It was a quiet night in the association with just four games on the slate, but as usual owners have 11 games to look forward to on Wednesday night. With just 3.5 weeks left of meaningful games in playoff leagues, we’re officially in crunch time and it’s time to walk hard.
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KNIGHTS OF THE MAGIC CHESS BOARD
I begrudgingly benched Moe Harkless during the Magic’s three-game slate this week and he started in on making me regret it, scoring 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting (including a three) with eight rebounds, four steals and one block in 31 minutes. Tobias Harris struggled with just six points on 3-of-13 shooting, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks, and I’m thinking we’ll see oscillating performances out of these guys going forward. The good news is that both are trending upward and the Magic have two four-game weeks coming up.
Jameer Nelson struggled on a night in which the Magic got blown out by 22 points, scoring eight points on 2-of-13 shooting with one assist, as did Arron Afflalo with 10 points on 3-of-13 shooting and an otherwise normal looking line. Andrew Nicholson returned from a bout with the flu and scored eight points with two rebounds and two blocks in 16 minutes of garbage time, and owners of Harris and Harkless have to hope that distribution keeps up.
I’ve seen differing reports on Danny Granger’s status, one from the Indy Star that said he is uncertain to play again this season and another from NBA.com that says Frank Vogel hopes to use him next week. The first report is basically what we’re all thinking and the second one is the hopeful coach, and though coach might have more insight I think owners should still be in read-and-react mode. The Pacers have just one more four-game week next week and from there it’s a pair of three-gamers.
David West (back) did not play last night and was reportedly having trouble walking, so he’ll need all of the Pacers’ two off-days before Friday’s game to get back on track. Tyler Hansbrough started in his place and scored 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting with 14 rebounds, a steal and a block in 27 minutes, and left for precautionary reasons due to an abdominal cramp in the blowout win. With West having problems, he’s worth a short-term look for owners in a pinch but that’s about it.
Gerald Green trolled me and anybody else that bought into him earlier in the year with another fine outing, scoring 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting (including three treys) with eight rebounds and two assists but no steals or blocks in his 20 minutes off the bench. He was a DNP-CD in the five games before Monday’s 20-point, four 3-pointer outing so he needs to do this again before I go there in normal formats. Roy Hibbert got into some early foul trouble and finished with nine points, five rebounds and a block in 24 minutes, and Lance Stephenson couldn’t take advantage of West’s absence with just four points on 1-of-5 shooting, three rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block in 26 minutes.
It’s not surprising to see some inconsistency out of the Blazers in such a condensed schedule. Damian Lillard couldn’t back up his big Monday, as he scored just eight points on 2-of-10 shooting with six turnovers but he did have 11 assists. On the other side of the scale, Wes Matthews (28 points, seven treys) and J.J. Hickson (eight points, 11 boards) bounced back from slow nights on Monday. Nicolas Batum hit 6-of-12 shots (including three treys) for 15 points, three boards, four assists and two steals, so hopefully the shooting wrist has chilled out for him.
The biggest fantasy story on that side of the box was news of LaMarcus Aldridge (21 points, 15 rebounds, 43 minutes) playing through a sore left knee, and aside from his effectiveness it seems unlikely that he would pick Thursday’s national TV game, though we’ll be monitoring the injury closely. If you took the plunge on Eric Maynor you were throwing things at the TV, as he managed just one rebound to go with three missed shots in nine minutes.
BUCKS BREAKING DOWN
The timing couldn’t be worse for Ersan Ilyasova’s (back) owners, who were finally getting into a groove before he saved a ball over the weekend that would eventually cost him last night’s game and probably tonight’s game. Samuel Dalembert got the start in his place and responded with 16 points on 8-of-14 shooting, seven boards and no steals or blocks in just 20 minutes. It’s possible he got the start to match up alongside Larry Sanders with LaMarcus Aldridge and J.J. Hickson, but it’s also a good bet that he sees his 20 minutes or so at any rate if Ilyasova can’t go tonight. From there, his value will be tethered to Ilyasova’s health and that makes him a spot-add with some short-term upside.
