Russell Westbrook
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Basketball Daily Dose

Russell Westbrook stars in Los Angeles

by Raphielle Johnson
Updated On: December 20, 2019, 10:46 am ET

Thursday’s NBA schedule may have consisted of just four games, but it didn’t lack for action. The nationally televised games lived up to the hype, with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Russell Westbrook starring in their teams’ victories, and there was plenty of injury news out of Toronto as well.

Pascal Siakam (groin), Marc Gasol (hamstring) and Norman Powell (shoulder) have all been ruled out indefinitely, so the rush to claim a Chris Boucher or even Terence Davis off the waiver wire is on. Fred VanVleet (knee) may return to action Friday night, and that would also help the Raptors account for the injuries. Below is a look at what happened on the court in Thursday’s games.

Jazz 111, Hawks 106 — Looking for a spark following the team’s worst loss of the season, Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce shook up the starting lineup. Moved to the bench were Damian Jones and Jabari Parker, with Bruno Fernando and Cam Reddish joining Trae Young, De'Andre Hunter and Kevin Huerter as the starters. Atlanta put forth a better effort, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Jazz Thursday night.

Fernando played 17 minutes, finishing with four points (2-of-5 FGs), six rebounds and one assist. He remains a player who should be left on the waiver wire, especially with John Collins set to return from his 25-game suspension in a few days. As for the man Fernando replaced in the starting lineup, Jones was a DNP-CD with Alex Len (four points, four rebounds, three assists and one steal in 17 minutes before fouling out) retaining the backup center role. 

The other new starter, Reddish, played 35 minutes and accounted for 14 points (4-of-10 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs), four rebounds, one assist, three steals and two 3-pointers. Like Fernando, he should remain on the waiver wire even though he’s going to continue to get quality minutes be it as a starter or as a reserve. Parker wasn’t affected negatively by the move to the bench, as he shot 10-of-16 from the field and finished with 23 points, nine rebounds, five assists, one steal and one three-pointer in 24 minutes. 

While the return of Collins will cut into his opportunities, hang onto Parker. He’s been one of the bright spots for the Hawks this season, and while there’s certainly a need to get the young players all the minutes that they can handle Parker’s played at a level that makes it difficult to glue him to the bench. Over the last month he’s been a top-75 player in both eight- and nine-category formats, per Basketball Monster

Young, who entered the game listed a probable with a right calf contusion, played 41 minutes and finished with 30 points (9-of-28 FGs, 9-of-11 FTs), five rebounds, eight assists, one steal and three 3-pointers. Kevin Huerter added 17 points, four rebounds, two assists, one steal and three 3-pointers in 32 minutes. Neither Allen Crabbe (three points, three rebounds, one assist and one three-pointer in 23 minutes) nor DeAndre' Bembry (four points, two rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block in 20 minutes) were particularly effective during their time on the floor, and Evan Turner (two points and one rebound in eight minutes) played for the first time since the Hawks’ blowout loss to the Bulls on December 11. 

Mike Conley’s absence due to his re-aggravating a hamstring in Utah’s last game meant that Joe Ingles was back in the starting lineup, and Donovan Mitchell had even more time on the ball as a facilitator. Ingles played 36 minutes, tallying 14 points (5-of-10 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and two 3-pointers. Over the last two weeks he’s been a top-20 player in both eight- and nine-category formats, and Ingles’ value should only increase now that he’s back with the starters. 

As for Mitchell, he accounted for 30 points (12-of-22 FGs, 5-of-5 FTs), five rebounds, five assists, one steal and one three-pointer in 36 minutes. He also turned the ball over four times, and while he’s produced third-round value in eight-cat (punting turnovers) he’s been a fourth-rounder in nine-cat. 

Rudy Gobert could benefit from Mitchell playing the point more, and Thursday night he established a new career-high in free throw attempts. Gobert was 10-of-19 from the charity stripe, and he finished the night with 20 points (5-of-9 FGs), 13 rebounds, one assist and three blocked shots. He’s provided fourth-round value all season long, with the free-throw percentage being the proverbial “ball and chain.” Gobert merely getting into the sixties percentage-wise would increase his fantasy value, Bojan Bogdanovic finished with 19 points (6-of-16 FGs, 6-of-7 FTs), nine rebounds, two assists and one three-pointer. 

