GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS
Monta Ellis’ X-rays on his left (non-shooting) wrist returned negative and he played last night, which was the good news, but the bad news was that he hit just 2-of-14 shots for five points and not much else in 40 minutes. With the bad shooting line and low activity numbers (one rebound, one assist, no steals) it’s well within owners’ bounds to wonder if he’ll miss time, but until that is announced he needs to be in lineups at this time. Just go drool over the game log if you need a reason why.
Brandon Jennings is a near lock to pick up Ellis’ slack if there is any slack to be had, and he posted a tidy 21 points on 8-of-18 shooting with three treys, five assists and one steal. I called J.J. Redick a speculative add yesterday for the chance Monta struggles, and he backed me up with 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting, two treys, three boards, six assists, a steal and a perfect four freebies. He’ll be a 3-point specialist when the backcourt is at full strength, but as you can see when that’s not the case he gets interesting once again.
Ersan Ilyasova (back) and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (toe) did not play last night, as expected, and all owners can do is cross their fingers and hope Ilyasova plays on Friday. That unclogged the pipes for Larry Sanders (19 points, 14 boards, one steal, four blocks) and Mike Dunleavy (10 points, seven boards, three assists, two threes, 28 minutes. As for Dunleavy, let’s let him do it again before we go talking about an add, unless we get longer-term bad news on Ilyasova. Samuel Dalembert did not deliver in another start, scoring two points on 1-of-7 shooting with seven rebounds and no steals or blocks in his 18 minutes. Similarly to Dunleavy, he needs injury help to have any sustained value other than as a low-end spot-start.
The Hawks held serve at home against the Bucks last night and any question marks about Jeff Teague’s ankle evaporated in a 27-point, 11-assist effort. He hit 11-of-19 shots (including four treys) with a steal and a block, and he has been a top-50 play over the past month or so. Devin Harris got on the board with 15 points, six assists, two steals and a three, and is worth a look if you’re in a pinch but that’s about it. Al Horford (26 points, 15 boards, two steals, two blocks) and Josh Smith (12 points, 16 boards, six assists, one steal, one block) were not deterred by the Bucks’ twin towers, and Kyle Korver kept his consecutive 3-pointers streak alive with a trio of them for nine points, seven boards and a block.
NOWHERE ELSE TO GO
Complaining about Scott Brooks is so last year but the Thunder beat writers and bloggers have finally had enough, as Brooks continues to play Derek Fisher for no discernible reason. Kendrick Perkins gets a night off from me (not really) after pulling down 16 rebounds in one of the few matchups in which he can excel versus the Grizzlies. It’s sort of gut-wrenching to know that the Thunder are wasting championships by the years. You can bet on it – Perkins and Fisher will be the demise of this team in the playoffs once again, which will put three consecutive playoff snafus on Brooks’ resume.
The main reason the Thunder lost last night, however, was 7-of-25 shooting from Russell Westbrook and 11-of-28 shooting from Kevin Durant with just a combined six assists. Serge Ibaka dealt with the same cut over his eye throughout the game and finished with just two points on 1-of-4 shooting, six rebounds, one steal and two blocks. By not developing an offense that integrates Kevin Martin (17 points, 6-of-13 FGs) and Ibaka more consistently, the Thunder don't have a fallback option when their studs aren’t producing.
BUILT TO COVER
Still, it speaks to how good the Thunder are when they play that poorly and come within a last-second Marc Gasol tip-in to lose by one point. The Grizzlies are built to cover the Thunder well with Mike Conley (24 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals, one block) a good fit on Westbrook, and Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince being two serviceable bodies to throw at Durant. Gasol went for 14 and 15 and Zach Randolph went for 15 and 18 but had seven turnovers and hit just 6-of-23 shots. Jerryd Bayless scored 20 points with four triples and forced overtime with one of them, but the only thing he has going for him in standard formats is the Grizzlies’ rockin’ 4-4-3 schedule. There’s just too much inconsistency coming off the bench.
TURN OFF THE MUSIC
It’s funny reading the tweets of Rockets beat writers calling out Al Jefferson’s defense as something disastrous only to read the normally reliable Utah beat say Jefferson had a great defensive second half. Full disclosure – I have not watched the tape of this contest so I can’t say what happened, but what is certain is that the Jazz piled up another loss and it was Paul Millsap (16 points, 6-of-10 FGs, four rebounds, two steals, one block, 25 minutes) and Mo Williams (four points, 2-of-7 FGs, six assists, 24 minutes) that were benched down the stretch. Ty Corbin is at odds with his team right now and he is attached at the hip with Jefferson, who played 43 minutes and scored 18 points on 9-of-19 shooting with 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and no blocks.
The unit of Jefferson, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks and Derrick Favors went on a 32-point tear in the fourth quarter while holding the Rockets without a field goal for seven minutes, so there is some truth to the idea that Jefferson did his part. The real story in Utah though is the near-full breakout of Hayward, who scored 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting with eight rebounds, three treys, two assists and a steal in 42 minutes. To be truthful, I didn’t know exactly how Hayward would make it happen down the stretch, and the trade deadline was a buzz-kill, but my faith that the Jazz would eventually figure out what they had held the day. Finally.
