It is Thursday, and you know what that means! Time to recap the most exciting day of the week in the NBA! As usual, there was a ton of action on Wednesday night, as there were nine games that saw many players make their return to the hardwood after brief absences. There were many huge performances, some huge margins of victory, and some embarrassing individual lines. So without making you wait any longer, let’s dive right into last night’s action!
Nets ride huge third quarter to blowout win over Bulls
Wednesday’s matchup featured the two best teams in the eastern conference as the Nets came in looking to get their first win against the Bulls this season after Chicago had won the previous two meetings by a combined 27 points. Through two quarters, it looked like we could have a great ballgame on our hands as the Nets took a 62-60 lead into halftime. But in the third quarter, Brooklyn blew the game completely open, outscoring the Bulls 39-19 in the frame. The 20-point margin was their biggest margin in any quarter this season and Kevin Durant’s 17 points scored in the quarter was his highest of the season.
The Nets also had all three of their “Big 3” on the floor for just the 16th time since coming together last season. They are now 13-3 in games that they play together after they beat Chicago 138-112 on Wednesday. Kyrie Irving appeared in just his third game of the season, and if you listened to Tuesday’s Roundball Stew podcast, you knew there was one thing that I was looking at, and that was Patty Mills’ production. In the two prior games that Irving had played, Mills had a minimal impact on offense. On Wednesday that was not the case as he came off the bench on Wednesday and scored 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting with six triples, three rebounds, and one assist in 22 minutes. This was great to see, and even though it will still be a work in progress finding chemistry with Irving in and out of the lineup, it is good to see that Mills is still a potential play even with Irving in the lineup.
And last but not least, James Harden had one of his best games of the season as he completely controlled the game, scoring 25 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the floor to go with a season-high 16 assists, seven rebounds, one steal, and one block. Harden has really turned it around after a slow start to the season, and since Christmas, he is averaging 27.3 points per game on 45.1% shooting from the floor with 10.8 assists, and 8.4 rebounds per game.
Lakers give up 125 to Kings in loss Wednesday
Just when it looked like the Lakers were going to turn a corner after they had won four consecutive games, they have now lost two straight, and the Kings subsequently snapped a five-game losing streak that started with a loss to the Lakers on January 4th. The Lakers blew a 14-point lead in this one and gave up 70 points in the paint as the Kings took advantage of Los Angeles’ small lineup with LeBron James at center. De’Aaron Fox scored 29 points on 11-of-21 shooting to go with four rebounds and four assists, and his backcourt mate Tyrese Haliburton scored 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting (2-of-5 3-pointers) and added 10 assists, three rebounds, two steals, and one block in 38 minutes. Harrison Barnes also had a big night, scoring 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting (3-of-6 3-pointers) and added seven rebounds, two assists, and one block.
For the Lakers, LeBron James scored 34 points on 13-of-29 shooting (3-of-12 3-pointers) and grabbed seven rebounds to go with six assists, and one block in 39 minutes. King James leads the NBA with 19 30-point games this season, 11 of which have come in the last 12 games. Unfortunately, the Lakers are just 10-9 in those games this season. Malik Monk did his best to provide some assistance as he put up 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting (6-of-9 3-pointers) with seven rebounds, three assists, and two blocks in 29 minutes. Russell Westbrook had another stinker as he shot 2-of-14 from the floor (0-of-5 3-pointers) and grabbed 12 rebounds to go with six assists, one steal, and one turnover. The lone bright spot is that over the last four games, Westbrook has just four total turnovers, which is amazing for 9-cat managers who have him.
Thomas Bryant plays 12 minutes in season debut
Thomas Bryant played his first game of the season on Wednesday after he had spent the first two and a half months rehabbing from an ACL tear that he suffered a calendar year ago on January 9, 2021. The Wizards have been quite cautious with Bryant and his recovery, but they finally got Bryant back in the fold on Wednesday. In 12 minutes, Bryant scored six points on 2-of-2 shooting from the floor with one rebound, one assist, one triple, and no turnovers.
