Around the Association: T'Wolves' Rally, Lillard Erupts, Kessler Shines + More From Wednesday Night

Around the Association: T'Wolves' Rally, Lillard Erupts, Kessler Shines + More From Wednesday Night

This article is part of our NBA Daily Recap series.

Welcome back to another edition of Around the Association. Last night's slate was thrilling with many close finishes and impressive performances. We witnessed a fourth-quarter meltdown in Minnesota, A classic Damian Lillard eruption and yet another strong outing from a certain rookie in Utah.

Without further ado, let's dive in:

Nightly Notables

T'Wolves rally over Dubs

  • Madness in Minnesota. With the Warriors leading 93-82 after three quarters of play, the Timberwolves were able to storm back in the final quarter to eventually send the game to overtime. D'Angelo Russell was unstoppable down the stretch, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter. Russell had a chance to win the game in regulation but failed to convert on a difficult three-point attempt to seal the deal. Russell finished with a team-high 29 points (11-23 FG, 7-17 3Pt), two rebounds and two assists over 34 minutes while fouling out in overtime.
    • While it was Russell who helped the Timberwolves get to overtime, Anthony Edwards took over the reins to push Minnesota to victory. The star guard led all scorers in OT while leading the Timberwolves to a 119-114 win. Edwards ended with 27 points (10-26 FG, 2-11 3Pt, 5-6 FT), six rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block over 39 minutes.
      • The 21-year-old is amidst one of the best stretches of his career, topping 25 points in seven straight outings while averaging 33.0 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.3 blocks over that span. Edwards ranks as the No. 10 nine-category fantasy asset over his impressive recent stretch.
    • While much of the spotlight will go on Russell and Edwards in this one, Naz Reid was a major X-factor down the stretch for Minnesota. The 23-year-old big did a little bit of everything for the Timberwolves, ending with 24 points (10-22 FG, 2-8 3Pt, 2-4 FT), 13 rebounds, four assists, one block and one steal across 35 minutes. Reid clinched the game for Minnesota with an emphatic jam after hauling in an impressive offensive rebound on his own missed three-point attempt. Fantasy managers should still tread lightly with Reid as this was just his first game with over 20 points since Dec. 28.
  • This loss snapped a little three-game streak that the Warriors were hoping to build upon. Stephen Curry started out hot with 21 points in the first half, but slowed down as the contest progressed. The 34-year-old ended with 29 points (8-21 FG, 5-12 3Pt, 8-9 FT), 10 rebounds, three assists, one block and one steal across 43 minutes while failing to record a point in overtime. Regardless, Curry continued his impressive recent stretch, averaging 34.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists and 1.3 steals across 38.5 minutes over his last four appearances. 
    • Jordan Poole had yet another uninspiring game, finishing with 18 points (4-13 FG, 1-5 3Pt, 9-10 FT), seven rebounds and five assists over 32 minutes. The Michigan product has now failed to top 20 points in four out of his past five appearances, averaging 16.0 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.4 steals over that stretch. Poole ranks as the 235th overall nine-category fantasy option over the past week and is okay to be left on fantasy benches for the time being. 