Monta Ellis (21 points, nine rebounds, eight assists, three steals, three blocks, two threes) continued to be a monster but he was holding his left (non-shooting) wrist throughout the end of the game. With nowhere to go but the No. 8 seed in the East, some time off could be in order. That means J.J. Redick (14 points, two threes, three assists) could be worth a look as a speculative add. It’s also potential good news for Brandon Jennings (24 points, four treys, four rebounds, seven assists), who has been running hot and cold lately.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANDRE
Wilson Chandler scorched the nets with 35 points on Monday, and promptly left last night’s game with what could be a separated shoulder and the end of his season. The Nuggets don’t tend to have a sole beneficiary when somebody goes down, but Corey Brewer (11 points, four steals, not much else) and Andre Miller could see a boost that makes them standard league assets. That is especially true with Miller, who went off on his 37th birthday with 20 points, seven boards, nine assists, a steal and an 8-of-9 mark from the line. Just keep in mind that after this week the Nuggets close the year out with a trio of three-game weeks.
Kosta Koufos made it a two-game slide with just six points, seven boards and no steals or blocks in only 16 minutes. He gets two games to make it up to owners this week, but it’s hard to see him returning anything better than a ‘push.’ Ty Lawson (25 points) and Andre Iguodala (10 points, 5-of-14 FGs) continued their see-saw act, while Danilo Gallinari turned up the volume but forgot about the efficiency with 13 points on 4-of-17 shooting, two treys, eight boards, three assists, three steals and one block. Kenneth Faried bounced back from an awful Monday with 13 points, 15 boards, and three blocks.
THUNDER WITH NO LIGHTNING
The Thunder have had problems with the Nuggets this year and dropped to 1-3 against them with last night’s loss. Kevin Durant scored 34 points on 10-of-23 shooting but missed all six of his 3-point attempts, and besides the six turnovers he looked damn fine to me with seven boards, five assists, one steal and two blocks. Russell Westbrook had the same problems from distance with no makes and four misses, but also did the job with 25 points on 10-of-21 shooting, four rebounds, six assists and a steal.
Serge Ibaka was knocked out of the game with yet another shot to the head/face, finishing with six points, two rebounds, one steal and three blocks in 24 minutes of action. It was reported that he could have come back to the game and he did leave the court under his own power, but it’s a bit worrisome that he couldn’t return to a relatively close game. He’s definitely questionable for tonight against the Grizzlies until we hear otherwise.
RUNNING INTO A BUZZ-SAW
Chris Paul has struggled at times against Isaiah Thomas and the Kings, and with Toney Douglas also providing some pesky defense that was the case last night. Paul hit just 2-of-10 shots (0-of-3 3PTs, 7-of-10 FTs) for 11 points and had seven turnovers, but still managed seven rebounds, 15 assists and four steals in 44 minutes. The Clippers totally overlooked the Kings, who got back DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans and played inspired basketball in front of a raucous home crowd.
Jamal Crawford got loose last night for 25 points on 7-of-12 shooting with five treys, three assists, two steals and a perfect 6-of-6 from the line. Eric Bledsoe (calf) did not play but Vinny Del Negro said that he hopes to get him back this weekend, and that sort of talk was likely spurred on by Chauncey Billups’ groin injury. Billups is questionable for tonight and logged just seven minutes last night, as he trends toward non-factor when it comes to stealing minutes from the wing rotation.
Blake Griffin posted a super-sleek 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting (4-of-4 FTs) with four rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block. He’ll be an interesting play in fantasy leagues next season following a season of posting third round value. With 1.3 steals, 0.7 blocks, and an improved 65.7 percent mark from the line, the question will be whether he regresses to the mean or keeps taking steps forward. Matt Barnes played through a tweaked ankle, finishing with 11 points, six rebounds, four assists, one steal, three blocks and a trey in 32 minutes. The Clippers have one more four-game slate next week, and I can’t imagine letting Barnes go unowned for that.