The Wizards once thin frontcourt is now loaded with Byant playing behind Daniel Gafford and alongside Montrezl Harrell and Rui Hachimura, who played in just his third game of the season on Wednesday after a hiatus caused him to miss the teams’ first 39 games. The thing that makes Bryant attractive and separates him from the other frontcourt players, namely Gafford and Harrel is his ability to shoot the three. Bryant knocked down his only attempt from deep on the evening on Wednesday, and he is the only center out of the three that is a real threat from beyond the arc. The Wizards aren’t going to throw Bryant in the fire immediately with a bunch of minutes, so there is no need to grab him yet, but keep an eye on the situation as the season progresses.
Gordon Hayward scores 30 as Hornets top Sixers
Hayward is quietly putting together an outstanding season in Charlotte. He is on pace to finish top-60 in standard leagues and he took another step in that direction on Wednesday. Hayward scored 30 points on 13-of-16 shooting (4-of-4 3-pointers) and added seven assists, four rebounds, three steals, and just two turnovers as the Hornets ended a 16-game losing streak against the Sixers in a 109-98 win. Their 16-game losing streak to Philly was the longest active losing streak for any NBA team against an opponent. Hayward only missed three shots the entire game, and they all came in the second half as Hayward shot 9-of-9 in the first half, which matches his career-best for a half that he set against the Cavaliers in 2019. Most importantly, Hayward has played in 40 games this season, which is tied for the most on the team with Kelly Oubre. Hayward has found a way to stay off the injury report, which for him is as impressive as anything that he is doing on the court.
RJ Barrett goes for another 30-piece in win over Mavericks
RJ Barrett has been on an absolute tear to start the month of January. Through six games, Barrett is averaging 24.3 points per game on 48.2% shooting from the floor (50.0% on 3-pointers) to go with 5.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.8 triples, and 2.0 turnovers per game. This would be by far his best month of the season, but he likely will come back down to earth a bit soon. In any event, on Wednesday, Barrett scored 32 points on 13-of-22 shooting from the floor (4-of-7 3-pointers) to go with seven rebounds, and two assists as the Knicks beat the Mavericks 108-85. Barrett became the youngest player in Knicks history to ever have consecutive 30-point games. He was also solid on the defensive end as he held Mavericks defenders to 3-of-11 shooting from the floor as the primary defender, including holding Luka Doncic to 2-of-8 shooting. The defensive stats won’t show up in the box score, but he had a great day on that end.
Garland and Mobley had Cavaliers fans reliving the LeBron James era in Cleveland on Wednesday, as both did something that has not been done since the king sat on the throne. The Cavaliers also got a win as they beat Utah 111-91 to move to 3-1 on their current six-game west coast road trip. Garland recorded a triple-double, scoring 11 points on 3-of-11 shooting to go with 10 rebounds and 15 assists in 34 minutes. He also tallied a steal, as he became the first player since King James to record a triple-double through just three quarters. For Mobley, he finished with 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the floor to go with 10 rebounds, seven assists, and one block in 36 minutes. He became the first Cavalier rookie to tally 15 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists in a game since your highness in 2003. Mobley is the front-runner to win rookie of the year at the moment, and as long as he keeps having nights like these, that will continue.
Lamar Stevens also had a huge night as he scored a career-high 23 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the floor (1-of-2 3-pointers) and added seven rebounds to go with one assist, two steals, and one turnover. Stevens has been starting for Isaac Okoro (elbow), who has been out for 10 days, and it was reported that he would miss 2-3 weeks. As long as Okoro is out, Stevens will have the chance to start, and though he is capable of big nights, he is likely just a DFS play against certain matchups at best.
The Celtics beat the Pacers 101-98 in overtime on Monday, and they ran it back on Wednesday, but unfortunately for the Pacers, it was the same result. Boston beat Indiana 119-100 on Wednesday, in a game where three players combined to score 90 points for Boston. Jaylen Brown led Boston in scoring for the third straight game, as he put up 34 points on 11-of-19 shooting (7-of-11 3-pointers) and added five rebounds and three assists in 35 minutes. Jayson Tatum added 33 points of his own on 11-of-19 shooting (4-of-9 3-pointers) to go with seven rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks in 37 minutes.
