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Basketball Daily Dose

Giannis outduels Zion in Thursday thriller

by Steve Alexander
Updated On: February 26, 2021, 11:41 am ET

Thursday gave us six games, some of them blowouts and some of them fun, and the Nets, Wizards and Bucks are all on winning streaks right now.

Schedule News

Now that the final season schedule has been released there are a bunch of five-game weeks on the horizon. Unfortunately, a lot of them happen in the final week of the season when many leagues will have already shut it down. Do with this what you will.

The Lakers go five times in Week 13, starting on March 15.

The Pistons go five time in Week 16, starting on April 5.

The Mavericks, Thunder and Raptors play five times in Week 19, starting on April 26.

The Pistons play five times again in Week 20, starting on May 3.

The Pacers, Grizzlies, Bucks and Spurs all go five times in Week 21 (the final week), starting on May 10.

Bucks 129, Pelicans 125 – This was one of the better games of the night and it played out on national TV as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Zion Williamson went at it on TNT. The Bucks were led by Giannis’ monster line of 38 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, a block and two 3-pointers on 14-of-27 shooting and he even hit 8-of-10 free throws in the win. This was his 14th 30-point game of the season and he’s scored at least 35 points in three straight games, marking the first time he’s ever accomplished the feat. Giannis was also bothered by some sort of lower back or hip discomfort and was using a heating pad while on the bench. I don’t think it’s anything to worry about, but monitor it if you’ve got him. Khris Middleton scored 31 and all five starters scored in double figures in this one. Speaking of starters, Bobby Portis got the nod with D.J. Augustin out for personal reasons and came through with 12 points, eight boards, two blocks and two 3-pointers in 31 minutes. He was already worth holding in many leagues and if he could actually replace DJA in the starting five permanently, he’d become a must-have player. Donte DiVincenzo went off for a season-high 24 points with seven rebounds, nine assists, two steals, a block and four 3-pointers. He also basically sealed the win when he drew a charge on a driving Brandon Ingram with the game on the line. DiVincenzo has hit double digits in scoring in 10 of his 14 February games and is a good source of rebounds, assists and 3-pointers. He should be rostered everywhere. The Bucks have now won four straight after losing their previous five games.

For the Pelicans, Zion hit 15-of-26 shots and 4-of-5 free throws for 34 points, eight boards, six dimes, a steal and a monster block in 37 minutes. He’s scored in double digits in every game this season and has scored at least 30 in five of his last eight games. And best of all, he’s managed to stay healthy. He’s only going to get better, which is scary. Ingram scored 23 despite hitting just 1-of-10 3-pointers, Steven Adams had seven points, 13 boards, a steal and two blocks, Lonzo Ball added 20 points, eight dimes and six triples, and Eric Bledsoe got some revenge against his former team with 16 points, four boards, five assists, a steal and four 3-pointers. It would be nice if he could play the Bucks every night.

Wizards 112, Nuggets 110 – The Wizards got the exciting win for their third win in four tries on a four-game road trip and have somehow won seven of their last 10 games. They’re just 1.5 games out of the playoffs right now and as long as Russell Westbrook can stay healthy, they’re going to be a team no one will want to face, despite their shaky record (thanks to a 3-12 start). Russell Westbrook had his ninth triple-double of the season with 16-10-10 and tied Darrell Walker for the Wizards’ franchise record, Bradley Beal scored 33 and Rui Hachimura came through with 20 points, five boards and a 3-pointer on 9-of-16 shooting. I wish Hachimura did more with his big minutes, but I still picked him up in a couple leagues last tonight. Raul Neto was fun with 15 points, two rebounds, four assists, five steals and a 3-pointer in 28 minutes off the bench. Neto’s been playing well with Ish Smith out, averaging 10.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.8 3-pointers over his last six games, five of which were Wizards wins. I only fully trust him when Westbrook is sitting, but he at least deserves a look in most leagues given what he’s done over his last six games.

