It was a quiet four-game night in the NBA as the Knicks beat the Celtics, the Grizzlies spanked the Pistons, the Pelicans beat the understaffed Warriors and the Suns handled the Clippers. Here’s what you might have missed on Thirsty Thursday. But before we hit the games, we have breaking news on Kawhi Leonard.
Kawhi Leonard could play this season
I’ll save us some time and just quote the blurb here: “Kawhi Leonard is reportedly ahead of schedule in his rehab from his torn right ACL and there’s a strong possibility he could return this season.” That’s according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports and it means Leonard should be luxury stashed. I don’t have him anywhere and I probably won’t because I’m writing this column instead of picking him up. But if you can get him, he’s at least worth a look in your IL spot. Then again, with COVID ripping through the league it might be asking too much to hold Kawhi, who may not do all that much if he plays at all. He’s still nothing more than a luxury add/hold in my book. But this certainly qualifies as breaking news.
Knicks 108, Celtics 105 – Evan Fournier exploded for a career-high 41 points on 15-of-25 shooting with a career-high 10 3-pointers, eight boards, two assists, a steal, a block and a turnover in 42 minutes. Talk about a line coming out of nowhere, Fournier failed to even score on Tuesday, had 20 points on Sunday and scored just three points on Friday. I had written him off and didn’t really even consider him in DFS play last night, which tells you what I really know. Fournier has had a really weird season and while I still don’t trust him, Thursday’s line was more in line with what I was expecting this season at least in spurts. I really thought he would be one of the Knicks’ best offensive players. He scored 32 on opening night but Thursday’s 41-point explosion was just his third trip to 30-point scoring this season. And all three of those came against the Celtics - his former team. Note to self - use Fournier against the Celtics. Maybe this will be the game that gets him going and, yes, I think he’s worth grabbing.
Mitchell Robinson is still generally a disaster, Alec Burks hit just 1-of-10 shots (but had nine boards and seven dimes), and RJ Barrett hit just 4-of-15 shots for 13 points after a monster 32-point line on Tuesday, but threw in a buzzer-beating prayer over Jayson Tatum in this one to win the game. Immanuel Quickley was kind of fun with 16 points and three 3-pointers on 6-of-12 shooting and Julius Randle finally looked like his old self with 22 points and eight rebounds, but still hit just 8-of-20 shots. If you think you’re frustrated, try being Tom Thibodeau. But at least the Knicks got a big W tonight and sit at 19-20 on the season. The Knicks’ schedule isn’t great for the next few weeks (3-4-3-3) so don’t feel like you need to make any crazy moves to get any of them. But at least things are happening in New York again.
For the Celtics, Jayson Tatum bounced back with 36 points, six boards, nine assists, six treys, two steals, a block and just two turnovers on 12-of-21 shooting in a tough loss to the Knicks. He really didn’t look great in his previous game, so this was good to see. Hopefully, his COVID woes are behind him and I kind of wonder if he was listening to Raph and I dog him on Thursday’s podcast (yeah, I know he didn’t listen). Robert Williams also came through with six points, nine rebounds, two steals and a career-high seven blocked shots in the loss. Al Horford posted his second straight dud and hasn’t shot it well since my birthday on Dec. 27, so he’s about to break out of the funk and start going off, making this is a good buy-low opportunity. Boston goes 4-4-3-4 over the next month, which is nice.
Grizzlies 118, Pistons 88 – Not a single Grizzly went off in an easy win over the Pistons, but Dillon Brooks returned from a six-game absence due to protocols and had 18 points, three boards, five assists, three steals and two blocks. This was a pretty rough five-game week for Memphis from a fantasy standpoint but at least some of them (Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke?) will show up for all five games. This was a throwaway game after Memphis took a 32-18 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. Enjoy the rest of this five-game week for Ja and company as they go 3-4-3-3-3-2-2 over the next seven weeks.
For the 7-30 Pistons, Isaiah Stewart was back from a six-game protocols absence and had six points, eight boards and two blocks in 20 minutes. Beef Stew’s been a disappointment thus far but it doesn’t mean that he won’t go off once the real silly season starts in a few weeks. Saddiq Bey posted a dud with three points on 1-of-9 shooting after racking up five straight games of at least 20 points and Hamidou Diallo stayed chill with 12 points, six boards and one assist on 5-of-12 shooting. The Pistons go 4-4-3-4 over the next four weeks so guys like Stewart, Bey, Diallo and Cade Cunningham are still worth rostering going forward. Also, keep an eye on Killian Hayes, Trey Lyles and Saben Lee, who could all be silly-season heroes. Kelly Olynyk should also come back at some point and could put up some fun numbers. I’m sticking with Bey and Diallo, at least for now.
Pelicans 101, Warriors 96 – Brandon Ingram hit 12-of-20 shots and a 3-pointer for a game-high 32 points and Herbert Jones had 13 points, six boards, two assists and a career-high five steals in 37 minutes in a win over the wounded Warriors. Josh Hart had 14 points, six boards, two assists and a 3-pointer and is worth rostering everywhere, while Devonte’ Graham and Jonas Valanciunas both posted duds tonight. All of these guys should be rostered everywhere by now but the Pelicans’ schedule stinks to the tune of 3-2-4-4-3-3 over the next six weeks. Will we ever see Zion Williamson this season? I have no idea.
The Warriors were without Stephen Curry (quad), Draymond Green (hip) and Klay Thompson (Achilles) and the guys we were looking to explode did next to nothing. Maybe we’ll see the debut of Klay on Sunday against the Cavs with Steph and Dray also back for that one. If nothing else, it could be fun. While I was focused on guys like Jordan Poole (3-of-14 shooting), Gary Payton (14 minutes) and Otto Porter Jr. (2-of-6 shooting) on Thursday, Andrew Wiggins (21 points, a 3-pointer, two steals and a block) was the only guy who really showed up for the Dubs. I don’t think I’m alone in saying I want to see the 29-9 Warriors at full strength for the rest of the season. But Thursday night was mostly a fantasy wasteland for GSW and they got beat by a 14-win team. The Warriors go 4-4 over the next two weeks, which is nice, if they all actually play.
Suns 106, Clippers 89 – Cameron Johnson scored a career-high 24 points with six boards, a steal and two blocks and has scored in double figures in 18 straight games. It’s past time to roster him everywhere. Jalen Smith had 19 points and 14 rebounds, but Deandre Ayton is about ready to return and rain on that parade, and Chris Paul had 14 points, a career-high 13 rebounds, 10 assists, two steals, a block and two 3-pointers in the win. The Suns are 25-0 this season when up after the third quarter and the reason for that, mostly, is CP3. Devin Booker let his managers down by hitting just 5-of-22 shots and 0-of-7 3-pointers but still double-doubled with 11 points and 10 boards. The bench did next to nothing and it’s time to part ways with Cameron Payne, who had 10 points in just 18 minutes. Smith has been fun but the party’s over once Ayton is back. But if Smith gets traded to someone like the Thunder, pick him up. The Suns go 3-3 over the next two weeks, which is far from ideal.
Marcus Morris scored a season-high 26 points with three 3-pointers, eight boards and three assists in 36 minutes in the loss. With Paul George and Kawhi out indefinitely, Morris is the guy you want to deal with in fantasy right now. Reggie Jackson had 16 points and eight boards but hit just 5-of-16 shots, Eric Bledsoe has turned into a pumpkin and hit just 4-of-12 shots and Terance Mann was quiet in 33 minutes. Morris and Jackson are the only two Clippers I trust right now. The Clips go 3-4-4 over the next three weeks, which isn’t bad.