Welcome to 2022! I hope your holiday season brought you nothing but joy and hopefully some wins in your leagues! We are officially into the new year so if you haven’t been collecting wins, it’s a great time to hit the reset button and start to turn the tide in your favor! Wednesday night was a night full of action, and with 11 games, there was a lot to break down! I am going to give you the ten biggest storylines from Wednesday’s slate of games and we’ll kick this first NBA Wednesday of the year off right!
Kyrie Irving is Back!
Kyrie Irving played his first NBA game since June 13, 2021, when he injured his ankle in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks. In one of the most bizarre situations we have ever seen, Irving had yet to play a game this season due to a series of events surrounding his choice not to be vaccinated against Covid-19. But #11 kicked off his eleventh season in the NBA on Wednesday as the Nets traveled to Indiana to play the Pacers.
Irving was in the starting lineup on Wednesday, and after a bit of a slow start, Irving got going and eventually helped the Nets to overcome a 19-point deficit to beat the Pacers 129-121. Irving finished with 22 points on 9-of-17 shooting (0-of-2 3-pointers) to go with three rebounds, four assists, three steals, and one block in 32 minutes of action. Now Irving won’t be able to play in Brooklyn’s next two games against Milwaukee and San Antonio because the games will be played in Brooklyn, where Irving cannot play unless he chooses to get vaccinated. So his next chance to get on the court will be Monday in Portland and then Wednesday in Chicago. The game against Portland is a makeup game that was originally scheduled for December 23rd. A two-game week makes Irving a lot more attractive than one game, but the following week with three road games will be amazing for Irving managers.
Lance Stephenson makes himself at home in Indy
Time machines must have become a thing in 2022 because I think we are in the year 2014, and Lance is in the prime of his first run in Indiana. The only thing is, Wednesday’s game was better than any game that he ever played in a Pacer uniform. "Bornready Lance" made his return to Gainbridge Fieldhouse (formerly Bankers Life Fieldhouse) for the first time since his second stint with the Pacers in 2018. Entering Wednesday, Stephenson had played 516 NBA games and had scored 30 just one time. By now you see where we are going with this.
Through the first quarter, Stephenson had scored 20 points on 8-of-9 shooting (4-of-5 3-pointers) and had played just six minutes. He finished the game with 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting (4-of-8 3-pointers) with five assists, three rebounds, and three turnovers in 32 minutes of action. As if this game wasn’t filled with enough headlines, Domantas Sabonis was absolutely absurd on Wednesday, scoring 32 points on 10-of-14 shooting to go with 12 rebounds, 10 assists, and one triple in 38 minutes of action. It was his second triple-double of his season and the third of his career against Brooklyn. On any other night, this likely could have been a headline type of performance, but that tells you just how insane this game was on Wednesday.
KPJ & Christian Wood return from suspension in style
Kevin Porter Jr. and Christian Wood served a one-game suspension in Monday’s 133-113 loss to the Sixers after their separate debacles in Saturday’s 124-111 loss to Denver. Rockets head coach Stephen Silas issued the two a one-game suspension for Monday’s contest before welcoming the two back for their game in DC on Wednesday against Washington. Porter Jr. didn’t shoot the ball well at all, going 3-of-13 from the floor for 13 points to go with eight assists, seven rebounds, and four steals. When it mattered most though, he made the biggest shot of the night, a stepback three-pointer from the left wing to give Houston a 114-111 win over the Wizards. He and Silas even shared an embrace after the game, so it looks like all is well in H-Town.
Things look good for Wood as well as he scored 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting (6-of-6 free throws) to go with 11 rebounds, three steals, and one assist in 34 minutes of action. This was his first double-double in two weeks and it comes in his second game of the month. He only tallied five in December, after having eight in November, so we will see if he can get back to those November-type numbers to start the new year.
