Honestly, I spent most of the day enjoying the season 2 Game of Thrones marathon. That dovetailed into my preparation for Championship Week. Those unaware, if you want a player on your roster in standard Yahoo! leagues, you must add him before 3 AM EST the night prior. Having one remaining player add to spare from Week 22, and armed with the knowledge my opponent has five extra games on the table this week, much of my attention was spent on projecting the week’s outcome with furrowed brow. I hope numbers lie; otherwise, this five seed could face extinction in the title matchup by midweek. It’s not a humble brag. On the contrary, after everything I’ve written, from playoff schedule rankings to monthly primers, luck won out in the form of injuries, mainly to my opponents’ teams. My story is no different than many still playing for bragging rights. All of the preparation in the world couldn’t account for teams resting players and fabricating injuries. Front offices either want to ensure their chances of landing a top pick or finish the marathon with as many healthy bodies entering the postseason. In the words of Cersei Lannister, “When you play fantasy basketball, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.”
Gorgui Dieng was struck in the face and left after playing nine minutes due to a facial contusion. Goran Dragic and Rodney Stuckey suffered the same injury earlier this season. Neither missed the next game. However, both had days off in-between. Jonas Valanciunas sat one game following a facial contusion, which also happened to be the second night of a back-to-back. Ersan Ilyasova missed nine games with a facial contusion.
With the Timberwolves playing three games this week, and their Monday tilt coming against the Jazz, managers who’ve projected the upcoming week and believe they can’t compete with two games maximum from Dieng must consider jettisoning the blocking fiend. The Wolves’ final two games come on Wednesday and Friday against the Raptors and Magic respectively. Those are enticing games to own Dieng, but with the Timberwolves resting almost everyone lately, sitting Dieng on Monday seems the likely route.
Kevin Love exited after being elbowed in the lower back, accumulating a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds) beforehand. He doesn’t think he’ll miss Thursday’s game against the Heat, conveniently four days away. The Cavaliers play two games this week with multiple days off in-between.
Iman Shumpert left early with an injured ankle. According to coach David Blatt, Shumpert was withheld due to precautionary reasons. He’ll likely play Thursday, but’s it’s not guaranteed.
Luol Deng succumbed to a left knee contusion, eliminating him from the second half. James Ennis started the third quarter in Deng’s place, scoring 12 of his season-high 16 points after intermission. Flashes are all he’s ever shown, primarily scoring on three-pointers and pulling down rebounds. Henry Walker played crunch time over Ennis, limiting his minutes if Deng were to miss extended time.
Michael Beasley suffered a stinger to his right elbow and was forced from the game. Coach Erik Spoelstra believes Beasley will be available for Tuesday’s game against the Spurs. This team is falling apart at the seams. They may have to use Zoran Dragic in a last ditch maneuver.
Brandon Knight made a triumphant return from sprained left ankle only to sprain his right ankle in the third quarter. Coach Jeff Hornacek already chimed in with his two cents, intimating Knight won’t play the next game. The Suns play three games this week, starting with a contest against the Trail Blazers tonight, followed by two games against the top defenses since the All-Star break in the Warriors and Jazz. You don’t have to add Marcus Morris if you can get someone better with four games on the slate, but you should definitely consider dropping Knight. It’s just not in the cards. Morris has been splendid of late, posting 15 points, nine rebounds, five assists, one block, and two three-pointers last night in 37 minutes. T.J. Warren helped out with a career-high 18 points, but it’ll be the starters garnering major minutes until the Suns are eliminated from playoff contention.