With Ingles moving into the starting lineup and Conley out, there are more backup point guard minutes available to Emmanuel Mudiay. In 19 minutes, he shot 3-of-9 from the field and finished with ten points, four rebounds, one assist, one block and two 3-pointers. Mudiay’s averaging just 2.4 assists per game on the season, and he’s had four assists or more in just five games this season, so don’t expect a significant uptick in production there. But someone’s going to have to absorb those available minutes, and Mudiay is the obvious choice. Dante Exum hasn’t appeared in a game since he played close to eight minutes in Utah’s loss to the Thunder on December 9.

Royce O’Neale accounted for five points, seven rebounds, two assists, three steals and one blocked shot, and the defensive/rebounding numbers are what make him worthy of consideration in deeper leagues. Jeff Green (seven points, three rebounds and one assist) and Georges Niang (six points, two rebounds and one steal) played 16 and 18 minutes, respectively, with Ed Davis (three rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block) playing 11. 

Bucks 111, Lakers 104 — The showdown between the teams with the two best records in the NBA did not disappoint, with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks holding off the Lakers by seven in Milwaukee. The reigning MVP shout 11-of-19 from the field and 7-of-10 from the foul line, tallying 34 points with 11 rebounds, seven assists, one steal, one blocks and five 3-pointers (on eight attempts) in 32 minutes. Antetokounmpo now has a league-high 16 30/10 games on the season, and the five made threes are a career-high. 

He’s putting those shots up with confidence, and while he’s making just over 32% of his three-point attempts opposing teams have to respect the shot. Antetokounmpo is now averaging a career-best 1.8 made threes per game, and while he’s been a top-20 player in both eight- and nine-cat formats he should eventually get back into the top-10. George Hill chipped in with 21 points, three rebounds, one assist and three 3-pointers in 27 minutes off the bench, while starters Khris Middleton (15 points, six rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers in 29 minutes), Wesley Matthews (13/4/2/2/1 with three 3-pointers in 31 minutes) and Brook Lopez (10/4/2/4/3) also scored in double figures. 

Over the last two weeks Hill has been a top-100 player in both eight- and nine-category formats, which has helped the Bucks account for the absence of Eric Bledsoe. And yet, Hill is currently rostered in just 18% of Yahoo leagues. He’s a flat-out steal at this point if he’s still available, although it would be fair to question the bonafides of standard leagues in which Hill is still unclaimed. 

As for the aforementioned Lopez, he had another tough night from deep as he missed all three of his three-point attempts. After averaging 2.3 made triples per game last season, that average is down to 1.3 this season. The good news regarding Lopez is that he’s still a good free throw shooter (90.9%), and he’s still over two blocks per game (2.2 to be exact). His scoring average of 9.6 points per game is the lowest of his career, but Lopez’s contributions in other areas have ensured that he remains a mid-round player in standard leagues. 

Lastly Donte DiVincenzo made another start in place of the injured Bledsoe, scoring five points with six rebounds, six assists, two steals and one three-pointer in 27 minutes. He’s been hovering around the top-75 in both eight- and nine-category formats over the last two weeks, and while he isn’t asked to score much his being rostered in just 28% of Yahoo leagues is a bit low given his current standing within the Bucks rotation. 

As one would expect the Lakers were led offensively by Anthony Davis and LeBron James, with the former scoring 36 points (11-of-25 FGs, 14-of-17 FTs) with ten rebounds, five assists, one steal and three blocks in 43 minutes. Two games removed from a sprained ankle that sidelined him for Tuesday’s loss to the Pacers, Davis, who scored 15 points in the third quarter, played all but five minutes. And the combination of the Bucks not using backup center Robin Lopez all that often (eight minutes) and the production of the Lakers’ centers likely had a lot to do with this. 

JaVale McGee played 17 minutes, scoring four points with three rebounds and two blocked shots, with the minutes just above his season average. On many occasions this season Dwight Howard has been a key contributor as the backup center, but that wasn’t the case in Milwaukee. He played 18 minutes, scoring two points with four rebounds and one steal. Tough night for Howard, who shot 10-of-10 from the field and tallied 20 points, six rebounds and two blocks in Tuesday’s loss to the Pacers. 

