There were only three games played on Thursday, but there is still plenty to talk about. After you've caught up on the action, head over to Rotoworld's Season Pass for our Pickup of the Day, as well as weekly stat projections, playing time reports, and much more.
Thunder vs. Timberwolves
Alexey Shved was terrific in 33 minutes for the victorious Wolves, scoring 12 points with two 3-pointers, seven rebounds, 12 assists, one steal and only one turnover. He is averaging 7.6 assists over the past five games, and chips in a few 3-pointers and a steal on most nights, but I'd caution owners against cutting a reliable FA to pick him up. His sub-40 percent shooting has dipped to 38.1 percent over the past two weeks, and he's somehow missing over half of his FT attempts in December (47.6 percent), yet even if you punt both FGP and FTP and focus on just the past two weeks, he's returning 11th-round value. Most damning for his value, in my eyes, is the overabundance of capable guards in Minnesota -- Ricky Rubio's medical limit of 18 minutes per game will soon be lifted, or at least increased, and Rick Adelman isn't likely to cut veterans Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea from his rotation in the near future. Throw in the eventual return of Brandon Roy, and there aren't enough minutes to go around at PG/SG.
Speaking of Minnesota's backcourt, Luke Ridnour played fairly well but showed up on the boxscore with just four points, one assist and two steals in 23 minutes. J.J. Barea made 7-of-13 shots, including three 3-pointers, to finish with 18 points, four rebounds, two assists and one steal in 23 minutes, while Ricky Rubio was scoreless with three assists in exactly 18 minutes. I suggested after Rubio's stellar season debut that fantasy owners may have to "bide their time" until his minutes ramp up, and that is still the case.
Andrei Kirilenko was unusually off-kilter, finishing with nine points, four rebounds and five turnovers before fouling out, but the Wolves were carried by a dominant showing from big men Nikola Pekovic (24 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks) and Kevin Love (28 points, four 3s, 11 rebounds, seven assists, two blocks). Love's 3-point range and fearsome rebounding are drawing plenty of attention from defenses, as usual, but Pek is feasting on the offensive boards and teams will soon have to tweak their gameplans to control him. If the playoffs started today the Wolves would be the No. 6 seed in the West, but there are six teams behind them (including the Nuggets and Lakers) who are within two games.
The Thunder lost despite getting a combined 63 points from Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. To put it another way, the Thunder lost after getting just 30 points from everyone not named Westbrook or Durant. Westbrook shot 9-of-28 from the field and seems to have reverted to rookie form from the field, shooting well below 40 percent in December. He also coughed up eight turnovers, but it's hard to complain with a line of 30 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and three steals. His low FG percentage and high turnovers are painful, to be sure, but he's also averaging career-highs in 3-pointers (1.5) and steals (2.1). Serge Ibaka rounded out the 'usual suspects' boxscore with 14 points, nine rebounds and five blocks, while Kendrick Perkins did his best 'Hollow Man' impression with zero points and two boards in 20 minutes.
With Kevin Martin sidelined by a bruised thigh, Thabo Sefolosha wound up with nine points, five rebounds and four steals in 44 minutes. OKC doesn't play again until Tuesday at Miami, so KevMart should be ready, but owners should check for updates over the weekend.
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Heat vs. Mavericks
Miami's starting unit controlled Thursday's game, but they were so effective that only Chris Bosh (17 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals) played more than 31 minutes. LeBron made his first six field goals and finished with 24 points, nine rebounds and five assists, Dwyane Wade added 19 points, five boards and six assists, and Miami won the rebounding battle while shooting a gaudy 53.8 percent from the field. Teams are justifiably focused on slowing down LeBron and Wade, both in the open court and the half court, but Miami's ready-and-willing ball movement is creating easy shots for guys like Mike Miller, Ray Allen and Shane Battier. Those three veteran reserves combined for 29 points, with six 3-pointers. Pick your poison. As a brief aside, Ray Allen is averaging just 18.3 minutes over the past three games. Miami keeps winning, and we're unlikely to hear him complain, but if he didn't like his role in Boston it's hard to imagine he's thrilled with a spot-up-and-wait role for the Heat.
O.J. Mayo was the victim of Miami's defensive gameplan -- they locked down the league's leading 3-point shooter, frustrating him into some wild attempts, and he wound up with just eight points on 3-of-14 shooting. He doesn't get a break, either, as Dallas plays the Grizzlies on Friday and the Spurs on Sunday, and both teams rank in the top six in fewest 3-pointers allowed. Darren Collison had 11 points and five assists in 27 minutes while starting at PG in place of injured Derek Fisher, who is out at least a few more games with a knee injury.
Chris Kaman missed his first four FG attempts and never really got going, finishing 4-of-10 with two rebounds and two turnovers in 19 minutes. Chris Bosh never allowed him to pop out for open jumpers, and any time he put the ball on the floor he was swarmed by Heat defenders, so hopefully he'll have better luck vs. the Grizzlies on Friday. The Mavs' bench players did a solid job and actually clawed back most of the team's early deficit, led by strong games from Jae Crowder (15 points, two 3s, three assists in 26 minutes) and Bernard James, who scored 12 points with nine boards and three blocks in just 22 minutes. Though encouraging, it must be noted that Elton Brand (groin) wasn't playing and Rick Carlisle isn't likely to give his bench this much freedom in competitive games. File this bench effort under "E" for encouraging.
Nuggets vs. Trail Blazers
The Blazers won their fourth consecutive game to creep back to .500, led by Wesley Matthews' 20 points, four 3-pointers, four assists, one steal and one block. He logged 39 minutes in his first game back from a hip injury and owners couldn't have asked for more. Damian Lillard struggled with his shot, going 3-of-14, but he still racked up 12 points, four boards and 10 dimes, and with two minutes left in a close game he drove through the middle of the Nuggets' defense for an authoritative dunk that brought the home crowd to its feet.
Joel Freeland started at center with LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) sidelined, but he scored just two points in 15 minutes. Predictably, J.J. Hickson was the real winner with LA unavailable, as he blew up for 18 & 18 with three blocks, and six of his rebounds came on the offensive glass. Hickson has been solid all year, and he's riding a six-game streak with double-doubles, but I'd use this as a potential sell-high moment considering his 16 FG attempts were a season-high and his 34 minutes were nearly a season-high.
Nicolas Batum chipped in another excellent all-around line, which featured five 3-pointers and two blocks, while Luke Babbitt made four 3-pointers of his own before fouling out in 26 minutes off the pine. In the past five games, Babbitt is getting enough minutes (24 per game) and hitting enough 3-pointers (2.0 per game) that he's worth a long look for those in need of a perimeter specialist. The Blazers' bench has been in desperate need of a spark this year, and the third-year forward is stepping up.
For Denver, Danilo Gallinari followed up his 28-point game with a six-point dud, missing nine of his 10 FG attempts in 27 minutes. He didn't struggle alone, though, as Ty Lawson and Andre Iguodala each scored 13 points while going a combined 0-of-10 from downtown. Kenneth Faried played a season-low 17 minutes, grabbing eight rebounds with zero assists, steals or blocks, and he hasn't posted consecutive double-doubles since early November. In other discouraging news, despite going against a team without LaMarcus Aldridge, with a rookie starting center (Joel Freeland) and a rookie backup center (Meyers Leonard), JaVale McGee logged just 15 minutes for Denver. He had seven points, three rebounds and two blocks, and he's now played under 20 minutes for three consecutive games (the first time that's happened all year). The only pleasant surprise for Denver came from Andre "Old Man Game" Miller, as he racked up 12 points, nine boards and seven assists in 28 minutes.