- Thaddeus Young (knee)
- Monta Ellis (calf)
- J.J. Barea (ankle)
- Greg Monroe (knee)
- Terrence Jones (ribs)
- Patrick Beverley (wrist)
- Donatas Motiejunas (back)
- Kostas Papanikolaou (ankle)
- Paul George (leg)
- LA Clippers
- Jamal Crawford (calf)
- LA Lakers
- Nick Young (knee)
- Ed Davis (rest)
- Jeremy Lin (illness)
- Carlos Boozer (rest)
- Tony Allen (hamstring)
- Hassan Whiteside (hand)
- Shabazz Napier (hip)
- Chris Andersen (calf)
- Kevin Martin (hamstring)
- Ricky Rubio (ankle)
- Nikola Pekovic (ankle)
- Gary Neal
- Kevin Garnett (knee)
- New Orleans
- Jrue Holiday (leg)
- Ryan Anderson (knee)
- Oklahoma City
- Kevin Durant (foot)
- Serge Ibaka (knee)
- Andre Roberson (ankle)
- Nick Collison (ankle)
- Jason Richardson (rest)
- Thomas Robinson (DNP-CD)
- Marcus Thornton (toe)
- Kris Humphries (groin)
- DeJuan Blair (personal)
- Garrett Temple (hamstring)
Lakers’ brass was at it again, shuffling the rotation and sitting healthy players. Jeremy Lin (illness) and Ed Davis (rest) drew the short straw this time, each playing the previous contest. Wayne Ellington took Lin’s spot in the starting lineup, and Jordan Hill, a DNP-CD the last three games, claimed Davis’ reserve minutes. Hill responded with team-highs of 22 points and 16 rebounds in 27 minutes. Jabari Brown recorded four steals, and Ryan Kelly played a team-high 36 minutes. Jordan Clarkson appears to be the only lock in this lineup, adding 18 points, seven assists, and six rebounds in 35 minutes.
To paraphrase Hershel from The Walking Dead:
You add a Laker, you risk your life. You take Byron Scott at his word, you risk your life. Nowadays you look at a Laker and you risk your life. You don’t have a choice. The only thing you can choose is what you’re risking it for.
It was a welcoming party for Robbie Hummel and Anthony Bennett, each returning after missing 29 games and 18 games respectively. After Gorgui Dieng (face) left, the Timberwolves were down to eight healthy players. Coach Flip Saunders believes Ricky Rubio (ankle) will play tonight against the Jazz, bumping up the number to nine active players if Dieng rests. Hummel and Bennett each played fewer than 18 minutes. Hummel was returning from a hand injury and Bennett recovered from an ankle injury, so his conditioning won’t be identical to Hummel’s.
The Sixers are going to run Nerlens Noel at power forward to close out the season. This was the plan when the year began. Now, with little to play for, it’s another chance to see how Noel will perform in case he gets to play alongside Joel Embiid next season. JaKarr Sampson was moved to the bench, and Furkan Aldemir received the first start of his career at center, a move that’ll stick for the foreseeable future. Thomas Robinson was a healthy DCP-CD, giving me the night off from explaining why he won’t get big minutes. Aldemir scored a career-high 11 points in a career-high 27 minutes, grabbing 10 rebounds in the process. However, he didn’t play in the fourth quarter in favor of Luc Mbah a Moute. Aldemir scored on putbacks and dumpoffs, benefiting from Kevin Love‘s defense on multiple crossmatches.
Vince Carter made his first start of the season, replacing the injured Tony Allen (hamstring). He was held to five points in 23 minutes. Jeff Green and Zach Randolph were the only Grizzlies to offer a semblance of offense, scoring 19 and 20 respectively. Mike Conley shot 2-of-11 and Marc Gasol began the game 3-of-10 before finishing 7-of-15 for 16 points.
Richard Jefferson was tasked with replacing Monta Ellis (calf) in the starting lineup. The Mavs have two days off before their next game, potentially enabling Ellis a premature return. I’ve noticed calf injuries strike everyone differently. Pau Gasol didn’t miss much time earlier this season while Jose Calderon missed about three weeks. It was Chandler Parsons picking up the slack, scoring a team-high 27 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in 37 minutes. Jefferson was limited to 16 minutes, ceding time to Devin Harris, who could become a stream option because the Mavericks are one of two teams playing Wednesday and Thursday.