James added 21 points (8-of-19 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), 12 rebounds, 11 assists and three 3-pointers in 37 minutes, with the triple-double being his seventh of the season. But he’s just 16-of-39 from the field and 3-of-13 from three in his last two games. Danny Green (21 points, four rebounds and one blocked shot in 35 minutes) shot 7-of-12 from three, while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 18 points (7-of-12 FGs, 2-of-2 FTs), one rebound, three assists, one steal and two 3-pointers in 34 minutes. The Lakers didn’t get much from the bench, with Howard and Rajon Rondo (two rebounds, three assists, one steal and five turnovers) scoring two points apiece. 

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Spurs 118, Nets 105Spencer Dinwiddie went off again for the Nets, but it was all for naught as the Spurs used a balanced offense to extend the visitors’ run of misery in San Antonio. And making matters worse for the Nets was the loss of David Nwaba, who suffered a torn right Achilles tendon early in the fourth quarter. Nwaba will undergo surgery Friday, and he’s already been ruled out for the remainder of the season. With Iman Shumpert having been released in order to free up a roster spot for Wilson Chandler (eight points, two rebounds and one steal in 24 minutes Thursday), you have to wonder if the Nets give him a call to fill the void.

The aforementioned Dinwiddie shot 14-of-29 from the field and 9-of-10 from the foul line, scoring a career-high 41 points with one rebound, five assists and four 3-pointers. Kyrie Irving’s absence has freed up even more scoring opportunities for Dinwiddie, and with it not being known when Irving will be healthy enough to play it’s quite clear who’s going to be Brooklyn’s primary scoring option. Jarrett Allen added 19 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, one steal and one blocked shot in 30 minutes, while Garrett Temple added ten points (2-of-12 FGs), three rebounds, two assists, three steals and two 3-pointers in 34 minutes. 

Going back to Nwaba, his injury provides Dzanan Musa and Rodions Kurucs an opportunity to earn additional minutes. Both have been on the outskirts of the rotation, and neither checked into Thursday’s game until the outcome was no longer in doubt. Even if one (or both) sees a bump in minutes, don’t expect Musa or Kurucs to be a viable fantasy option. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who missed all five of his shots and grabbed just one rebound in 22 minutes, is already getting rotation minutes but he also should be left alone. 

Taurean Prince (seven rebounds, two steals and one block) and Joe Harris (seven rebounds and one three-pointer) scored nine points apiece, while DeAndre Jordan accounted for three points, 11 rebounds, one assist and one steal in 17 minutes. 

While Brooklyn had just three double-digit scorers on the night San Antonio had six, led by backup guard Patty Mills. Mills shot 7-of-10 from three, scoring 27 points with one rebound and two assists. Over the last month he’s provided 11th-round value, and during that stretch he’s averaging 2.7 three-pointers per game. Mills is currently owned in just seven percent of Yahoo leagues, and while Tuesday’s performance against the Rockets was a dud he’s reached double figures in four of the Spurs’ last five games. Mills is worth taking a flier on, especially in deeper leagues. 

LaMarcus Aldridge tallied 20 points, ten rebounds, two assists, one steal and four blocked shots in 32 minutes, with Dejounte Murray adding 13 points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals and one three-pointer and DeMar DeRozan 12 points, four rebounds, six assists and one steal. Among the reserves, Derrick White tallied 12 points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals, one block and two 3-pointers and Marco Belinelli added 11 points, one rebound, one assist, one steal and one three-pointer. 

Over the last month Murray and Jakob Poeltl, who accounted for four points, five rebounds, four assists and three blocks in 16 minutes, have been sixth-round players in nine-category formats, two rounds ahead of DeRozan. Poeltl’s currently rostered in just 16% of Yahoo leagues, and while he can be a tough sell given the lack of scoring his production as a rebounder and shot blocker make him a worthwhile option as a supplementary big man in most leagues. 

Rockets 122, Clippers 117 — While James Harden was held in check by the Clippers for the first half of Thursday’s matchup, Russell Westbrook stepped up in a big way. He would end up taking 31 shots, making 13, finishing with 40 points (12-of-13 FTs), ten rebounds, five assists, one steal and two 3-pointers in 40 minutes. The eight turnovers weren’t great, but Westbrook did more than enough to make this a good night for both the Rockets and for those who have him rostered. 