Lillard leads comeback over Grizz

  • We witnessed Dame Time in Memphis during the Trail Blazers' comeback win over the Grizzlies. Portland found themselves down by double-digits in the second half before storming back late to win the contest 122-112. Damian Lillard was particularly clutch down the stretch, drilling two triples within the final minutes to seal the deal for Portland. The star point guard finished with 42 points (11-22 FG, 5-13 3Pt, 15-16 FT), eight rebounds, 10 assists and one block in 40 minutes. Almost under the radar, Lillard is putting together perhaps his best season yet as a pro, averaging a career-high 30.7 points to go with 4.1 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game. The 32-year-old has recently taken his scoring to another level, averaging 38.0 points over his past 10 appearances. 
    • While Lillard was fantastic, I don't think you can say that Portland wins that game without the play of Anfernee Simons. The young guard really initiated Portland's comeback while ending with 26 points (10-18 FG, 3-7 3Pt, 3-3 FT), two rebounds and four assists over 33 minutes. This marked Simons' second straight 20-point showing, but his overall night-to-night inconsistency makes him a tad more difficult to trust in fantasy lineups. 
    • It was not all pretty for Portland, both Jusuf Nurkic (calf) and Jerami Grant (concussion) exited Wednesday's victory early. Drew Eubanks stepped up in their absence, finishing with 11 points (5-7 FG, 1-1 FT), 11 rebounds, three assists, one block and one steal across 24 minutes. The 26-year-old big even threw down an impressive fast-break jam to ice the game out for Portland. Eubanks is certainly someone to be targeting in all fantasy formats if Nurkic is forced to miss extended time. 
  • The Grizzlies may have squandered their lead late, but Ja Morant was once again incredible. The star point guard ended with 32 points (8-16 FG, 3-7 3Pt, 13-18 FT), nine rebounds, 12 assists and one steal over 34 minutes. Morant has topped 20 points in 14 straight showings, averaging 33.0 points, 8.7 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 1.6 threes and 1.0 steals over that span. While he wasn't named a starter, Morant is more than a sure thing to be named to the Western Conference All-Star team in the coming days. 
    • Jaren Jackson was holding a block party in the loss, totaling 18 points (9-14 FG, 0-3 3Pt), seven rebounds and six blocks in 34 minutes. The big man continues to protect his home court at an exceedingly high rate, averaging 4.4 blocks per game in Memphis, compared to 2.2 blocks on the road. 
    • Xavier Tillman drew the spot start while Memphis continues to alter its center rotation due with Steven Adams (knee) still on the sidelines. The Michigan State product totaled four points (1-4 FG, 2-3 FT), 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals across 28 minutes. Tillman has now started three games this season, averaging 8.3 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 3.0 steals per game. For DFS purposes, whenever Tillman draws the start without Adams in the lineup, I view him as an excellent value option at the center position.
    • Danny Green made his season debut, finishing with three points (1-4 FG, 1-4 3Pt), four rebounds, one assist and one steal over nine minutes of play. Green is sure to be eased into Memphis' rotation, making him an unappealing fantasy option for the time being.
      • As expected, Green will sit out Thursday night's game at Cleveland.

Shorthanded Rockets surprise Thunder

  • In what was a fun display of young talent, Houston was able to steadily beat the recently red-hot Thunder 112-106 without the likes of both Jalen Green (calf) and Kevin Porter (foot). After missing the team's last outing due to an illness, Alperen Sengun returned to the lineup in impressive fashion. The second-year pro had another well-rounded game, tallying 10 points (4-10 FG, 2-4 FT), 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks across 33 minutes. The 20-year-old continue to shine as a facilitator, showing off his flashiness with a no-look dime in the first half and finishing the game off with a difficult outlet pass to 2023 Dunk Contest participant K.J. Martin, who sealed the game fittingly in emphatic fashion. 
    • I've got a semi-bold take: Tari Eason will end up being the best player out of Houston's rookie class. I am even still pretty high on Jabari Smith, but Eason is starting to really shine with his relentlessly aggressive style. The rookie finished Wednesday's win with a new season-best 20 points (8-21 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 3-3 FT), 13 rebounds, one assist, two blocks and three steals across 19 minutes. The LSU product is averaging 18.0 points, 11.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.0 blocks over 25.1 minutes across the Rockets' past three games and is someone I am targeting in all leagues.
      • Speaking of Smith, the third overall selection of this year's draft exited Wednesday's contest early due to a rib injury. If Smith is forced to miss any time, Eason is in line to receive a boost in usage while Jae'Sean Tate also should see more time, as well. 
    • Eric Gordon is doing his part to boost his trade value ahead of the deadline. After recording 24 points in his last outing, Gordon ended with a new season-best 25 points (8-17 FG, 3-6 3Pt, 6-9 FT), three rebounds, three assists and two steals over 35 minutes. The veteran has been one of the more brought-up names in trade rumors and his recently strong play is only driving up his stock for Houston. 
  • This was a disappointing loss for the Thunder who were really starting to look like they might be turning the corner. However, OKC is now 2-4 over its past six contests with one of its wins coming over a Nikola Jokic-less Nuggets and the other over a Donovan Mitchell-less Cavaliers.
    • Josh Giddey was everywhere in the loss, nearing a triple-double with 20 points (9-18 FG, 2-6 3Pt), eight rebounds, eight assists, one steal and one block over 37 minutes. While the second-year pro's passing is certainly already at an elite level, it's his rebounding that always seems to go under the radar for me. Giddey now has recorded at least eight rebounds in seven of his past nine showings.
    • Tre Mann got hot from deep in this one, ending with 18 points (6-12 FG, 4-9 3Pt, 2-2 FT), five rebounds and one steal over 16 minutes. The Florida product has proven he is capable of scoring in bunches, but his inconsistency and lack of a true role with the Thunder make him nowhere near a fantasy option to be rostering.

