ADDITION BY SUBTRACTION
The Suns rolled into Houston and perhaps the return of Goran Dragic and Luis Scola to their old stomping grounds put some pep in the Suns’ step. Or maybe it was the fact that Michael Beasley missed last night’s game due to the birth of his daughter. In any event, the Suns played the Rockets tight and lost on a bizarre goaltending call on Jermaine O’Neal, who inexplicably knocked a 3-point shot attempt from James Harden off the rim when it was clearly above the cylinder.
Dragic continued to pour it on for owners at precisely the right time (as long as we’re forgetting DNP-Gate), as he put up 15 points, four rebounds, 10 assists, four steals, a block and a three. He has been a top 25-45 play in 8- and 9-cat leagues over the last month. If not for the carnage around him, he’d be doing even better, but that’s not going to pay the bills for owners following my aggressive preseason ranking of the Dragon.
Luis Scola went off for 28 points, eight rebounds, a steal and a block against his old squad, and Markieff Morris made it two strong outings in a row with 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting, three treys, nine rebounds, three assists, one steal and two blocks in 28 minutes. Morris has some versatility but has never been able to put all of it together, but stranger things have happened to really bad teams at the end of the year so owners should be open-minded to the chance he can excel. He’s still a risky play, regardless. Wes Johnson scored just nine points with no steals, blocks or threes, and he has fallen off the standard league map. With relatively low upside, owners should have already moved along. O’Neal hit just 2-of-12 shots for six points, six boards and a block in his 26 minutes. Owners looking for big man stats could still do worse on a night-to-night dice roll.
BY THE BEARD OF ZEUS
Chandler Parsons (calf) missed his third straight game and Carlos Delfino was out with his illness. Francisco Garcia picked up the slack with 15 points, three treys, and a steal, but is only worth a look if reports roll in that guys are sitting out longer. James Harden hit the aforementioned game-tender, finishing with 33 points, two threes, six rebounds, six assists, three steals, one block, a 13-of-14 mark from the foul line and a whopping nine turnovers. Giveaways aside, it’s good to see him active after a slow stretch. Terrence Jones scored 11 points with six rebounds and a steal in 23 minutes off the bench, which keeps him on the radar while guys are out. Greg Smith started again and posted 12 points, five rebounds, one steal and one block in 28 minutes, and he’s worth a look if you need a low-end big man in deeper formats. Omer Asik grabbed 22 rebounds with two steals and two blocks in the win.
I’LL TAKE THE REGULAR
The Bobcats were overmatched by the Grizzlies in their loss last night, but the box score was pretty standard fare. Ben Gordon backed up his 27-point outing the last time out with just three points in 16 minutes, which is almost to be expected with a recent career history of doing just that. Byron Mullens (elbow) was active but did not play, and Josh McRoberts (eight points, 3-of-11 FGs, eight rebounds, two blocks, 41 minutes) looks like he can’t be removed from the floor right now. The Cats would be eviscerated every time down the floor without him, which is more a reflection of the surrounding pieces than it is of McBob. Still, Bismack Biyombo secured 12 rebounds with three blocks, so if you’re in the market for those items he’s well worth a look.
GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS
Jerryd Bayless (knee) and Darrell Arthur (back) did not play last night, and in general the Grizzlies cruised through an easy win against the Bobcats. Mike Conley kept his foot on the gas with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting (no threes), seven assists, two steals and a block. He has been a top 10-15 play in 8- and 9-cat leagues over the last month, and more importantly during winning time for many formats.
The rest of the box score was sleepy, with Marc Gasol scoring eight points with six rebounds and three blocks, and Zach Randolph hitting 5-of-14 shots for 11 points, 13 rebounds, one steal and one block. Austin Daye found himself in the right place at the right times in his 16 minutes last night, scoring 10 points with seven rebounds, one block and a three. The Grizzlies are still playing for seeding, so Daye is somebody that can be watched from the wire in most formats.
