and despite being down as many as 11 points to a feisty Cavs team, they got the job done and now lead the NBA with nine rallies from down 10 or more points that resulted in wins. They never quit, and I’m not sure the league is understanding that quite yet. Who else but Ja Morant led the way with a full line of 26 points (9-of-21 FGs, 8-of-9 FTs), five rebounds, six assists, two steals, two blocks and two turnovers in 34 minutes. He hit another crucial double-clutch layup with a hair under 30 seconds in the game to break the tie at the time, and then followed up by hitting a layup after stealing the ball to put the Griz up by four by the time you could say “King Ja”. The clutch gene is already there for him and he’s going to be fun for such a long time, and it’s even more exciting that the Grizzlies still have three more games in Week 12 after playing two already. Jaren Jackson Jr. finally broke out of a brutal shooting slump that saw him go 20-of-72 (27.8%) in his previous five games as he netted 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting with little else on Tuesday, including no blocks, but he’s elite at defense and finding consistence in scoring is more so a priority for JJJ right now. Desmond Bane came back to earth with just 11 points (4-of-10 shooting) but it was part of a nice 11/5/7/1/2 showing with three treys, and as far as I’m concerned he can do no wrong. Steven Adams grabbed 11 boards to make three straight games with double-digit boards, but despite a few fun lines that’s all he’s good for, while Brandon Clarke has been faring better than Adams lately with 13 points, nine rebounds, one steal and three blocks in 25 minutes, and he’s approaching standard league territory as we speak. Tyus Jones had 12 points and Ziaire Williams had 10 but nothing else, and Jones could be a deep-league guy but you can ignore Williams.
His team lost, but Darius Garland was warmly welcomed back after spending the last four games in health and safety protocols, and he didn’t skip a beat with a game-high 27 points with four rebounds, 10 assists and one turnover in 36 minutes. His 9-of-26 mark wasn’t ideal of course, and while he gets a break, you may have to expect a bit of a dip in his nearly 48% shooting on the season with even more responsibility and pressure coming his way as the number one point guard by a landslide (Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio both suffered season-ending injuries, as we know). Jarrett Allen had his third straight game with exactly one steal and three blocks along with 22 points (11-of-14 FGs), 12 rebounds and two dimes, and unless this roster changes drastically during the offseason craziness, he’ll be drafted in the second round of fantasy drafts next season. The other big men were all either good or decent, with Kevin Love recording a 18/10 double-double off the bench with four threes in 29 minutes, Evan Mobley still being fun with 17 points, eight rebounds and two swats and Lauri Markkanen going 5-of-11 from the field (4.3% above his season average) for a 13/6/5 line with a swat.
Knicks 104, Pacers 94
Julius Randle and RJ Barrett have played in 154 NBA games together, and for the first time ever, they each scored at least 30 points in Tuesday’s victory. It’s no secret that the Barrett side of this equation is more impressive given his struggles this season, but he’s been picking it up a bit with this occasion being the best of all with 32 points (12-of-20 FGs, 6-of-8 FTs), eight rebounds, three assists, one steal and two trey bombs in 42 minutes. He started out very aggressive and it paid off, including 19 points in the first quarter alone to set the tone for an excellent effort. Over his last three, Barrett is posting a 25.7/6.3/3.0 line on 51.9% shooting with 1.7 three-pointers and 1.3 steals, but his season averages don’t lie and I’m fine trying to ship him away while you can. Julius Randle escaped protocols on the quicker side and only missed a pair of games, and he did his thing with 30 points on identical shooting to RJ, additionally totaling 16 rebounds, four assists, one steal, two 3-pointers and three turnovers in 39 minutes. He is what he is, but the efficiency and a turnover count that doesn’t jump off the page (in a bad way) is refreshing. These two scored nearly 60% of the team’s points, so not a ton of other guys got involved, but Alec Burks was nice with a 14/6/4 line with three steals but did shoot just 5-of-13 from the field, but hang onto him. Taj Gibson didn’t do much and Evan Fournier didn’t score a single point in 22 minutes, and Immanuel Quickley scored 11 off the bench but has horrible efficiency issues and doesn’t help enough elsewhere to be rostered. Mitchell Robinson played 25 minutes off the bench with his only stats being eight points and eight rebounds, and he’ll usually do more than this in that many minutes, but he’s admittedly frustrating.