The last non-Harden Rocket to score 40 points or more in a game before Thursday: Kevin Martin. And Westbrook is also the first non-Harden Rocket to score 30 or more in consecutive games since Jeremy Lin in 2013. Over the last two weeks Westbrook, who’s scored 30 or more in three of his last five games, has been a top-10 player in both eight- and nine-category formats. While he’s still struggling from three, Westbrook’s production in other areas has increased recently and his fantasy value has improved as a result. 

Harden, who started off 2-of-7 from the field, made six of his last nine shot attempts and finished with 28 points (7-of-10 FTs), one rebound, 10 assists, two steals, one block, five 3-pointers and six turnovers. Even with his start and the turnover count, with the Clippers at times doubling Harden early in possessions, Harden still managed to have a solid night overall. 

All five Rockets starters scored in double figures, with Clint Capela (eight rebounds, one assist, four steals and one block) scoring 16 points and P.J. Tucker (12 rebounds, one assist, one steal, two blocks and one three-pointer) and Danuel House (three rebounds, five assists, one steal and two 3-pointers) ten apiece. Also scoring in double figures was Austin Rivers, who tallied ten points, two rebounds and two 3-pointers in 22 minutes off the bench. Ben McLemore also hit two triples, finishing with eight points, three rebounds and one assist. 

Despite moving back to the bench McLemore has remained a late-round option the last two weeks, producing at a rate higher than either House or Rivers. While it’s understandable that some dropped McLemore once House returned to the lineup, those moves may have been premature. He’s currently rostered in just 28% of Yahoo leagues, and should be owned in deeper leagues. 

For the Clippers, Paul George led the way with 34 points (12-of-23 FGs, 4-of-4 FTs), nine rebounds, three assists, two steals, two blocks and six 3-pointers, with Kawhi Leonard (nine rebounds, four assists, one steal and two 3-pointers) adding 25 points (9-of-19 FGs, 5-of-6 FTs) and Montrezl Harrell (six rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block) 19. After blowing their 15-point halftime lead the Clippers managed to rally and lead by as many as four in the fourth quarter, but the ejection of Lou Williams (six points, one rebound, three assists and two steals in 17 minutes) robbed L.A. of a key bench scorer. 

While losing Williams was suboptimal, a positive is that Landry Shamet had a good night shooting the ball. After going 0-of-4 from three in Tuesday’s win over the Suns, he shot 4-of-7 Thursday night and finished with 13 points to go along with two rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 31 minutes. Shamet’s averaging just over two made threes per in the three games he’s played since returning from an ankle injury, and he’s worth streaming if there’s a need for 3-pointers. The Clippers have a back-to-back for Saturday/Sunday, so he should see quality action at least one of those nights. 

Ivica Zubac played just 15 minutes, tallying three points (1-of-6 FGs), four rebounds and one assist, with Patrick Patterson making two 3-pointers and accounting for six points and one assist. While Zubac remains an option in deeper leagues, Patterson is a streaming option at best even with JaMychal Green still sidelined with a bruised tailbone. Moe Harkless may be even further down the pecking order at this point, as he went scoreless and had just one rebound, one assist and one block in 16 minutes. Rodney McGruder played ten minutes, scoring one point and grabbing five rebounds. 

Friday’s Schedule (all times Eastern) 

Sacramento at Indiana, 7 PM 

Memphis at Cleveland, 7 PM 

Washington at Toronto, 7:30 PM 

Detroit at Boston, 7:30 PM 

Dallas at Philadelphia, 8 PM 

New York at Miami, 8 PM 

Phoenix at Oklahoma City, 8 PM 

Minnesota at Denver, 9 PM 

Orlando at Portland, 10 PM 

New Orleans at Golden State, 10:30 PM 

Raphielle Johnson
Raphielle has been writing about college sports for more than a decade for multiple outlets, including NBC Sports. Focuses have included game recaps, columns, features and recruiting stories. A native of the Northeast, he now calls Pac-12 country home. Raphielle can be followed on Twitter @raphiellej.