It is the last NBA Wednesday of the year before we turn the page to 2022. Unfortunately for some, we have limped to the finish in 2021 with many stars being missing for Christmas games, and teams being without large chunks of their rosters for games on end. But on the other end of the spectrum, there have been a record number of players to suit up in an NBA game this season, so many young players, who quite frankly, might never have gotten the opportunity, have now realized their dreams of suiting up in an NBA game, which is something they will never forget. This has also allowed us to see some of our favorite stars return to the NBA such as Isaiah Thomas, Joe Johnson, and Lance Stephenson.
All three were in action on Wednesday night, though Johnson did not check into the Celtics’ game against the Clippers. Thomas played 13 minutes and scored six points with four assists in his first game for the Mavericks, while Stephenson also played 13 minutes, and scored two points with one rebound and one assist. But enough of this blast from the past, there were eight games on Wednesday, after Miami’s game against San Antonio got postponed due to Miami not having enough players to play the game. So let’s dive into these games, and I’ll give you the biggest storylines from each.
There is no secret that the Lakers are struggling, as they have now lost six of their last seven games. LeBron James has been in assassin mode of late and has scored at least 30 points in six straight games. On Wednesday, King James went for 37 points on 13-of-25 shooting with 13 rebounds, seven assists, eight triples, two blocks, two steals, and five turnovers in 38 minutes. It is insane that with a line like that, the Lakers still found a way to lose, and a big reason for that was Ja Morant.
Morant tied a career-high with 41 points on 13-of-27 shooting (6-of-7 3-pointers) with 10 rebounds, two assists, two steals, and two blocks as the Grizzlies beat the Lakers 104-99. Morant also had a 40-ball the last time he saw the Lakers on October 24th when he scored 40 points with 10 assists in a 121-118 loss. This makes him the second player to have multiple 40-point games against LeBron James in a single season, joining current Lakers teammate Carmelo Anthony, who did it once in the regular season and once in the playoffs in the 2011-2012 season. The Grizzlies have now won three straight, and Morant has shown out in the last two.
Devin Booker scores season-high 38 in win
Wednesday was a historic night for Devin Booker. Needing just four points entering this game against OKC, to hit the 10,000 career-point mark, Booker obliterated that as only he could. In 36 minutes, he scored a season-high 38 points on 12-of-24 shooting (6-of-12 3-pointers) to go along with seven rebounds, five assists, two blocks, and one turnover as the Suns picked up a 115-97 win over the Thunder. This was Booker’s second straight 30-point game, and his third in his last four games.
More importantly, though, Booker became the seventh-youngest player in NBA history to score 10,000 points, behind LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Tracy McGrady, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. He also joined LeBron James and Kevin Durant as the only players with 10,000 points and 800 three-pointers made before turning 26. So Booker joined some elite company, to say the least, and he is just hitting the prime of his career, so buckle up and expect more greatness from this sharpshooter for years to come.
In what was one of the most bizarre games you will ever see in the NBA, the Knicks starters got absolutely obliterated, while the bench was fantastic, as the Knicks squeaked out a win over a Pistons team whom, calling them shorthanded might be an understatement. The Knicks starters of RJ Barrett, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, Kemba Walker, and Quentin Grimes were a combined -116 in their minutes on the court on Wednesday. The bench of Alec Burks, Immanuel Quickley, Taj Gibson, Obi Toppin, and Miles McBride in contrast was a +161 in their time on the floor, as the Knicks got a 94-85 win.
They had an impossible time stopping Saddiq Bey and Hamidou Diallo, who both went off for 30-balls on Wednesday. Bey set a new career-high with 32 points on 9-of-19 shooting with a career-high six made three-pointers to go with nine rebounds, three assists, and one block in 43 minutes. Bey has been on an absolute tear over his last seven games as he is averaging 24.3 points on 45.1% shooting from the floor (37.7% 3-pointers) with 7.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 3.3 triples, and 1.9 turnovers per game. He is still available in 22% of fantasy leagues, so if one of them happens to be yours, be sure to scoop him up quickly.
Diallo also had himself a night for Detroit as he and Bey combined for 63 of Detroit’s 85 points in the game. Diallo finished with a season-high 31 points on an efficient 13-of-19 shooting (1-of-2 3-pointers) to go with 13 rebounds, four assists, four steals, and four turnovers in 39 minutes. This was the eleventh double-double of Diallo’s career, and the 13 rebounds tied a career-high for the former Kentucky Wildcat. He also joined Bob Lanier, who did it twice, as the only Pistons to ever tally at least 31 points with 13 rebounds, four assists, and four steals in a game since 1973-1974 when steals were first tracked. Over his last three games, he is averaging 23.7 points on 62.0% shooting from the floor (50.0% shooting from three) with 7.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 3.0 steals, and 1.3 triples per game. The Pistons only have one more game this week, but with four games next week, Diallo is certainly worth a look as a streamer.
