Serge Ibaka's phenomenal year continued in the OT victory, as he racked up 19 points, 17 rebounds and five more blocks. He is now averaging 14.4 points on 57.2 percent FGs and 80.3 percent FTs, 8.5 rebounds and 3.1 blocks, good enough for first-round value. Russell Westbrook's line from Thursday looks solid --16 points, six rebounds, 10 assists, three steals--- until you notice his 7-of-20 mark from the field, which dropped him under 40 percent from the field this season. He's been ice-cold in December but to his credit he got hot at the right time vs. Dallas, scoring eight of his points in overtime to decide the game in OKC's favor. Nothing will dissuade WB from jacking up close to 20 shots per game, and when they start falling his value will fly upward -- he's averaging 21.8 points per game this months despite making just 37.9 percent of his shots. As a final note for owners in deep leagues, Reggie Jackson has taken over the backup PG spot from Eric Maynor in the past two games and he may keep the job permanently.
Darren Collison blew up for a season-high 32 points on 13-of-22 shooting in Thursday's tough loss in OKC, a barrage that included a buzzer-beating jumper to force OT. He made all four of his 3-point attempts while adding five rebounds, four assists and four steals. This could easily be his high-water mark for the season, but at least it will make Rick Carlisle pause before he tries to bench Collison in favor of Dominique Jones or anyone else. Dirk Nowitzki said that his knee feels "phenomenal," but he also admitted that he doesn't have his usual stamina or any "bounce or lift." He made just 3-of-11 FGs on Thursday, before wisely deferring to his teammates in crunch time, and he was such a defensive liability that he was benched for Shawn Marion in overtime. The Matrix thrived again with 14 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and one block, and he's retaining excellent value despite Dirk's return. Keep him plugged into active lineups until he cools off. And speaking of cooling off...O.J. Mayo scored four points on 1-of-7 shooting in 36 minutes vs. the Thunder. In the past four games he's averaging 7.3 points on 25 percent shooting, and even Dirk exhorted him after the game to play with greater confidence, while noting that Mayo is struggling when teams trap him on pick-and-rolls (which they are doing with great frequency now, since it's working). There's little doubt that Mayo will improve, but I personally don't expect a return to his numbers from November (20.9 points, 2.7 threes).
The second game of the night was far less entertaining, as the Clippers ran roughshod over the Celtics for their 15th consecutive victory, and their sixth consecutive blowout. As a result of the score, none of L.A.'s players logged more than 29 minutes -- Caron Butler knocked down 6-of-12 jumpers to score 14 points, and Blake Griffin had 15 points and eight rebounds while missing 4-of-7 FTs, but the interesting stats came from the bench unit. Lamar Odom scored just four points but he also had 13 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and zero turnovers in 29 minutes. He's actually returning 7th round value in nine-cat leagues over the past two weeks, and at least deserves to be watched closely. Matt Barnes is the overall No. 17 player over the same stretch, a phenomenal state of affairs which continued on Thursday with 21 points, five 3-pointers, two steals and one block. He didn't have any rebounds or assists in his 23 minutes of action, but you won't hear his owners complain.
Boston, meanwhile, fell to 14-14 on the season. Kevin Garnett got going offensively, scoring 16 points in 26 minutes, with four rebounds, three assists and a block, but that was the only passable fantasy line. The Celtics nearly had as many turnovers (18) as assists (20), and I'm starting to believe Rajon Rondo's recent half-joke regarding Avery Bradley, as related by beat writer Chris Forsberg on ESPN.com:
"I don't want to put it on one player, but when Avery [Bradley] comes back, we're going to be a completely different team," said Rondo. "He'll help us out a lot, especially on the defensive end. He's a physical guard and I think we need that type of effort, that type of energy that he brings to the game and it's kind of contagious." Then in a brief moment of levity, Rondo stared into a television camera and declared, "So I'm putting all the pressure on you, Avery. No, I'm just playing."
The Celtics are clinging to the eighth seed in the East, half a game ahead of the 76ers, and lucky for them Bradley is expected to debut on Wednesday. Bradley knocked down 40.7 percent of his 3-pointers last season, and he could chip in a useful amount of points and steals if (as expected) he starts at SG ahead of Jason Terry and Courtney Lee. With so much competition, however, I'm viewing him as just a speculative add in 12-14 team leagues.