There were three games in the NBA on Thursday night and we got more bad COVID news as the Grizzlies joined the Wizards in postponement-fest, having their next three games shut down. That means that in addition to Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas and Xavier Tillman being on the shelf, players on the Blazers and Kings are also going to miss games. Additionally, the Wizards vs. Bucks has been nixed for Friday and I don’t remember the last time I saw Bradley Beal play basketball. I guess the good news is that the Grizzlies and Wizards (and several other teams) are going to have big second-half schedules, but that’s of little consolation as fantasy teams loaded with Wizards and Grizzlies have been taking a bath lately.
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Lakers 113, Bucks 106 – The Lakers controlled this game even though it was pretty close, as Giannis Antetokounmpo never really got going after seven first-half turnovers to help the Bucks to their first two-game losing streak of the season.
LeBron James went off for 34 points, six boards, eight dimes, a steal, a block and six 3-pointers, scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter to help seal the win. He hit 13-of-25 shots and the points and triples were both season highs for King James. And that’s good news after he struggled in his previous game with 19 points on 6-of-16 shooting. And while it’s hard to believe, this was also Bron’s first 30-point game of the season and it was nice to see him back up one of his worst games with his best game of the season.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got hot from downtown, hitting 7-of-10 and finished with a season-high 23 points, three boards and a block. He’s scored in double digits in seven of his last nine games, but he’s a textbook definition of a 3-point specialist. He did go on a steals streak for four games earlier this month but hasn’t had one in his last two games. He runs hot-and-cold though, so be careful. KCP had four points in 23 minutes on 1-of-3 shooting in his previous game on Monday. Anthony Davis hit 8-of-18 shots and just 2-of-5 free throws, but still finished with 18 points, nine rebounds, six assists, a steal and two blocks in the win. AD is 0-for-5 from downtown over his last four games and hasn’t scored more than 19 points in five straight. But he’s playing and producing, despite being on the injury report every. single. day. Montrezl Harrell had 12 points and five boards, but the rest of the Lakers were basically a fantasy sieve, although Kyle Kuzma may have saved some DFS users with his two blocks.
The Bucks were led by Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 25 points, 12 boards, three assists, one block, one 3-pointer and a career-high nine turnovers. As I mentioned above, he had seven of those TOs in the first half and eventually fouled out of the game. He’s now averaging 4.0 TOs and shooting about 55 percent from the line in his nine January games. Its’ a good thing he’s so good at everything else, as he’s also scored at least 22 points with at least one 3-pointer in all nine of those games. But, as the TNT and broadcast crew pointed out, Giannis really needs to reel in his shot selection, as he takes a lot of Ill-advised 3-pointers. He’s possibly the game’s best ‘driver to the rack’ and he should do that more often instead of settling for fadeaway 3-pointers, in my opinion.
Jrue Holiday came through with 22 points, five boards, seven assists, a steal and two 3-pointers, Khris Middleton added 20 points, five boards, seven assists and three triples, Brook Lopez had 13 points, four rebounds, two blocks and a 3-pointer, and Donte DiVincenzo had 10 points, four boards, two assists, a steal and two 3-pointers in the loss. No one off the Bucks’ bench, including Bobby Portis, scored more than four points. Portis is worth a deep-league look, but make sure you’re not holding him over a more consistent performer.
Knicks 119, Warriors 104 – The Dubs were playing their second game in two nights and it showed. All five Knicks’ starters scored in double figures and played well, but it was the RJ Barrett show for most of the night. Barrett hit 10-of-17 shots, two 3-pointers and 6-of-8 free throws for a season-high 28 points, two rebounds and five assists in 37 minutes and the win. Barrett is showing as just a 15th-round player, but it sure feels like he’s playing better than that. The lack of threes, steals, blocks and low field goal percentage hurts him, but he’s been a solid points-league player, and the scoring has made him roster-worthy across the board, for the most part. He’s also been really good over his last five games, averaging 21.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.6 rebounds and 1.4 3-pointers while shooting 50 percent over that stretch. This kid is going to be really good once he figures it all out and it looks like he might be doing just that right now.
Mitchell Robinson overcame two early fouls and nothing in the first half to blow up for 18 points, eight rebounds, an assist, a steal and two blocks on 8-of-11 shooting. He did almost all of that in the second half and he even hit 2-of-2 free throws as the Knicks got their biggest win of the season and pulled their record to 8-8. The fact that Tom Thibodeau came back to Robinson after a rough first half is a great sign. Julius Randle just missed a big triple-double with 16 points, 17 rebounds, nine assists, a steal and a 3-pointer, and not having Randle on my DFS teams hurt me last night. Elfrid Payton came through with 15 points, five dimes, a steal and a 3-pointer, and Reggie Bullock had 12 points and four 3-pointers in just 17 minutes. Alec Burks came off the bench for 11 points, five rebounds, one assist, a block and a 3-pointer, but the key is that he played 31 minutes. I’d rather have Burks than Bullock. Meanwhile, Immanuel Quickley played just 11 minutes and was nearly invisible. If you picked any of them up for their Thursday night game to go along with a couple more this weekend, it was a savvy move. Burks is probably worth grabbing off waivers, especially given all those minutes. And I’m still cool with holding Quickley, at least for now.