ALSO GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS
The Thunder rolled through the Jazz fairly easily last night, and the usual suspects did their normal damage. Russell Westbrook scored 25 points but had just two assists, Thabo Sefolosha picked up the pace with 12 points, seven rebounds, a steal and four threes, Kevin Durant narrowly missed a triple-double with 21 points, 12 boards, nine assists, three steals, a block, and one trey, Serge Ibaka went for 16 and eight with a steal and five blocks, and Kevin Martin scored just five points with one lone 3-pointer.
RACE FOR EIGHT
Utah needed a win badly in order to keep pace with the Lakers, but it’s hard to get on them for a loss against the Thunder. And since many of them weren’t in lineups due to the two-game week, you probably didn’t spend much time watching this game for fantasy purposes. Mo Williams scored 19 points with six assists and two threes, Al Jefferson went for 15 and 11 with a steal and block, Paul Millsap scored eight points with six rebounds, two steals and a block, Gordon Hayward scored 17 points with a normal line, and Derrick Favors blocked five shots to go with eight points and eight boards off the bench.
BRICK: THE RICKY RUBIO STORY
The Wolves loped into Golden State and put up a little fight, but eventually called it an early night halfway through the fourth quarter when Mark Jackson pulled his starters with a 15-point lead or so. Ricky Rubio looked awful shooting the ball and I’ll give some of that to his left shoulder injury, but man he missed a few by a mile. He went hitless on 10 attempts from the field and finished with five points, five rebounds, six assists and a steal in 22 minutes. Keep an eye on his status for obvious reasons.
The starters all struggled with the exception of Andrei Kirilenko (15 points, four rebounds, two blocks, one three, 6-of-6 FTs). Chase Budinger has been consistently putting up pretty low-end numbers and got a little loose last night for 17 points, six rebounds and two threes with the bench seeing extended minutes. Unless guys start getting shutdown, it’s going to be hard to predict the production of the borderline guys, but Budinger has been the best of the lot lately.
My Warriors clinched a spot in the playoffs, which is pretty satisfying just knowing the new ownership and management, for all of their curious decisions, is heading in the right direction. Now does this team have franchise-crippling problems? Of course. David Lee’s contract is going to bog them down and Andrew Bogut is not the long-term answer, but with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson you have something to build around – though their defense in tandem isn’t any different than it was when Monta Ellis was around.
A healthy (LOL) Bogut can theoretically mitigate some of those issues, but next to Lee they have a ceiling no higher than the bottom of the Western Conference playoff picture going forward.
I’m still not sold on Mark Jackson, especially on the strategic and defensive side, but once you get past the chronic overstating of proficiencies and understating of deficiencies the team does have their minds in the right places. That’s worth something, but the totality of it doesn’t have me clamoring for anything but a year-by-year assessment of Hand Down, Man Down.
Thompson got hot last night, scoring 30 points on 10-of-19 shooting with six threes and five steals, so hopefully you had him in lineups. Bogut grabbed 14 rebounds and had three blocks, so he did his job for owners and the Curry-Lee tandem went off, per usual. Harrison Barnes could be a nice piece going forward but he has a lot of work to do, and he posted a solid 15 and 10 in the win. He profiles as a guy the Warriors could lean on if they were resting players, which apparently they’re not.
I’d sure like to see Curry, Bogut, Lee, and Jarrett Jack (four points, four boards) riding some pine to get their legs ready for the meaningful games, but I can also see the wisdom of trying to get their house in order, too. The Warriors have limped into the playoffs based less on their own play and more by the lack of real competition at the bottom of the West.
AIRING OF THE GREIVANCES
Greivis Vasquez (11 points, 11 assists) injured his ankle on one of the game’s final plays last night, and he’ll be questionable for tonight’s game. Brian Roberts (nine points, three assists) is a sneaky pickup with the backcourt full of question marks. Eric Gordon scored 22 points but got picked clean by Kobe twice in crunch time, and he’ll be questionable for the rest of his career it seems. Anthony Davis flashed all that upside with 18 points, 14 rebounds, four steals and a block in the team’s loss to the Lakers.