Nikola Vucevic grabs 20 rebounds in a win over Atlanta
Vucevic had himself a grown man night on Wednesday as the Bulls picked up a 131-117 win over the Hawks. Vucevic put up 16 points on 8-of-14 shooting and grabbed a season-high 20 rebounds with three steals, one assist, and one block in 33 minutes as the Bulls picked up their fifth straight win. Vucevic joined Tyson Chandler and Joakim Noah as the only Bulls players with 20+ rebounds in fewer than 35 minutes since the Dennis Rodman era, according to StatMuse. Vucevic has scored in double-figures in all 10 games that he has played in this month, and has recorded six double-doubles in that span, including three straight for the suddenly hot Bulls.
The Blazers lost to the Jazz 120-105, dropping their third-straight game on Wednesday to fall to 13-21 on the season. They did get big nights out of Damian Lillard and Norman Powell, who both scored 32 points on 23 shot attempts though. For Lillard, it was a 10-of-23 night (5-of-14 3-pointers) to go with six rebounds, four assists, one steal, and two turnovers in 37 minutes. For Powell, the 32 was a season-high and it came on 11-of-23 shooting (4-of-9 3-pointers) with two rebounds, one assist, one steal, and three turnovers in 43 minutes. Powell came out guns blazing, as he scored 25 of his 32 in the first half, on 8-of-12 shooting. He isn’t going to get you much outside of points, but if that is what you need, Powell has been great at that all season long.
The Hornets closed out 2021 with their third-straight win, as they beat the Pacers 116-108 on Wednesday night. Their backcourt of Terry Rozier, and LaMelo Ball put on a show, and they will now get two days off before they open 2022 with a game against the Suns on Sunday. Rozier scored a season-high 35 points on 13-of-23 shooting (5-of-9 3-pointers) to go with seven rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocks with zero turnovers in 38 minutes. Ball flirted with a triple-double as he scored 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting (1-of-4 3-pointers) to go with 12 rebounds, nine assists, one steal, and four turnovers in 34 minutes. Ball is on pace to yield top-10 value this season, and he should make his first career all-star game, while Rozier is also out-performing his ADP, and is in the midst of a great season in his own right.
Celtics shoot historically bad from three in loss
The Celtics had a historically-bad shooting night on Wednesday as they lost 91-82 to the Clippers, who remain without Paul George (elbow). Boston shot 4-of-42 from the three-point line on Wednesday and yes, you read that right. It was only the third time in NBA history that a team has taken more than 40 three-pointers and made five or less, according to Sportsradar. The Celtics were without their leading scorer and best playmaker in Jayson Tatum, who is currently in the league's health and safety protocols, along with Dennis Schroder, as well as Marcus Smart, who missed his second-straight game with a hand laceration.
This meant that all of the playmaking responsibilities fell on Jaylen Brown and Al Horford on Wednesday. Horford didn’t shoot it well, but he did everything else at a high level as he finished with nine points on 3-of-14 shooting (0-of-7 3-pointers) to go with ten rebounds, eight assists, three blocks, and two steals in 37 minutes. Horford is fourth on the team in assists per game this season, and all three of the guys who are ahead of his were out, so it wasn’t too surprising to see him lead the team in assists on Wednesday.
Jaylen Brown, on the other hand, shot 13-of-36 (1-of-13 3-pointers) to go with eight rebounds, two steals, and not a single assist. His 36 field-goal attempts without a single assist are the most by any player in a game since Antoinne Walker shot 21-of-36 with no assists against the Wizards in 1998. To be fair, there were a ton of open shots that were missed on Brown's kick-outs, but there was also a lot of tunnel vision that resulted in some ugly plays for Brown on Wednesday.
Jaen Brunson stays hot without Luka Doncic
Brunson has been Dallas’ saving grace ever since Luka Doncic went down with an ankle injury, and then subsequently entered the league’s health and safety protocols. Doncic has missed the last nine Dallas games and has not appeared in a game since December the 10th. The Mavericks are 4-5 in the nine games since then and now find themselves at 16-18, good for eighth in the Western Conference. Doncic entered the league’s health and safety protocols on December 22nd, so given the shorter quarantine guidelines per the CDC, and the NBA, Doncic should be eligible to clear quarantine any day now, provided he can return two negative tests 24 hours apart.
While he has been out, Jalen Brunson has more than held up his end of the bargain. On Sunday, even though the Mavericks got beat at the buzzer by Chimezie Metu, Brunson was huge again. In 36 minutes, Brunson scored 25 points on 11-of-19 shooting (2-of-2 3-pointers) and added six assists, two rebounds, one steal, and two turnovers, but the Mavericks lost 95-94. Over the last nine games, Brunson is averaging 20.8 points on 50.4% shooting from the floor (36.8% 3-pointers) with 7.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.6 triples, and just 2.0 turnovers per game. When Doncic returns, Brunson’s value will surely take a hit, but he will still be a roster-able player, as he has returned ninth-round value thus far this season. For some reason, he is still available in almost a quarter of Yahoo! Leagues, which is absurd, so if for some reason he is still available in your league, be sure to pick him up ASAP.