Tuesday’s NBA slate had a little bit of everything. Luka magic in OT, an incredible performance from Devin Booker, the return of Lemon Pepper Lou, some silly-season shenanigans for the Bucks, some terrible news for Jaren Jackson Jr., another bubble MVP performance from T.J. Warren and plenty of injury news. Here we go. You can follow me on Twitter here!
Mavericks 114, Kings 110 OT – I know you’re tired of hearing about Luka Doncic from me, but he was amazing yesterday – 34 points, a career-high 20 rebounds and 12 assists – becoming the first human to post such a line since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did it in 1976, and the youngest to ever do it, displacing a guy named Oscar Robertson. He has 16 triple-doubles this season and 10 or them have been 30-point triple-doubles, while the rest of the league has 14 of them. I don’t even enjoy setting a DFS lineup if the Mavs are off. Kristaps Porzingis has 22 points before fouling out and Tim Hardaway Jr. matched him, adding three 3-pointers as the Mavs got their first bubble win. Seth Curry (sore leg) was out, but J.J. Barea (started) and Trey Burke couldn’t get anything going.
The Kings got 28 points and nine dimes from De’Aaron Fox, 21 points and five triples from Buddy Hield and a 12 & 13 double-double from Nemanja Bjelica, who also had a steal, a block and two 3-pointers off the bench. Harry Giles crawled back into his hole with four points in 13 minutes and Bogdan Bogdanovic hit just 1-of-15 shots. The one he hit was a desperation 3-pointer and his final shot of the day. If you take Fox’s 28 points away the rest of the Kings’ starters combined for just 26 points, with Cory Joseph leading the way with nine. Joseph started over Bjelica and the move appears to have worked, as both players played pretty well – especially Bjelica. Maybe I’ll think about getting back in on Bjelica shares going forward.
Suns 117, Clippers 115 – Devin Booker hit one of the most clutch regular-season shots I have ever seen on Tuesday night, swishing his elevated jumper after shaking Kawhi Leonard and having Paul George’s hand right in his face and the ball for the incredible win. The Suns are 3-0 in the bubble and while Deandre Ayton, Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric and Cameron Payne all played fairly well, Booker put his team on his back and carried them in this game. Cameron Johnson was disappointing but I’m not going to lose the faith in him, and Rubio is suddenly a deadly 3-point shooter in the bubble. The Suns play the 3-0 Pacers on Thursday in a T.J. Warren revenge game. It’s going to be fun. The Suns are 3.0 games behind the Grizzlies and 1.5 games behind the Blazers and if they keep winning, anything is possible. Booker is special.
The Clippers look to be locked into the No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the West and I’m worried about how much Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are going to play if they decide these last five games don’t matter. Kawhi had 27 points, seven boards and three 3-pointers on Tuesday and George had a 23-6-5 line, hitting just 1-of-7 triples. Ivica Zubac (18-12-1) and Marcus Morris (16 points) both came to life last night, while Patrick Beverley went down with a calf injury. If he’s out it’s going to be Reggie Jackson time and Jax had 12 points, four boards, three dimes and a 3-pointer in his 24 minutes. Maybe Zubac and Morris will keep it going on Thursday against Luka and the Mavs. We also saw the return of ‘Lemon Pepper Lou Williams’ and he hit 3-of-8 shots for seven points, six rebounds and six assists. He missed both of his 3-pointers in 21 minutes, but could be ready to make a splash going forward.
Nets 119, Bucks 116 – The Nets were 19-point underdogs against the Bucks and started a make-shift lineup of Lance Thomas, Rodions Kurucs, Garrett Temple, Tyler Johnson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarro against the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, which looked like a no-win situation. But TLC went off for 26 points and five 3-pointers, Temple scored 19 with five triples, Chris Chiozza had a double-double with assists off the bench, and Johnson and Kurucs both hit double digits in scoring. And the Nets won an incredibly high-scoring game that was 73-65 at half time. Maybe Joe Harris, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen will be back for Wednesday’s game against the Celtics, but we still don’t know if that will be the case. Jamal Crawford made his Nets debut but left after pulling a hamstring and scoring just five points.
Things got off to a shaky start for me and the Bucks when Brook Lopez was rested in favor of his brother, Robin, and I missed the news because I was in my yard hanging out, ironically, with a large flock of deer. Of course, I had Bro-Lo in my DFS lineups along with Giannis. I thought I could possibly survive against my buddies without Bro-Lo, but then Giannis and Khris Middleton weren’t on the court to start the second half. Game over. The Bucks are a lock for the No. 1 seed in the East and have nothing left to play for, so we just don’t know how much they’re going to run Giannis and Middleton out there going forward. I’m going to be a little gun shy going forward. Eric Bledsoe made his bubble debut and had an uninspiring eight points in 18 minutes on 1-of-5 shooting. Ersan Ilyasova had a double-double off the bench and Frank Mason, Kyle Korver and Donte DiVincenzo all hit double figures off the bench, while Middleton and Giannis were highly disappointing in their 16 minutes. Make no mistake – this is going to look like a traditional silly season for many of the bubble teams whose playoff fate is set. The safe bet is going for the teams like Portland, Phoenix, Memphis, New Orleans, San Antonio (maybe) and Orlando, who are fighting for their playoff lives. Regardless, the Nets win on Tuesday was one of the biggest regular-season upsets in recent memory.