Marcus Smart missed Wednesday's game with a thigh contusion, so Dennis Schroder got the start, and he put up 23 points on 7-of-11 shooting (4-of-5 3-pointers) with three assists, two rebounds, and one steal in 34 minutes. Smart’s thigh contusion isn’t expected to be long-term, but there is no immediate timetable for his return. None of Boston’s reserves got any boosts on Wednesday, so we could be looking at a three-man show in Boston until he gets back.
For Indiana, Malcolm Brogdon gave it a go on Wednesday, after missing three weeks with what the Pacers are calling Achilles soreness. Brogdon played just 17 minutes before being ruled out for the remainder of Wednesday’s game, so his Achilles definitely is still a lingering issue. We will consider him questionable for Friday’s game against Phoenix, but don’t be surprised at all if this is another multi-game absence for Brogdon. Caris LeVert also returned on Wednesday after missing five games due to the league’s health and safety protocols. LeVert played 29 minutes and scored 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting (1-of-2 3-pointers) to go with four assists, one rebound, and one block.
With Brogdon looking like he could be heading back on the shelf, Justin Holiday could be worth a look, as could Lance Stephenson if either of them are available in your league. Holiday is currently rostered in just 25% of Yahoo! Leagues, while Stephenson is currently at 40% so double check to be sure they aren’t sitting around the waiver wire.
Spurs get Johnson & Vassell back, Murray goes off in loss to Houston
Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell both returned to the court after missing the last three games due to the league’s health and safety protocols. Both were questionable leading up to Wednesday’s game, as they needed to return one more negative test before being eligible to return to the lineup. Derrick White had these same odds, as he entered the protocols the same day as both Johnson and Vassell did, but he was not as lucky as his two teammates were on Wednesday. Neither White nor Vassell started for San Antonio, who lost 129-124 to Houston.
Johnson played 24 minutes off the bench, scoring 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting (2-of-4 3-pointers) to go with five rebounds and one assist. Vassell played 22 minutes and scored 12 points on 3-of-10 shooting (1-of-6 3-pointers) to go with five rebounds and one steal. Dejounte Murray continued on his tear on Wednesday as he shot 12-of-26 from the floor (4-of-9 3-pointers) for 32 points and he added 11 assists, 10 rebounds, and three steals with no turnovers in 37 minutes. Murray has been carrying the load of late, but hopefully White can get back in the lineup on Friday against Cleveland to try to help stop the bleeding as the Spurs have now lost four straight games.
For Houston, Eric Gordon returned from a one-game absence and led the way in Wednesday’s win. Gordon scored 31 points on a super-efficient 9-of-10 shooting from the floor (6-of-7 3-pointers) to go with three rebounds, three assists, and one steal in 32 minutes. Gordon has been in and out of the lineup as he has dealt with groin and hamstring injuries, plus, the Rockets are going to want to get the young cats as much playing time as possible down the stretch, so his long term prospects aren’t as high as his value is as a streamer from time to time.
Shorthanded Heat beat Atlanta on Wednesday
Miami is still without Jimmy Butler, who is dealing with a right ankle sprain, and Bam Adebayo, who is reportedly getting close to returning from right thumb surgery. On Wednesday, they got big contributions from Tyler Herro, Caleb Martin, and Omer Yurtseven, as Miami beat Atlanta 115-91. Herro came off the bench and scored 21 points on 9-of-19 shooting (1-of-6 3-pointers) to go with a season-high 11 assists, nine rebounds, and one block in 36 minutes. Martin started and scored 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting (2-of-6 3-pointers) and grabbed a season-high 10 rebounds with three turnovers in 33 minutes. Butler and Herro have been great on the wing filling in for Butler and as long as Butler is out, both should continue to put up big numbers.
In the frontcourt, Omer Yurtseven put up another double-double on Wednesday, as he scored 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the floor and grabbed 10 rebounds to go with six assists, one block, and three turnovers in 29 minutes. The former Georgetown Hoya big man has been awesome in his minutes since Adebayo went down, as he is providing eighth-round value over the last three weeks. Until Adebayo returns, he should be a good bet, to keep producing for you even with Dewayne Dedmon (knee) now back in the lineup.