Lakers @ Grizzlies: Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol both scored single-digit points for a second straight game. Incredibly, Pau had just four rebounds in 27 minutes, while Dwight had just four rebounds in 39 minutes. Major credit goes to the Grizzlies physical frontcourt and team defense, but I doubt that Dwight and Pau will have another two-game stretch like this all season. Dwight has attempted a grand total of 11 field goals over those two games, something that simply should never happen -- Kobe wound up launching 23 shots (making just seven) for his 30 points on Friday, and Steve Nash's absence has never been felt more keenly. As for Gasol, he didn't play down the stretch, and when asked for an explanation, Mike D'Antoni said, "I'd like to win the game." That doesn't sound good at all, but Pau is too talented to anticipate a major drop-off in minutes or touches in an up-tempo offense, so don't panic and unload him for the first mediocre offer that comes your way.
Close your eyes and picture an average Grizzlies boxscore. Yes, you're correct, that's exactly what they did last night.
Kings @ Jazz: For the Kings, it finally happened -- Isaiah Thomas picked up a DNP-CD, while Aaron Brooks scored 17 points with three 3s and three assists in 32 minutes as the starting PG. Whatever your feelings about the move, it has clarified some roles for the Kings and works for the benefit of Tyreke Evans, who posted 19 points, five assists and two steals.
Marvin Williams (20 points, four rebounds) returned to Utah's starting five, replacing Derrick Favors, a move I presume will stick -- the Jazz won their past two games with a 'big' lineup featuring Paul Millsap at SF, but they never quite looked comfortable and it seems Tyrone Corbin was merely experimenting. Regardless of who starts, it's clear that Favors will get 25-30 minutes a night, and on Friday he cashed in for 16 points, 14 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Meanwhile, Gordon Hayward looked very comfortable and aggressive coming off the bench for 23 points, including a game-winning jumper, and his ostensible demotion isn't the end of the line for his fantasy owners. Keep an eye on how Paul Millsap's role fluctuates with Utah's new rotations -- he had just 10 points again on Friday, which is reason enough to be mildly concerned.
Warriors @ Nuggets: Harrison Barnes flopped on Friday with just four points in 15 minutes, the victim of foul trouble, while fouls also limited Stephen Curry to just six points in 26 minutes. Curry has been playing great lately, and his ankle hasn't been an issue, so don't read too much into this random dud. The Warriors' bench stepped up with Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry combining for 36 points, with Landry also chipping in eight rebounds, four assists and one block.
Andre Iguodala scored a season-high 29 points vs. the Warriors, and seems to be getting more comfortable in every game he plays alongside Ty Lawson (18 points, nine dimes) and Danilo Gallinari (20 points on 8-of-20 FGs). At the center position, the timeshare between Kosta Koufos (19 minutes) and JaVale McGee (25 minutes) shows no signs of abating, but owners should hang tight on McGee, who is returning low-end value despite his diminished playing time.
Hornets @ Suns: Greivis Vasquez exploded in an overtime loss to the defenseless Suns, notching a career-high 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting, with five rebounds and a career-high 14 assists. His huge night was equaled by fill-in starter Ryan Anderson, who also scored a career-high with 34 points and 11 rebounds, while draining a ridiculous 8-of-13 from downtown. A fine game was also had by Al-Farouq Aminu, who posted 16 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block on 6-of-7 shooting.
The Suns new starting PF, Markieff Morris, continued to impress with a career-high 23 points, two 3-pointers and three rebounds in 35 minutes. One of his 3s was a dagger with 50 seconds left in OT, a stark contrast to moribund Luis Scola, who had just 10 points in 18 minutes off the bench. Morris needs to be owned, while I'd give Scola another week, furiously try to trade him, and if all else fails, cut bait. Someone who looked like Jermaine O'Neal had a big game off the bench...oh, that was J.O. posting 13 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks off the Suns' bench on Friday, and he's been quite effective in limited minutes early in the season. Amazingly, O'Neal had a +/- rating of +29, while Marcin Gortat was -26 in just 24 minutes. Oh, and if you haven't cut Michael Beasley (two points in 17 minutes), do yourself a favor and get it over with.
Wolves @ Blazers: Kevin Love's hand is still sore but he's been assured that it's healed enough that he won't re-break it, so he should be fine going forward. He had 24 & 13 on Friday and needs to be active in all lineups. Nikola Pekovic posted 18 & 10 (seven offensive rebounds) and seems fully recovered from his ankle injury. Keep an eye on recently acquired Josh Howard, who had 10 points and seven rebounds in Friday's loss, and could start at SG before long -- current starter Malcolm Lee (seven points, one assist) isn't exactly putting up much resistance. J.J. Barea (foot) has returned, but he's doing more to hurt Alexey Shved than anything else, and neither guy cracked 20 minutes vs. Portland.
LaMarcus Aldridge got into early foul trouble vs. Kevin Love and the Wolves, reducing him to just 13 points and six rebounds in 28 minutes. Wesley Matthews picked up the slack, scoring 30 points on 12-of-17 shooting, with five 3-pointers and four steals, while Damian Lillard chipped in 28 points and J.J. Hickson had 14 & 13. The only player who didn't get in on the act was Nicolas Batum, surprisingly, though his quiet night (nine points, four rebounds, five assists, and four turnovers) shouldn't diminish what he's done so far this year.
That's it for this week! I say this every week, but future columns probably won’t be this long, for my sake and for yours. I hope you are all enjoying the holiday weekend, close friends and family, a feast of leftovers, and of course, discount electronics.