Rookie Keifer Sykes was the best Pacer in the loss and it wasn’t close, as he had the best NBA game of his young career with a team-high 22 points (8-of-16 shooting) with four rebounds, six assists, one steal, four 3-pointers and just one turnover in 38 minutes. This came out of nowhere so I’m not rushing to snatch him up, but the now 14-24 Pacers are hurting and they may turn to him more often very soon, so he’s officially on my watch list. Domantas Sabonis may have done more bad than good with a 15/8/4 line with no defensive stats and a 5-of-12 mark from the free throw line, and Duane Washington Jr. had his second straight productive game with 17 points (6-of-16 FGs), four assists, one steal and one 3-pointer. His success will depend highly on the health of Malcolm Brogdon (day-to-day with an Achilles injury), but Brogdon can’t seem to stay on the court so he’s either a “see what happens” pickup or some nice Brogdon insurance. Myles Turner and Justin Holiday were both horrendous, but at least Torrey Craig played alright with 15 points and seven rebounds but left the game in the fourth quarter with a groin issue, and despite a randomly full line on Friday and this decent showing, that’s all he’s done in a couple months so leave him alone.
Suns 123, Pelicans 110
Phoenix once again showcased that they’re an incredibly well-oiled machine, with six players scoring in double figures in the win over New Orleans. Devin Booker hit half of his 24 shot attempts and all six of his freebies for a game-high 33 points, also helping out with nine rebounds, four assists, three 3-pointers and two turnovers in 32 minutes, and his defensive stats were starting to come along lately but he’s failed to tack any on to his stat line in his last two, but I hope that’s not what you drafted him for (he is averaging a steal per game though, which is a career high, so the improvement there is nice). Chris Paul kept his low scoring going but still went off for a 11/5/15 line with a triple and three giveaways, and he hasn’t scored more than 15 points since Christmas Day but as I’ve mentioned before, they just don’t need him to score all the time. Mikal Bridges got a new season high with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting with five triples, one steal and a block, and any scoring from him is just a bonus, while Cam Johnson scored 18 in a start with six boards, five threes and two swipes in 35 minutes, and he’s now scored double digits in 17 straight games and could have a little value even when Jae Crowder (protocols) returns. Deandre Ayton and JaVale McGee are also in protocols, which has left Jalen Smith plenty of room to operate and successfully at that, but Tuesday was an odd case. Smith was fine with 12 points, five rebounds and a swat but played just 16 minutes despite starting, but it was Bismack Biyombo who really thrived with a full line consisting of 16 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and three blocks without missing any of his six shots (4-of-7 FTs though, of course). He played really well in this one and wasn’t bad at all in his Suns debut, so it’ll be hard to tell who has the better line going forward out of Smith and Biyombo without the Suns two main centers, but they were both usable at worst on Tuesday.