Favors isn’t encroaching on Millsap’s territory just yet but could be if things persist, and he posted another low-minute defensive special with a steal and three blocks to go with five points and three rebounds in 23 ticks. Going back to Mo Williams, I'd caution owners to be patient and consider that he’s still on the comeback trail. Dropping him could be a mistake if anything because your competition will have access to a potential mid-round value.
The Rockets staked out a small cushion in the No. 7 seed with their win last night, with nothing earth-shattering to report on the fantasy front. James Harden (29 points, 5-of-14 FGs, 17-of-18 FTs) says his foot is no longer limiting him, Jeremy Lin (24 points, 9-of-13 FGs, six assists) took off, Omer Asik went for nine and 12 with a block, and Chandler Parson is slowly picking up the pace with a 10-point, eight-rebound effort devoid of threes.
The Celtics got Kevin Garnett (flu) back last night and things returned to normal, except for the loss to the Hornets in New Orleans last night. Garnett did well to score 10 points on 9-of-16 shooting with six rebounds, three assists and three steals, and Paul Pierce was solid with 28 points, five assists and a nicely situated stat line. Jeff Green returned to his wobbly role off the bench, scoring 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting (including a three) with two rebounds, one steal, two blocks and a perfect four free throws in 27 minutes. I expect his production to look a lot like it did before the ‘Jeff Green game,’ but on an aging roster I’m guessing he’ll get the Garden chanting at least one more time.
The real problem for the Celtics last night was their guard play, as Courtney Lee scored just five points on 2-of-3 shooting with two steals and not much else, and Avery Bradley hit just 2-of-10 shots for five points to go with five rebounds, four assists, five steals and one block. Both guards have standard league value right now and similar upside to Green in that they’re young and locked into their roles.
Kevin Garnett version 2.0 aka Anthony Davis was iffy coming into last night’s game due to an illness, and he outreached his predecessor to put in the game-winning tip with seconds left. He finished with just nine points on 4-of-7 shooting, eight rebounds, one steal and two blocks, and I’m hoping he goes undervalued in next year’s drafts after a quiet season. He’s going to be a beast. Ryan Anderson scored 21 points with five boards, two threes and a 9-of-11 mark from the line, and Eric Gordon (knee) played 31 minutes on his way to 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting with not much else. I have never really bought into Robin Lopez and his four points, four rebounds and one block are a much-too-familiar sight.
THE GOOD OLD YOU
Deron Williams returned to his hometown in Dallas, which has been a mild storyline given Mark Cuban’s comments downplaying what they didn’t get in D-Will. Since being eviscerated on the Internet by just about everybody, including yours truly, he has been playing angry and punched the Mavs in the gut with 31 points on 13-of-25 shooting with three treys and six assists. Good for him. I like the old, pre-trade D-Will.
Brook Lopez kept up his studly ways with a season-high 38 points on 15-of-22 shooting, 11 rebounds, one steal and two blocks, while Joe Johnson scored nine points on 4-of-12 shooting with five assists in a dud of an effort. Reggie Evans grabbed 22 rebounds and if you’re trying to make up ground in that category in a Roto league now is the time to grab him. The Nets finish out the year with a 3-3-4 slate.
The Mavs are a team with no identity right now and by virtue of that they’re going to be inconsistent as a unit, and after last night’s loss they fell 3.5 games behind the No. 8 Lakers in the West. With just 14 games to go, they need to go on a serious run to make any hay in the middle of the barn. O.J. Mayo (nine points, five rebounds, six assists, no threes) has been borderline benchable lately, and while it would be easy to pin that on Dirk Nowitzki’s presence I’ve noticed a lack of assertion mixed with a lack of focus by the Mavs to get him the ball.
Dirk took just 10 shots last night (making eight) for 16 points, six boards and a block, but when Mike James and Darren Collison are combining for 19 looks and Chris Kaman shoots 12 times (making seven) there’s just too much them and not enough Mayo. Chances are Mayo will bounce back, but it’s also possible we’re not hearing about his old ankle injury or there is some other issue in the locker room. I’ll be rolling him out there while keeping an ear to the ground.
Shawn Marion (calf) was active but never had a shot of playing and is targeting a return in Friday’s game, which could further clutter matters but it could also return things to some level of normalcy. Vince Carter (eight points, 3-of-9 FGs) hasn’t really taken advantage of his absence, but that’s always a hot streak in waiting. Hopefully you can guess right if you take the plunge. Backup Darren Collison (eight points, three assists, 20 minutes) got bested by starter Mike James (12 points, four treys, seven assists, 27 minutes), and both guys are borderline 12-team values right now with enough risk to keep them on benches or the wire. I’m still selling all of the Mavs’ big men in normal formats.