For the Warriors, Stephen Curry had 30 points, three boards, four assists, two steals and five triples on 9-of-19 shooting but didn’t get a ton of help. Andrew Wiggins kept it going with 17 points, nine rebounds, a block and a 3-pointer, and James Wiseman had another nice night with 15 points and eight boards, but Draymond Green was ejected after screaming at Wiseman and having the referee think he was yelling at him, instead. Look for that technical to get rescinded, which, I believe, will leave Dray with just three T’s on the season. Kelly Oubre crawled back into his hole after hitting just 2-of-11 shots and missing all four of his 3-pointers, but he did have six boards, three assists, a steal and a block. His free throw shooting has been rough and he was 3-of-6 tonight and is shooting just 67 percent over his last four games. But he’s fine and you can look for him to bounce back in his next one. Don’t mess with any Warriors’ bench players as long as the starters are healthy.
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Jazz 129, Pelicans 118 – The Pelicans opened up a nice first-quarter lead and then the Jazz dominated the last three quarters en route to their seventh straight win. Luckily, they had their Jan. 13 game against the Wizards postponed, which kept the winning streak alive. OK, I’m kidding. Had they played that one they’d be on an eight-game winning streak, instead of seven. They play the Warriors on Saturday, the Knicks on Tuesday and then go back-to-back against the Mavericks next Wednesday and Friday. Surely, they’ll lose one of those games, right? Either way, the Jazz look very real and while Donovan Mitchell caught some heat last night from the TNT crew for only having two double-doubles on his career, it really doesn’t bother me. Dude had 36 points, seven rebounds, five assists, a steal and six 3-pointers on 11-of-19 shooting last night and is showing as a fifth-round fantasy-hoops talent. Yes, more double-doubles, triple-doubles and other stats would make him a more complete fantasy player, but he was drafted because of his offensive prowess and his ability to do a little bit of everything. We’ve seen the TNT crew get guys fired up in the past (Joel Embiid) and I’m guessing that Mitchell is going to start trying to flirt with more double-doubles and triple-doubles from here on out. Look for him to come out with a vengeance over the next few games and hope that he doesn’t overdo it if you roster him. Either way, he was awesome on Thursday.
Mike Conley was nice with 20 points, six assists, three steals, a block and two 3-pointers, Jordan Clarkson added 19 points, three 3-pointers and two steals on an off-shooting night, Bojan Bogdanovic kept it going with 16 points, a couple steals and a 3-pointer, and Rudy Gobert double-doubled with 12 points, 11 boards and four blocked shots. Joe Ingles is back from his achilles injury and had eight points, one rebound, nine dimes, a steal and two 3-pointers, and I’d rather roster Jingles than starter Royce O’Neale, despite his fantasy roller coaster ride over the past two seasons. The Jazz are one of a handful of teams where a couple bench guys are worth rostering, and Clarkson and Jingles are just that.
The Pelicans got another big game from Zion Williamson and his 27 points, three rebounds and two assists on 9-of-14 shooting, but he didn’t have a steal or block. He did, however, hit his first 3-pointer of the season and hit 8-of-10 free throws. He was quietly averaging 23.4 points and 8.0 rebounds coming into this one, but just 0.0 3-pointers, 1.8 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.4 blocks. It’s 2021 and we’re all looking for more out of our fantasy studs, even if they’re big men who can dunk at will. Zion could probably use a good blasting by the TNT crew to get him motivated to get more steals, blocks and 3-pointers, but at least he’s playing well and staying healthy, right?
Brandon Ingram couldn’t miss in the first half but finished with just 23 points, one rebound, two assists, a steal and four 3-pointers, and the song remains the same as far as us wanting more categories out of our fantasy studs. Lonzo Ball had 14 points, five dimes and two 3-pointers, Steven Adams added eight points and a season-high 18 boards with a steal and a block, while Eric Bledsoe just didn’t have it on 4-of-12 shooting for eight points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Had Bledsoe’s shot been falling I would have won some DFS cash, but whatever. J.J. Redick and Nickeil Alexander-Walker each scored 11 off the bench, but I’d only trust them in fantasy if they’re filling in for injured teammates. And in the odd stat of the night, Josh Hart had seven points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, a block and a 3-pointer on 2-of-4 shooting in 25 minutes off the bench. Per D.J. Foster on Twitter, the Pelicans had the best defensive rebounding percentage entering this game and on a team with Zion, Adams and Ingram, Hart was the guy leading the team with 6.7 defensive rebounds a game. Hart is one of the best rebounding guards in the league, but he’s scored eight or fewer points in five straight games, and in all but five games this year. It’s hard to roster a rebounding guard who doesn’t score, but Hart should at least be on your radar going forward.
Lastly, I’ve had a weird couple of weeks, having a good buddy set on fire in a freak industrial accident (he’s going to be severely scarred, but at least he’s alive), and another friend found dead in her bed at just 31-years-old on MLK Day. It’s easy to get caught up in our guys missing games because of a pandemic and seeing your fantasy teams take a hit, but take a minute and look at the big picture and take care of your friends. Get well soon, Chuck, and RIP, Sam. That’s all I’ve got.