David West returned to the starting lineup after missing one game with an allergic reaction. He posted his best all-around game in quite some time, producing 10 points, five assists, five rebounds, two steals, and two blocks in 28 minutes. He’s attempted at least 10 shot three times in March, playing over 30 minutes just twice. His minutes are going to Luis Scola, who’s scoring and rebounding more in less time since the All-Star break. Only George Hill is averaging more than 30 minutes per game for the Pacers post-trade deadline.
Rodney Stuckey, after missing the previous three games with a calf injury, played 30 minutes off the bench. Even though he shot 4-of-14, Stuckey added 10 points, five rebounds, two assists, and one three-pointer.
John Wall‘s statistical output didn’t translate to a win, finishing the game with 25 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds, four steals, one block, and seven turnovers in 43 minutes. He scored at least 30 points in the previous two games, playing over 40 minutes in both. He’s played the second most total minutes (384) over the last 10 games as coach Randy Wittman continues to overexert him, playing well over 30 minutes in blowout losses.
Joe Johnson, please and thank you. For the second straight game, sans Thaddeus Young (knee) mind you, Johnson broached triple-double immortality. As least, I think immortality is the right word. People revered Lance Stephenson last year and are doing the same this season with Russell Westbrook. Johnson provided 18 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and three three-pointers in 36 minutes. Miles Plumlee is taking a backseat to Johnson as the power forward, allowing Johnson to operate out of the post, affording him more rebounding opportunities and the utilization of his passing skills.
Evan Turner‘s stat line is the usually the best thing about his game. Even though he finagled a near-triple-double, nine points, 10 assists, seven rebounds, and two steals in 30 minutes are negated by his inefficient, jump shooting nature. I won’t deny he’s averaging 7.4 assists per game over the last eight games. But never forget, Jordan Crawford averaged 6.1 assists per game as the starting point guard for the Celtics last season. Now he’s playing over in China. Coach Bradley Stevens can turn water into wine.
Rajon Rondo gave the people what they want: gaudy numbers and a solid field goal percentage. In 38 minutes, Rondo amassed 17 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds, two steals, and one block. He’s gone five straight games without missing a free-throw, nailing just four intermittently. His numbers overall are just okay, providing well above average assists and quality steals over the past two weeks. Now that Monta Ellis (calf) and J.J. Barea (ankle) are out of the picture, Rondo could edge closer to 35 minutes a night, a mark he’s only hit four other times with the Mavericks.
BOX SCORE HIGHLIGHTS AND ODDITIES
Dwight Howard notched a double-double in 19 minutes, finishing with 11 points and 10 rebounds. I bring this up to reiterate Howard will not play tonight. That also means he’ll only play two out of four games this week because the Rockets engage in another back-to-back set Wednesday and Thursday. Josh Smith and Corey Brewer have been the beneficiaries of the recent injuries. They’re solid options playing for a four-game team.
Otto Porter scored 13 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter. Porter had played 12 minutes the previous four games combined. Even more glaring, Paul Pierce has played a total of seven minutes in the last five fourth quarters, averaging 7.9 second-half minutes during that stretch. The playing time distribution has more to do with coach Randy Wittman resting Pierce for the playoffs than Porter throwing his hat into the ring for more minutes. Recently, one night it’s Rasual Butler getting Pierce’s minutes; the next night it’s Drew Gooden scoring 15 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. Wittman will ride the hot hand, a tactic I don’t remember him employing too often. Keep an eye out for Martell Webster in the next game. It just feels like it’s his turn to pilfer second-half run.
Brook Lopez played his 46th straight game. He scored 30 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, blocked four shots, and managed an assist in 40 minutes. The Lakers offered little resistance, Byron Scott’s defensive M.O. because he doesn’t double-team anyone. The only outlier from Lopez’s night was the 4-of-8 shooting from the free-throw line. He entered the game making 25-of-26, converting 81 percent for the season. Over the past 10 games, Lopez has more blocks than Nerlens Noel and as many blocks as Rudy Gobert. We’re living in a crazy time.