DeMarcus Cousins double-doubles & then is released
The Bucks signed DeMarcus Cousins to a non-guaranteed contract on November 28th, and the big fella would go on to have a productive stint with the defending champs, playing 17 games, starting five, and averaging 9.1 points on 46.6% shooting from the floor with 5.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 0.9 steals, and 0.5 blocks per game. On Wednesday, Cousins played 20 minutes off the bench and scored 15 points to go with 10 rebounds, three steals, and one block.
Friday is the league-wide deadline to guarantee any non-guaranteed deals, and the Bucks elected to waive Cousins and keep a roster spot open ahead of the February 10 trade deadline. “At the end of the day, we made a strategic decision to have an open roster spot, but there’s nothing that would prevent us from partnering with DeMarcus again down the road,” Bucks general manager John Horst said. “He was so good for us, and hopefully we helped him too.”
Hopefully, Cousins can get picked up elsewhere, it will be interesting to see where that could be, but until then send him to the wire.
KAT & D’Angelo Russell return to Timberwolves lineup
Karl-Anthony Towns missed six games after entering the league's health and safety protocols on December 23rd. D’Angelo Russell missed five games after entering the league’s health and safety protocols on Christmas day. Both were back in the lineup on Wednesday in what was the first game that Towns, Russell, and Anthony Edwards all played since December 15th in a 124-107 win over Denver. Edwards had his two-week stint in the protocols at the end of December, so it has been three weeks since Minnesota has been at full strength, and they have gone 4-5 in the nine games that they played.
On Wednesday, both Towns and Russell struggled offensively as Towns shot 6-of-14 from the floor (1-of-4 3-pointers) for 17 points but he grabbed 16 rebounds to go with three assists, two blocks, and one steal to finish with a solid line. Russell shot 3-of-12 (0-of-5 3-pointers) for just six points to go with three assists, two rebounds, one steal, and three turnovers, but the Timberwolves were able to get a 98-90 win over Oklahoma City. Edwards led the Timberwolves in scoring with 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting with five rebounds, two assists, four triples, and five steals, which tied a career-high. Minnesota will play OKC again on Friday and will be looking to get another win, and hopefully, Towns and Russel will shoot it better in that one.
Luka tweaks his ankle, Mavericks beat Warriors
Wednesday was a special night in Dallas as the Mavericks retired Dirk Nowitzki’s #41 jersey into the rafters at the American Airlines Center. Whoever scheduled this night for a game against the Warriors must have been feeling pretty ballsy, but Dallas came through and earned a 99-82 victory over Golden State. Luka Doncic scored 26 points on 7-of-18 shooting (2-of-8 3-pointers) and made 10-of-12 free throws to go with eight assists, seven rebounds, two steals, and six turnovers in 34 minutes. More importantly, Luka tweaked his right ankle late in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game, but he isn’t too worried about it going forward.
“No, no, it’s good, I just turned it by myself,” Doncic said. “I think it’s quick. A little bit of pain, but I'll be fine.” The Mavericks play Houston on Friday, so based on these comments, we expect Luka to be in the lineup and ready to go.
Jokic triple-doubles, Bogdanovic has career night on Wednesday
Nikola Jokic is coming off of an MVP season, and this year has arguably been more impressive given the number of injuries that Denver has, and where they currently sit in the standings at 18-18. Wednesday was another vintage Joker performance as he went for 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting (1-of-3 3-pointers) and grabbed 21 rebounds with 11 assists and two blocks, but the Nuggets lost to the Jazz 115-109. Jokic is the only player in the three-point era (since 19980) with multiple 25/20/11 games according to StatMuse.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to beat a Jazz squad that was without Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside on Wednesday, leaving the Jazz without any rim protection. The main reason for this was because Bojan Bogdanovic had his best game of the season to lead the Jazz to their 10th straight road win, good for the third-longest streak in franchise history.