Jazz hang on to beat Raptors

  • In what was a very entertaining matchup, Utah was able to protect home court and hang onto a 131-128 win over Toronto. Jordan Clarkson stood out to me down the stretch with his classic difficult shotmaking ability while finishing with 23 points (8-17 FG, 5-12 3Pt, 2-2 FT), two rebounds and five assists across 32 minutes. This marked the 30-year-old's first game with over 20 points out of his past four appearances.
    • The Walker Kessler show continues to roll on with the rookie thoroughly impressing once again. Kessler was a force down low, finishing with a personal-best seven blocks to go with 17 points (8-10 FG, 1-3 FT), 14 rebounds, one assist and one steal over 30 minutes. In his first 10 games since joining the team's starting lineup, Kessler is averaging 11.9 points, 10.9 rebounds 1.4 assists and 2.8 blocks over 27.0 minutes per game while ranking as the 30th overall nine-category option. 
    • Lauri Markkanen continued his All-Star campaign with 28 points (7-13 FG, 4-9 3Pt, 10-10 FT), 13 rebounds, one assist, one block and one steal across 36 minutes. In his first six games since missing two straight games due to a hip injury, Markkanen is averaging 27.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists over 34.7 minutes per showing. 
  • Fred VanVleet played great in the defeat, finishing with 34 points (12-25 FG, 4-9 3Pt, 6-6 FT), 12 rebounds, 10 assists, one block and one steal over 38 minutes. VanVleet drilled a trio of clutch three-pointers down the stretch as he tried to will Toronto back to victory, but in the end, Utah proved to just be too much. Interestingly enough, this marked VanVleet's second career triple-double with both of them coming against the Jazz. 