Markel Brown scored a career-high 17 points. He scored a combined 15 points the previous five games. Give him a few more games to remind you why he’s on your waiver wire.
Andrew Wiggins has played the fourth-most minutes this season, logging 2,602 through 73 games. That’s more than his high school senior year and lone season at Kansas combined. His shooting numbers peaked in January and have steadily declined since, converting 19 percent of his three-pointers since the beginning of February. In Sunday’s loss, Wiggins scored 20 points on 6-of-15 from the field to go along with six rebounds and two assists in 39 minutes.
Adreian Payne chipped in 14 points and 11 rebounds in 36 minutes while Justin Hamilton played 23 minutes, contributing 11 points, five rebounds, one steal, one block, and one three-pointer. Both guys are interesting streamers with the news on Gorgui Dieng (face).
Quincy Pondexter, Norris Cole, and Alexis Ajinca each scored 10 points in their blowout win over the Timberwolves. It wasn’t a particularly difficult game, so Anthony Davis was his productive self in 37 minutes and the Pelicans shot 57 percent from the field.
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving shot a combined 15-of-42 from the floor against a very good 76ers defense. The Cavaliers shot better from beyond the arc (39 percent) than they did overall (38.8 percent). Luc Mbah a Moute deserves some recognition for at least slowing down James. He’s played above average defense the entire season, stymieing opposing power forwards and making Nerlens Noel‘s life much easier. It goes unnoticed by most but not by me.
Robert Covington scored a team-high 19 points and hit five three-pointers. Jason Richardson (rest) didn’t play the first leg of a back-to-back, meaning he’ll likely play tonight against the Lakers. The last time he played, Richardson came off the bench. His presence won’t likely change the starting lineup, but it will spread the playing time around.
Nerlens Noel didn’t block a shot for the second straight game. Teams are finally learning and adapting. If you don’t challenge a shot blocker, he can’t block your shot.
The Clippers pulled ahead 34-20 after the first quarter and 68-47 at halftime. The Celtics staged a late rally to make the final score look respectable, losing by 13. It required sending DeAndre Jordan to the line 10 times at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Marcus Smart was the only Celtic starter to play in the final period, and Luigi Datome scored all 12 of his points in the last 12 minutes. Smart was held scoreless in 18 minutes, providing only four rebounds to his name. Coach Doc Rivers left his starters in an excessive amount, playing all of them at least 29 minutes against the team that traded him to the Clippers last season.
Dwyane Wade scored 40 points. That number’s bloated. I’m not saying it wasn’t deserved, but I am saying it doesn’t tell the whole story. Even though the game was over with a minute left, the Pistons continued to foul the Heat in an attempt to salvage the game before losing by nine. The Heat attempted 17 free-throws in the fourth quarter and 14 occurred inside of the final 70 seconds. Wade hit all eight of his freebies in the final minute to prop up his total. All I’m saying is the numbers are askew in Wade’s favor because coach Stan Van Gundy fouled until the final buzzer.
Udonis Haslem scored a season-high 18 points, grabbed a season-high 13 rebounds (seven offensive), dropped two dimes, and recorded a steal in 35 minutes. He was forced into heavy minutes without Hassan Whiteside (hand) and Chris Andersen (calf), exacerbated by the departure of Luol Deng (knee) and Michael Beasley (elbow). The Heat plays a back-to-back Saturday and Sunday, so I’m sure they grab someone on a 10-day contract to alleviate Haslem from playing 30+ minutes a night. That assumes he’s healthy enough to play all four games at a high level this week.
Back spasms aside, Goran Dragic is basically the same player post-trade. A few weeks ago I said his free-throw shooting would regress, and it has. At the beginning of the season, I predicted he wouldn’t shoot better than 35 percent from downtown. He currently sits at 34.6 percent. Channing Frye was a godsend. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
Andre Drummond scored a career-high 32 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, albeit against an undersized and undermanned Miami Heat squad. Reggie Jackson continues to jack up the price of his next contract, supplying 31 points, nine assists, six rebounds, and three three-pointers in 36 minutes. He shot a pristine 12-of-17 on the night, converting on eight layups and 3-of-4 from downtown. Much like the paranormal, I want to believe. But we have mounds of data indicating Jackson doesn’t shoot well, an inconvenient truth. Also, the dude averages more steals per game coming off the bench, 0.8, than as a starter, 0.7. Triple-doubles aren’t cool unless they come with a decent shooting percent and a couple steals. You know what’s cool? A billion dollars.