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Pacers 120, Magic 109 – T.J. Warren looks like a bubble MVP and hit 13-of-17 shots and four 3-pointers for 32 points, two rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block and tied Jermaine O’Neal for the franchise record for points in a three-game span (119). TJW had an eternity in the fourth quarter to get one more point and break the record, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Myles Turner’s shot was on point and he hit 7-of-11 shots and 4-of-5 triples for 21 points, six boards, a steal and a block, Victor Oladipo (13 points) and Malcolm Brogdon (12 points) were back in action and Aaron Holiday started and scored 12 with a couple 3-pointers. The 3-0 Pacers meet the 3-0 Suns in a TJW revenge game on Thursday and it’s shaping up to be must-see TV.
The Magic got nice lines out of Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross, while D.J. Augustin and Evan Fournier combined to hit just 3-of-14 shots. Michael Carter-Williams left early with a foot injury, but DJA didn’t step up. Markelle Fultz played well, but still managed just 10 points and three assists with a couple 3-pointers. If MCW misses time, DJA and Fultz will be leaned on heavily again on Wednesday against the Raptors. James Ennis suffered a dislocated left ring finger during the game but was able to play through it and finish with 12 points, four boards, a block and a 3-pointer. I’m not planning on messing with Fultz or DJA in DFS on Wednesday.
Heat 112, Celtics 106 – The Heat controlled the Celtics from the start on Tuesday and while it took them forever to put them away, the Celtics lost three quarters, taking the third 32-28. Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson and Goran Dragic all played well in the win, and all got a boost with Jimmy Butler sitting with a leg injury. Olynyk has quietly been very good in the bubble and Robinson was playing well before the interruption and had 21 points and five threes last night. We don’t know the status for Butler on Thursday against the Bucks, but I’m kind of feeling Bam, Robinson and Olynyk. Goran Dragic went down with a sprained right ankle just before the buzzer, but X-rays were negative and he may not miss much time, if any. If he’s out, Kendrick Nunn will have to step up his game, but he played just 17 minutes and hit 2-of-6 shots despite starting on Tuesday.
The Celtics also lost a point guard on Tuesday, as Kemba Walker will be rested on Wednesday against the Nets. Marcus Smart and Brad Wannamaker will step up in Walker’s place, but I’m not likely to use either of them tonight. All five Boston starters scored in double figures and while none of them were amazing, Jayson Tatum scored 23 with a fun line and Jaylen Brown had an 18 & 10 double-double. Walker saw his minutes rise to 27 and is on track to be back to full strength for the playoffs but won’t play today.
Blazers 110, Rockets 102 – Carmelo Anthony didn’t shoot it great on Tuesday but hit a clutch 3-pointer with just under a minute left that gave the Blazers a 107-102 lead and ended up being the dagger. Melo hit 5-of-14 shots and 2-of-4 3-pointers on his way to 15 points, 11 boards, two steals and a block. As long as he hits clutch shots late, his teammates can probably live with some shaky shot selection at times. I’ll admit, he’s growing on me in Portland. Damian Lillard scored 21, C.J. McCollum had 20 and Jusuf Nurkic went off again, racking up 18 points, 19 boards and three blocks in the win. Nurkic looks amazing and might be the most exciting center to use in fantasy right now. Gary Trent Jr. hit four 3-pointers and scored 16 points but didn’t do much else. But as long as he’s scoring points in the absence of Trevor Ariza, the Blazers aren’t going to complain about his lack of fantasy gold (steals, blocks). The Blazers can sense the Grizzlies falling apart (Jaren Jackson Jr. is done for the year with a torn meniscus) and are going to go all-in the rest of the way. Hassan Whiteside played just 17 minutes and Nurkic has ruined him. Keep an eye on Zach Collins, who started and played 27 minutes, but had just eight points and seven boards. He’ll likely breakout soon. The Blazers will try to keep it going against the Nuggets on Thursday and sit just 1.5 games behind the No. 8 Grizzlies and in front of the Spurs, Pelicans, Suns and Kings.
The Rockets were led by James Harden’s 23 points, Jeff Green broke out with a season-high 22, six boards and five 3-pointers, Danuel House had 17 points and four 3-pointers, and Russell Westbrook hit just 5-of-14 shots for 15 points and nine assists. Robert Covington hit just 2-of-11 shots, but will bounce back, and Green is worth keeping a close eye on, as it looks like he’s the new version of Eric Gordon, who’s out with a sprained ankle. The Rockets are either going to be the No. 4 or 5 seed and will probably face the Jazz in the playoffs. And with no homecourt to play for, I worry about the Rockets possibly resting some guys down the stretch. Then again, that’s not really Mike D’Antoni’s style.
Wednesday’s Injury Quick Hits
Kemba Walker, out Wednesday, rest
The Nets – Check on all of their statuses. Jamal Crawford went down (hamstring)
Jaren Jackson Jr. is done for the season with meniscus tear (sad news)
Michael Carter-Williams is iffy with a foot injury – Augustin & Fultz benefit