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Basketball Daily Dose

Chris Paul is back and the Grizzlies are rolling without Ja Morant

by Steve Alexander
Updated On: March 25, 2022, 3:35 pm ET

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Here’s what went down while you were watching upset-city in the NCAA tourney and Carlos Boozer’s Duke Blue Devils advance to the Elite Eight.

Raptors 117, Cavaliers 104Pascal Siakam went off with 35 points, five boards, six dimes and six triples on 12-of-20 shooting as the Raps got an easy win. OG Anunoby finally returned from his broken finger and had 14 points and four 3-pointers in his first action since Feb. 16, and Chris Boucher kept it rolling with 17 points, eight rebounds, three steals and two 3-pointers in 33 minutes. If you recently grabbed Boucher, he’s been hot, playing at least 33 minutes in three straight games and averaging 16 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals, 1.0 blocks and 1.3 3-pointers during that stretch. He’s due for a 12-minute game from coach Nick Nurse, but the Raptors play four games in each of the final two weeks, and he’s looked fantastic over the past week. Hopefully, Nurse doesn’t put him in the doghouse once you get him into your lineup. But he’s worth the gamble going forward either way. Anunoby’s also worth a pickup now that he’s back.

The Cavaliers were led by Lauri Markkanen’s 20 points, five boards and two 3-pointers, Darius Garland had 18 points and 10 assists, and Lamar Stevens added 16 points, six boards, two assists, a steal and two 3-pointers in 24 minutes off the bench. Caris LeVert’s nosedive continued with 11 points and three triples in 24 minutes and Cedi Osman played just 11 minutes for four points. Isaac Okoro started and hit 2-of-7 shots and two 3-pointers for six points, one rebound and four assists in the loss. With a league-high five games coming next week It’s clear that Kevin Love, Markkanen, Evan Mobley and Darius Garland should be rostered everywhere. If you’re looking for a five-game flier, Stevens should be available everywhere, Okoro gets enough minutes to be given consideration, and you have to wonder if LeVert can keep playing every night given his recent struggles. Stevens is hot, scoring at least 15 points in three consecutive games and is going to be a very hot pickup with the five-game week on the horizon. I’d probably still start LeVert with five games next week, but I think I’d rather have Stevens.

Grizzlies 133, Pacers 103 – The Grizzlies are 16-2 without Ja Morant (knee) this season and that’s great news, since we found out Thursday that Ja is likely out until the NBA playoffs. Desmond Bane had 30 on ridiculous 12-of-15 shooting, Jaren Jackson Jr. had 20 points and four triples in just 17 minutes and Tyus Jones started and had 11 points, five dimes and three 3-pointers. From the bench, De’Anthony Melton had 19 points, six boards, two assists and five 3-pointers in 21 minutes, Jonathan Konchar hit 7-of-10 shots and two 3-pointers for 18 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and Xavier Tillman got loose for 16 points, five rebounds, one steal and one block on 6-of-9 shooting. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies have just three games next week, but Jones and Melton are at least worth a look in fantasy, as are Konchar and Tillman, maybe. Bane should be a three-game beast next week. If the Grizzlies played four times next week every player I mentioned would probably be worth grabbing.

The Pacers are in full tank mode as Malcolm Brogdon, Jalen Smith and Isaiah Jackson all sat out. Lance Stephenson broke out for 25 points and five 3-pointers, Terry Taylor had 17 points, five boards and a 3-pointer, and Goga Bitadze added 14 points, four boards, a steal and a block as the last big man standing in Indy. Oshae Brissett added 13 points and a full stat line, Justin Anderson started and had 10 points, nine rebounds, four assists, a steal, two blocks and a 3-pointer on just 3-of-10 shooting, Buddy Hield had 11 points on 5-of-12 shooting and Tyrese Haliburton was quiet with nine points and eight assists. Indy plays four times next week and are in full silly-season mode. Anderson, Brissett, Bitadze, Duane Washington Jr., Taylor, Stephenson and Keifer Sykes are all going to see minutes. Who will be the ones to roster is still up for debate but the Pacers are probably going to play some scrubs down the stretch, making all the no-namers at least worth a look. I’d go as far to say that Bitadze, Brissett, Anderson, Taylor and Stephenson are probably worth grabbing for next week. Good luck with that mess.

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Bucks 114, Wizards 102Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton sat this one out, so the Bucks were led by Jrue Holiday’s 24 points and 10 assists, and also got 21 points and five triples from Grayson Allen. Brook Lopez had 13 points and a block and Bobby Portis had 11 points and 12 boards from the starting lineup, while Wesley Matthews was invisible. Pat Connaughton had 16 points, five boards, a steal and three 3-pointers off the bench, Serge Ibaka had 11 points, five boards, a steal and two 3-pointers, and George Hill even got loose for 10 points, four rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes. If Giannis and Middleton miss more time Allen, Connaughton and Ibaka are worth a look and the Bucks play four times in each of the next two weeks. But as soon as Giannis and Middleton are back, all bets are off in Milwaukee scrub-land.