Kawhi Leonard scored the Spurs first 15 points in the fourth quarter on his way to a game-high 25. Post All-Star game Leonard is averaging fewer minutes per game, 31.9, than pre-All-Star game Leonard, but his stats are up across the board. I suppose the early season conjunctivitis and hand injury hindered his performance. Who knew?
C.J. Miles scored 14 of his 28 points in the first quarter. He’s adept at volume scoring in one quarter before petering out. This is because he doesn’t stop shooting three-pointers, regardless of accuracy. The moment he catches fire, no lead it safe. Miles is averaging 2.1 three-pointers per game, tied for 13th. Conversely, he attempts the eighth most three per game, launching 6.2, more than half his overall attempts.
Markieff Morris scored 11 points in the first three minutes and 16 points in the first quarter. After the defense adjusted, he finished with 24 points, seven rebounds, one assist, one steal, and one block, stealing the spotlight back from his brother. He didn’t score in the second half until the five-minute mark in the fourth quarter. Markieff is shooting five percent better when Marcus is on the court, nearly 50 percent from the floor.
Since the All-Star break, Russell Westbrook has drawn the most fouls (153), scored the most fast break points (181), 51 more than the next closest player, is second in points in the paint (234) to Andre Drummond, scored the most points off turnovers (97), committed the most turnovers (113), scored the most points (619), which is 113 more than the next closest player – James Harden -, and attempted the most field goals (470), another 113 more than runner-up LeBron James. He’s like the Facts of Life: you take the good and you take the bad. Most of you don’t understand the reference. If you’ve made it this far, who cares? These stats are so good, I might have to tweet them out later.
So last night, Westbrook scored 33 points, grabbed nine rebounds, handed out seven assists, accumulated three steals, and blocked one shot in 38 minutes. Coach Scott Brooks ran an eight-man rotation, extending the likes of Steven Adams to 42 minutes. Regardless, I’m focusing on Westbrook. Within the first minute, Westbrook was hit with his league-leading 15th technical foul. One more results in an automatic one-game suspension. The Thunder plays three games this week, tough sledding if the league doesn’t rescind Sunday’s tech. And why would they start now? They didn’t rescind his previous 14 infractions.
- Dwyane Wade, G, MIA: 40 points
- Russell Westbrook, G, OKC: 33 points
- Andre Drummond, C, DET: 32 points
- Steven Adams, C, OKC: 16 rebounds
- Jordan Hill, F, LAL: 16 rebounds
- Andre Drummond, C, DET: 14 rebounds
- DeAndre Jordan, C, LAC: 14 rebounds
- John Wall, G, WAS: 12 assists
- Chris Paul, G, LAC: 10 assists
- Rajon Rondo, G, DAL: 10 assists
- Evan Turner, F, BOS: 10 assists
- John Wall, G, WAS: 4 steals
- Jarabi Brown, G, LAL: 4 steals
- Ten players tied with three steals
- Brook Lopez, C, BKN: 4 blocks
- Tim Duncan, F, SAS: 3 blocks
- Gorgui Dieng, C, MIN: 3 blocks
- Alexis Ajinca, C, NOP: 3 blocks
- Joel Anthony, C, DET: 3 blocks
- J.J. Redick, G, LAC: 5-6 3Pt
- C.J. Miles, G, IND: 5-6 3Pt
- Robert Covington, F, PHI: 5-9 3Pt
- John Wall, G, WAS: 43 minutes
- Steven Adams, C, OKC: 42 minutes
- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, G, DET: 41 minutes