The Nuggets were a disaster down the stretch with a chance to win the game, trying for contested 3-pointers instead of hitting open cutters for a two-pointer to tie the game. Facundo Campazzo missed badly on his 3-point try at the buzzer, while Jamal Murray inexplicably stopped at the 3-point line despite having a 4-1 break. It was weird. Anywho, Murray stayed hot with 34 points, six boards, six dimes and two blocks and he’s now scored 34, 24, 30, 50 and 35 points over his last five games. Nikola Jokic had a fun 24-11-7-1-2-3 line, and Michael Porter Jr. came through with 18 points, 10 boards, a steal, a block and three 3-pointers in the loss. He’s actually hit double digits in five straight games and has played at least 31 minutes in four of them. Maybe he’s finally been turned loose by Michael Malone. MPJ also had double-doubles in back-to-back games for the first time this season. Will Barton was awful, hitting just 1-of-7 shots in 22 minutes, and he’s getting squeezed for minutes by MPJ, Monte Morris and Campazzo, who have all been getting big minutes lately. I’d say give Barton a little more time if you’ve got him, but if you want to cut him, I wouldn’t be mad at you. Campazzo hit just 1-of-8 shots and 1-of-7 3-pointers but played 32 minutes and had a couple blocks. He’s been getting big run and is a blast to watch for his hustle play, but he’s hit just 2-of-13 shots in his last two games. He was playing well prior to the shooting slump and as Adam Schefter, Matt Stroup and I talked about recently, he’s at least worth a look in all leagues, especially when he breaks out of the slump. Despite Murray’s heroics, Jokic’s dominance and the reemergence of MPJ, the Nuggets have lost four of their last six games, losing to the Wizards twice and the Hawks during that stretch.

Nets 129, Magic 92 – The Nets destroyed the Magic behind 27 points and nine dimes from Kyrie Irving, 20 points, nine boards and seven assists from James Harden, a surprising 19 points from Landry Shamet, and 14 points from Joe Harris and Bruce Brown, who both started with Durant out again. Perhaps the most intriguing thing in the Nets box score was Nicolas Claxton, who got loose for 10 points, three rebounds, one assist, four steals and two blocks. Just keep an eye on him in case the Nets start giving him serious run on a nightly basis. The Nets lost three straight games in early February and then went on an eight-game streak and I don’t see it ending any time soon with Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Boston, Detroit and New York coming up in their next six games. Maybe the Pacers can get them on March 17, but I’m not going to hold my breath. Brooklyn’s upcoming schedule is incredibly generous and they could easily win every game from now until April 10 if they can get by the Pacers and Jazz (March 24). They play the Lakers on April 10.  

The Magic’s box score is a brutal mess and Nikola Vucevic is the only guy who lived up to the hype with 28 points, 12 boards and three 3-pointers. Terrence Ross was hot coming in but hit just 1-of-9 shots, Michael Carter-Williams was pedestrian, and James Ennis got loose for 15 points in 16 minutes. Gross.

Knicks 140, Kings 121Elfrid Payton sat out with a hamstring injury and it appeared to work wonders for the Knicks in a blowout win over the Kings. Immanuel Quickley hit 12-of-12 free throws and scored a team-high 25 points with a couple steals and three 3-pointers, Alec Burks finally got loose for 24 points with five 3-pointers, Julius Randle had 21 points and 14 boards, and Derrick Rose, RJ Barrett and Reggie Bullock all scored in double figures. If Quickley’s still sitting on your wire this is probably your sign to pick him up. Burk and Rose are also worth a look if Payton’s going to miss time, but I think Quickley is worth holding in most leagues, with or without Payton.

The Knicks blew through the Kings’ so-called defense like a hot knife through butter and Marvin Bagley looked particularly inept on a few possessions. It’s truly hard to believe he was drafted in front of Luka Doncic, but it’s something that actually happened. De’Aaron Fox led the way with 29 points, Harrison Barnes had 22, Bagley scored 19 and Tyrese Haliburton had 17 points and four steals in the ugly loss. And to quote Corky St. Clair, Luke Walton probably went home last night to “bite his pillow” as the Kings lost their, gulp, ninth straight game. Granted, unlike the Nets, the Kings have had a tough schedule, losing to the Nets (twice), the Bucks, the Heat, the Grizzlies and the Sixers in six of those nine games. They’ll try to right the ship against the Pistons on Friday night.  