Bogdanovic scored a season-high 36 points on 12-of-20 shooting from the floor (11-of-13 free throws) and grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds, four assists, one steal, and one turnover in 40 minutes. With Utah missing their two centers, Bogdanovic had an opportunity to grab some extra rebounds, and Donovan Mitchell scored just 17 points on 8-of-22 shooting (1-of-9 3-pointers) so he had to pick up some slack offensively as well. With that being said, this probably won’t happen again, so let’s enjoy it while we can.
The Sixers picked up a 116-106 victory over the Magic on Wednesday night, and they had two starters post juxtaposing lines on the way. Joel Embiid had a nice scoring night, putting up 31 points on 12-of-22 shooting (7-of-10 free throws) but he only grabbed five rebounds to go with four assists, one steal, one block, and six turnovers in 33 minutes. This marked Embiid’s fifth straight 30-point game, and also the Sixers' fifth straight win to move them to 21-16 on the season and fifth place in the east.
His teammate, Danny Green had an equally as impressive game, but for the wrong reasons as he played 24 minutes and logged straight zero’s across his box score. Green attempted two shots missing them both and he committed a foul while he was getting his cardio in. Green is the first player to play at least 24 minutes without recording a single point, rebound, assist, steal, or block since Tony Snell did so in 2017. The reason I said it is impressive is that, as a former player, it is extremely hard to play 24 minutes, and not have even a single rebound fall in your direction, especially when there were 50 missed shots by the Magic. Thankfully, Green is only rostered in 17% of Yahoo! Leagues so there aren’t many people who can be upset at him, even though that 17 number is still too high.
Kelly Oubre Jr. knocks down eight 3-pointers in the 4th quarter in win
Kelly Oubre Jr. was unconscious from deep on Wednesday, knocking down a career-high nine three-pointers on his way to 32 points to go with six rebounds and one block in 24 minutes off the bench as the Hornets blew out the Pistons 140-111. Oubre made eight of his nine three-pointers in the fourth quarter, tying an NBA record set by Michael Redd in 2002, for made-threes in the fourth quarter of a game. He was one shy of Klay Thompson’s record of three’s in a quarter of nine, that he set in the third period of a game in 2015. The Hornets also knocked down 24 three’s, which set a new franchise record on Wednesday.
Wednesday evening also marked P.J. Washington’s return to the lineup following a four-game absence in the league’s health and safety protocols. Washington played 24 minutes and scored 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting (2-of-4 3-pointers) to go with eight rebounds, four assists, one steal, and five turnovers. If he happens to be available in your league, be sure to pick him up now that he is back in the fold.
The Heat got contributions from some unlikely, but recently reliable, faces on Wednesday. Bam Adebayo remains out as he recovers from thumb surgery and Jimmy Butler was out with a right ankle sprain. Duncan Robinson played just 17 minutes in his first game back since clearing the NBA’s health and safety protocols, and Kyle Lowry got ejected in the first half of Wednesday’s contest. Oh, and Tyler Herro has one of his worst shooting nights of the season going 5-of-23 from the floor f0r 16 points in 36 minutes.
But despite all this, as only the Heat and their stellar culture could do, they found a way to get a 115-109 win over the Blazers on the road. Granite, the Blazers were without Damian Lillard (abdominals) and C.J. McCollum (collapsed lung), but a win is a win in the NBA. The Heat were led by Max Strus, who canned seven triples and shot 9-of-17 from the floor on his way to 25 points with six rebounds and a career-high five assists in the win. Omer Yurtseven chipped in 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting (1-of-1 3-pointers) and snatched 16 rebounds with four assists, and one block.
There is no word yet on how severe Butler’s ankle injury is at the moment, but until he can get back in the lineup, Strus should have the opportunity to put up some decent numbers. Yurtseven on the other hand should be penciled in for a double-double every night until Bam Adebayo returns, which was reported to be targeted for late January. If that is true, then enjoy Yurtseven for a few more weeks, and if nothing else, he should help you win your rebounding category if you were able to snag him.