Brandon Ingram did not bounce back well at all after a miserable 3-of-18 showing on Monday night, as he was only slightly better with a 5-of-18 mark for 16 points, six rebounds, five assists, one steal and five turnovers in 33 minutes. He didn’t start off too hot this season but was sizzling before his last two, but with the Pelicans not being successful, finding someone to take a star like Ingram off your hands doesn’t seem like the worst idea. Jonas Valanciunas didn’t block a shot or hit a 3-pointer but still posted a huge 25/16 double-double on 10-of-18 shooting, and Herb Jones continued to quietly fill it up with a 9/4/5/1/2 effort with a trey and no turnovers, and he has to be rostered virtually everywhere at this point (still available in more than half of Yahoo! leagues). Devonte’ Graham had one of his rare efficient games via 9-of-18 shooting for a team-high 28 points with six each in the triples and assists categories while also adding a steal, and he kills your field goal percentage in a big way but is flirting with top-100 value anyway. Josh Hart did his thing with a 15/11/5 effort with a triple, and some defensive stats would’ve been nice but he’s been fantastic and I prefer rostering him over Graham by quite a bit. No one on the Pelicans bench did anything, Nickeil Alexander-Walker included, and his 27-point explosion a couple weeks ago was officially fluky and you can send him back to the wire again sadly.
Lakers 122, Kings 114
Weird game of the night award goes to none other than this chaos, and the last couple minutes of the game seemed to take an eternity. The refs made an awful call on a mis-start of the game clock with around 24 seconds left that resulted in a jump ball and an absolutely outraged Alvin Gentry, and I don’t blame him. It probably wouldn’t have affected the game, but still, it was pretty awful, but Gentry blamed not the officials but the “[expletive] rule.” Gotta love him.
Anyway, the Lakers won their third straight game, but it is worth noting that the opponents weren’t the best (Portland, Minnesota, Sacramento), but wins are wins and the Lakers need them badly. LeBron James started slow but turned on the jets in the fourth quarter to help close out the game behind a handful of tough finishes and other clutch shots, finishing with 31 points (12-of-26 FGs, 4-of-5 FTs), five rebounds, five assists, one block, three 3-pointers and two turnovers in 36 minutes. He’s now the best fantasy player on a per-game basis, and he’s 37 years old. Russell Westbrook wasn’t great with a 19/7/2/1/1 line on 7-of-19 shooting, but he didn’t turn the ball over a single time in a game where the Lakers only had five of them as a team. Incoming insane stat: By not committing any turnovers tonight, Westbrook snapped a streak of 407 straight games dating back to March 14, 2016 of recording at least one turnover (since turnover tracking started in 1977-78). That means he’s had at least one giveaway in every game he’s played in over nearly the last six years. Six. Years. This may take the cake as one of the most bizarre stats I’ve heard this season, and in a season like this, that’s saying something. He’ll look to get another streak started against the Hawks on Friday. Malik Monk impressed again with a 24/4/4/1/1 line with six more triples and should be rostered right now, and Talen Horton-Tucker came out of nowhere to score 19 points with four boards, six assists, two steals and even one 3-pointer in 33 reserve minutes (he missed his last 16 from distance before hitting one - don’t fall for it and don’t pick him up). Avery Bradley and Carmelo Anthony were both very quiet, and Trevor Ariza was silent (scoreless) in 18 minutes in a start, with the only one of the trio I care about being Melo. Dwight Howard had a random 14/14 double-double with a pair of steals off the bench, but he’s a non-factor nearly every other night.
Buddy Hield was almost a Laker but they chose Westbrook instead, and Buddy took that personally despite the loss, hitting seven 3-pointers behind his 26 points (8-of-18 FGs), five rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block in 33 minutes off the pine. De’Aaron Fox was very efficient with a 12-of-21 clip from the floor and went for a team-high 30 points while chipping in three boards, six assists, two treys and four turnovers in 33 minutes, but he’s still not close to top-100 value due to efficiency issues (44.4%), lack of threes (0.9), turnovers (2.8) and sparse assists from the point guard position (5.1). Tyrese Haliburton finally quieted down with a 7/4/9 line with a triple despite playing a team-high 35 minutes, and Harrison Barnes joined the defensive stat-less club with Hali for a boring 14/6/5 line but at least shot 5-of-9 from the field. Marvin Bagley hauled in a season-high 12 rebounds, Damian Jones posted a 11/4/3 line but what he does doesn’t often show up on the box score and Alex Len’s 9/8 showing contrastingly seemed far worse if you watched him play.