Grizzlies 122, Clippers 94 – The Grizzlies got a huge win by blowing out the Clippers and dominated them in paint, outscoring them by an incredible 72-24 count down low. The Clippers had no defense for the Grizzlies and Memphis played great defense all night. The Grizzlies saw all five starters score in double figures and all of them shot at least 50 percent from the floor, although only Jonas Valanciunas had an impressive stat line with his 16 points and 15 boards. Dillon Brooks was also good, scoring 19 points with three 3-pointers, a steal and a block. Brooks isn’t a must-have fantasy player because of how damaging his field goal percentage is, but if you’re just looking for counting stats, you could do worse. Tyus Jones played just 15 minutes off the bench but caught fire, hitting 9-of-11 shots and two 3-pointers for a season-high 20 points, two rebounds, three assists and a steal. His season-low in minutes is 14 and his season high is 32, so It’s kind of crazy he got his season high in points on a night he played so few minutes. Jones has scored in double figures in three straight games as De’Anthony Melton has fallen out of the rotation, but Jones is going to be very tough to trust if he’s not getting 25 minutes a night. And I don’t think he’ll get more than 20 now that the team is pretty healthy again.

The Clippers were broken tonight with only Kawhi Leonard (17 points), Paul George, Serge Ibaka (13 a piece) and Reggie Jackson (12) scored in double figures. Marcus Morris Sr. played 25 minutes off the bench and scored nine points, but now that the Clippers are getting healthy again, I’m afraid he’s going to really cool off. Jackson is worth keeping an eye on but will also be a tough play as long as Patrick Beverley is healthy. Maybe I’m jumping the gun, but I’m dropping Morris in most of the spots where I’ve got him rostered. The Clippers and Grizzlies play again on Friday night and my guess is we’ll see a much different Clippers team out for revenge.

Sixers 111, Mavericks 97 – In one of the more boring games of the night the Sixers worked over the Mavs despite not getting big lines from anyone, although Seth Curry came through with 15 points, three 3-pointers, three steals and a block. He missed his last game with a sprained ankle and is inconsistent but had himself a nice revenge game against his former team tonight. He’s also scored in double digits in eight of his last nine games, but it’s too bad he can’t play the Mavs every night. The big news for the Sixers was Tobias Harris leaving early with a right knee contusion. The fact it’s a contusion (bruise) is the good news, but there’s still a chance he could miss some games. If he does, Curry is going to be a hot pickup in leagues where he’s available and Mike Scott is going to be forced into heavy action.

The Mavericks were less than impressive with a box score that’s tough to look at. Luka Doncic had 19 points, three boards, four assists, three blocks, three 3-pointers and seven turnovers and hit 4-of-6 free throws. Josh Richardson was the second-leading scorer with 13 points and six boards,  Tim Hardaway Jr. had 12 points and two blocks, and Jalen Brunson added 11 points in the loss. The Mavs need Kristaps Porzingis (back) back in a bad way but have won two of their last three games without him. He remains day-to-day, while Boban Marjanovic started in his place last night and had 10 points and eight rebounds in just 17 minutes. As much as I’d love to see Boban become a fantasy factor, I just don’t think it’s going to happen. The Mavs are likely going to take another loss in the next one against the Nets, who have won eight straight games despite not having Kevin Durant (hamstring) for six of those.

Steve Alexander

Steve "Dr. A" Alexander is the senior editor for the NBA for NBC Sports Edge and a contributor to NBCSports.com. The 2020-21 NBA season marks (at least) his 20th year of covering fantasy hoops for NBC Sports. Follow him on Twitter - @Docktora.