Quick Hitters

  • After being upset by Orlando on Monday, the 76ers got their revenge against the Magic with a 105-94 victory. In what was honestly a closer game than the final score entails, James Harden was the X-factor in this one, scoring 16 points in the second half while finishing with 26 points (7-13 FG, 6-10 3Pt, 6-7 FT), nine rebounds, 10 assists and one steal in 38 minutes. While the veteran flashed his vintage three-point-making ability, Harden continues to thrive as a playmaker, averaging 11.3 dimes per game over his past 12 showings.
    • Despite coming into the game questionable with a foot injury, Joel Embiid dominated his way to a game-high 28 points (9-17 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 10-10 FT), 11 rebounds, three assists and one block in 35 minutes. This was just Embiid's second game under 30 points in his last 10 appearances. 
  • Markelle Fultz had a solid showing, finishing with a team-best 18 points (7-11 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 4-4 FT), three rebounds and two assists in 33 minutes against the 76ers-- the team that drafted him. The former No. 1 overall pick averaged 15.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.0 steals across his last two appearances, which happened to be his first two career games in Philadelphia.
    • Jalen Suggs shined on defense, totaling 11 points (4-9 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 1-1 FT), four rebounds, three assists and a career-high five steals in 26 minutes. Last year's first-round selection is still coming off the bench for the Magic but is starting to crack the rotation more. Suggs has seen over 20 minutes in three straight games while averaging 8.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals across that stretch. The second-year pro is one of my more sought-after assets at this point of the season. 
  • The national audience was treated to an unenjoyable (unless you're a Boston fan or Brooklyn hater) blowout game with the Celtics defeating the Nets 139-96. Boston got off to a massive early lead and never looked back. Jayson Tatum led the way with 31 points (12-19 FG, 7-12 3Pt), nine rebounds, four assists, two steals and one block over just 29 minutes of action. This marked the All-Star starter's fourth straight 30-point outing and seventh out of his last eight appearances. 
    • Robert Williams returned to the court after missing the team's last game due to an ankle injury, totaling 16 points (7-8 FG, 2-2 FT), nine rebounds and one block in 19 minutes. Prior to his one-game absence, Williams played seen more than 30 minutes in two straight outings, averaging 9.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 1.5 blocks over 33.5 minutes per game.
    • In fact, Williams ranks as the 40th overall nine-category option over the past week of play. I am incredibly high on Williams' fantasy stock for the remainder of the season and firmly believe there is a world where he turns into a league-winning fantasy asset down the stretch of the season.
  • Day'Ron Sharpe played decent for Brooklyn in its massive defeat, ending with nine points (4-7 FG, 1-2 FT), seven rebounds and one steal in 27 minutes. Sharpe has seen an increase in usage with Ben Simmons (knee) joining Kevin Durant (knee) on the sidelines, averaging 8.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.0 blocks across 23.7 minutes per game. With Simmons expected back as soon as Sunday, you can hold off on making Sharpe a priority addition. 
  • If one blowout on national TV was not enough, the Hawks have got you covered after steamrolling the Suns 132-100 on the road. Atlanta had five players reach double figures while two others finished just short with nine points. 
    • Trae Young kept his double-double streak alive with 20 points (8-17 FG, 3-3 3Pt, 1-1 FT), one rebound, 12 assists and one steal across 27 minutes. The star point guard now has five straight games with at least 20 points and 10 dimes. 
  • This was needless to say a concerning loss for Phoenix as Devin Booker was the only starter missing for the Suns. Phoenix has now slipped to 27-26 and sit at 8th in the Western Conference. The good news for the Suns is that Booker is reportedly targeting a return Tuesday against the Nets.
    • Mikal Bridges finished as the team's leading scorer in the rough loss, totaling 23 points (6-18 FG, 1-7 3Pt, 10-10 FT), five rebounds and seven assists in 30 minutes. While Bridges did struggle from deep, this outing marked his third straight appearance with at least 23 points. The 26-year-old is almost quietly averaging career-highs across the board and ranks as the 35th overall nine-category this season.
  • The Kings were carried to a 119-109 win behind the backs of both Domantas Sabonis and De'Aaron Fox. Sabonis cruised his way to a season-high 34 points (15-20 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 3-5 FT)  to go with 11 rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals over 37 minutes. The 26-year-old is off to another double-double streak, recording the feat in three straight showings.
    • Fox finished with 31 points (13-23 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 3-3 FT), two rebounds, 10 assists, one block and three steals in 38 minutes to mark his third straight game with at least 29 points. Over that recent three-game stretch, Fox is averaging 30.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 2.3 steals over 38.0 minutes per game while ranking as the 17th overall nine-category fantasy option.
  • To make matters worse for the Spurs, Tre Jones played just eight minutes after exiting with a foot injury and Jeremy Sochan saw just six minutes after leaving early with a back injury. While the exact extents of the injuries are unknown, it would make sense for the Spurs to proceed with caution with their younger pieces.
    • The injuries to Jones and Sochan opened up some playing time for Malaki Branham who finished with a season-best 22 points (9-13 FG, 3-5 3Pt, 1-2 FT), five assists and one rebound across 32 minutes. With the injuries piling up for San Antonio combined with the trade deadline coming up, Branham may be in a position to receive increased usage going forward for San Antonio. The rookie out of OSU is certainly someone to be monitoring in deeper leagues. 

Best and Worst of the Night

  • Best of the Night: Damian Lillard - 42 points (11-22 FG, 5-13 3Pt, 15-16 FT), eight rebounds, 10 assists and one block in 40 minutes.
  • Worst of the Night: Keegan Murray - two points (0-8 FG, 0-6 3Pt, 2-4 FT), seven rebounds and two assists over 27 minutes. 
  • Rookie of the Night: Walker Kessler - 17 points (8-10 FG, 1-3 FT), 14 rebounds, one assist, seven blocks and one steal over 30 minutes.

A Look Ahead to Thursday Night

  • The Heat and Knicks square off in Madison Square Garden.
  • The Grizzlies and Cavaliers face each other in Cleveland.
  • Luka Doncic and the Mavs look to get on track when New Orleans comes to town.
  • The Clippers travel to Milwaukee to face Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Spero
Michael writes in the NBA and NCAAF departments for RotoWire. He is a big-time fan of both the Bulls and Nuggets. Michael spends his time playing pick-up or anxiously rooting for his fantasy teams.
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