The Wizards were led by ‘Garbage time’ Ish Smith off the bench with 17 points, seven rebounds, six assists, a steal and a 3-pointer on 8-of-14 shooting, while starters Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (16-5-2-2 with three 3-pointers) and Kristaps Porzingis (16 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 3-pointers) played well. Starter Rui Hachimura had 10 points and seven rebounds, Corey Kispert hit just 2-of-7 shots and a 3-pointer for five points, three rebounds, two assists and three steals, and Raul Neto added nine points, six assists and a 3-pointer on 4-of-7 shooting. Deni Avdija came through with 12 points, four rebounds, two assists and two 3-pointers on 5-of-13 shooting and these Wizards still have two more games this week to make something happen. As someone who picked up Kispert and Avdija in hopes of getting three big games out of them for the rest of the week my fingers are crossed for the weekend. The Wizards play four times in each of the next two weeks, making all of them worth a look. But it’s basically a crapshoot - the equivalent of playing ‘Pin the Tail’ on the Wizard. I just hope Kispert and Avdija are decent on Friday and Sunday and part of me wishes I’d picked up Smith instead of Kispert. I’m just thankful for Kispert’s three steals last night.

Pelicans 126, Bulls 109 – Devonte’ Graham went off for 30 points, four assists, five 3-pointers and hit 8-of-12 shots and 9-of-9 free throws for one of his best lines of the season. C.J. McCollum hit 10-of-20 shots and a 3-pointer for 25 points and six dimes, and Jonas Valanciunas came through with 16 points, 19 rebounds, one steal and one block in 34 minutes of the win. Larry Nance Jr. finally returned from injury with nine points, four boards and a block in just 18 minutes, and Jose Alvarado kept it going with 15 points, seven assists, three steals and two 3-pointers. Willy Hernangomez was quiet with six points and two boards in just 13 minutes, which was highly disappointing for yours truly. Add to it that the Pelicans play just three games next week and things are looking a little dicey in New Orleans. But they got a big win tonight and things will get interesting when the No. 9 Pels meet the No. 10 Lakers, who are both 31-42 on the season, on Sunday for a race for homecourt in the play-in. Side note – LeBron James is going to go OFF in that game. Graham, McCollum and Valanciunas are probably must-starts with three games next week, while the rest of them, including Herbert Jones, are shaky plays if the number of games played matters to you. I’m dropping Hernangomez for a warm body as soon as I’m done writing this.

The Bulls, who have lost five of their last six games and 10 of their last 13, got 39 points, three rebounds, three assists, a steal, a block and four 3-pointers from Zach LaVine, who is playing against me this week (of course he is), and 23 points, six assists and five 3-pointers from Coby White off the bench. DeMar DeRozan sat this one out, allowing those guys to go off, and I’m just hoping his shoulder injury isn’t serious. Nikola Vucevic had 16 points, nine rebounds, two steals, two blocks and two 3-pointers in the loss, Alex Caruso added 11 points, two assists, a steal and a 3-pointer in 28 minutes and the rest of the Bulls were basically trash. The return of Caruso has hurt Ayo Dosunmu and he had just four points, four rebounds and five assists on 2-of-8 shooting despite starting and playing 32 minutes. I’m glad I dropped him a while back. The Bulls go 4-4 over the final two weeks so every player mentioned above is worth a look, including Dosunmu, but they’re just not playing that well. Coby White might be a guy worth picking up for the schedule over the final two weeks, especially since we’re not likely to see Lonzo Ball anytime soon, and with Ayo struggling.

Suns 140, Nuggets 130Chris Paul, who hadn’t played since Feb. 20, returned from a thumb injury and didn’t miss a beat, racking up 17 points, 13 assists, a steal, a block and a 3-pointer on 6-of-10 shooting in 30 minutes on Thursday. Devin Booker asked CP3 to hold his beer and then went off for 49 points and 10 assists with two 3-pointers on 16-of-25 shooting and also knocked down 15-of-17 free throws on the five-year anniversary of his 70-point game in the win. Despite not have CP3 around for most of it, the Suns have now rattled off seven straight wins and didn’t miss a beat without CP3. I don’t know about you, but the Suns and Grizzlies appear to be on a collision course for a meeting in the playoffs, with or without their point guards. Mikal Bridges had 22 points and three triples and Jae Crowder added 12 points, six boards and four 3-pointers in 29 minutes. As long as Crowder is playing, Torrey Craig is an afterthought. And speaking of afterthoughts, Cameron Payne played just 18 minutes and had nine points, five assists and a 3-pointer. He’s going to be tough to roster with Paul back in action. The Suns play just three times next week, meaning Payne is going bye-bye, but Paul, Bridges, Deandre Ayton and Booker still look like strong starts, despite the three-game week.

The Nuggets didn’t have an answer for the Suns in the fourth quarter last night, but all five starters scored in double figures and Bones Hyland went off for 23 points, four 3-pointers, a steal and a block in just 25 minutes off the bench. Nikola Jokic, of course, led the way with 28 points, six rebounds, six assists, three steals and a 3-pointer on 9-of-10 shooting (ho-hum, just another day at the office), Aaron Gordon had 21 and six rebounds on 10-of-16 shooting, Will Barton (who I’m playing against, of course) hit 7-of-10 shots and two 3-pointers for 17 points, five rebounds and eight assists, Monte Morris added 15 points, four assists and four 3-pointers, and Jeff Green had 11 points and three 3-pointers in the win. The Nuggets play four times next week and every player listed above is worth rostering at this point.

Be sure to catch the Roundball Stew podcast at noon with yours truly, Matt Stroup and a gentleman named Carlos Boozer to talk about the huge Duke win on Thursday night!

Steve Alexander

Steve "Dr. A" Alexander is the senior editor for the NBA for NBC Sports Edge and a contributor to NBCSports.com. The 2020-21 NBA season marks (at least) his 20th year of covering fantasy hoops for NBC Sports. Follow him on Twitter - @Docktora.