Steve Nash (old) did not play last night, as expected, but Metta World Peace (minor knee surgery) did and turned heads across the NBA by besting a 4-6 week timetable in just 12 days. Kudos to him. Kobe Bryant and Co. did their best to try to lose to the Hornets at home last night, but the Mamba turned in 23 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter and secured the win. Pau Gasol made some noise with 22 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, one steal and three blocks, paying off owners that grabbed him off the wire a few weeks back.
Earl Clark killed owners with zero points, three rebounds, five assists and a block in 24 minutes, while Antawn Jamison was the beneficiary of MWP’s low workload (15 minutes). Jamison scored 13 points with eight rebounds, two threes and a steal, which is what owners should be hoping for nowadays. Steve Blake put up his typical seven points, five rebounds, and six assists, but he did boost it with two steals, a block and a three. He’s worth a look while Nash’s status is wobbly.
MIA @ WAS: The Miami guys will be on red alert and owners will want to watch the Wizards’ frontcourt for signs of wear. If Trevor Ariza (knee) misses the game it will stabilize the value of Martell Webster.
ATL @ PHI: Josh Smith (knee) practiced yesterday and is tentatively expected to play tonight. Keep an eye out on Jrue Holiday, who is beat up.
MIL @ ORL: Moe Harkless’ knee issue turned out to be tendinitis, and along with a “bum ankle” he plans to gut it out. Of course he does. He’s getting heavy burn and putting his name on the NBA map. Jameer Nelson (ankle) is proverbially day-to-day, and with Beno Udrih running well the Magic don’t have a ton of incentive to get him back on the court. Plan accordingly.
DET @ CLE: Brandon Knight (foot, ankle) is beat up but scheduled to play tonight. Next door, Jose Calderon (arm) has already been ruled out and the Pistons have been hinting that they’d shut him down. Unless your format or situation says otherwise, Rodney Stuckey is a must-own player and in those same (perhaps deeper) formats Will Bynum is worth a look. We’ll be on Kyrie Irving watch all day.
BKY @ BOS: Paul Pierce practiced yesterday and is expected to play tonight for about 30 minutes. The Celtics have a pair of back-to-back sets after that and it looks like he’ll play in 2-of-3. Kevin Garnett (ankle) practiced too and he’s in the same boat as Pierce. Joe Johnson is somebody to keep an eye on given his recent health issues.
PHO @ DAL: Dirk Nowitzki (foot) was set to play tonight but then had his status downgraded to questionable by mid-day yesterday. Elton Brand (calf) practiced yesterday and is questionable for tonight. With the playoffs still mathematically possible, I’d guess he’s ready to play tonight. Brandan Wright and Chris Kaman owners are playing with fire, but absences by those two guys help their causes greatly, obviously.
LAL @ POR: Wesley Matthews (ankle) is the Chuck Norris of fantasy hoops ahead of Kobe Bryant if for anything because Kobe already has a nickname or three. He is out tonight and it would be ridiculous for the Blazers to allow him to return this season, if it’s even possible. Nicolas Batum (shoulder) is doubtful for tonight and his season is in doubt, though it stands to reason that the Blazers might rotate some of their studs because letting all of their reserves play at once might threaten the space-time continuum. J.J. Hickson popped up as questionable for tonight due to a back injury, which is probably kicking more than just me in the crotchal region. The good news is that players like to get up for the Lakers and the Blazers are low on bodies. Still, watch the reports like a hawk and get backup options ready.
Will Barton is an interesting rookie. Picked No. 40 by the Blazers this summer, they went to decent lengths to get him and it’s because his quickness and playmaking are plus assets. His issues are with size, strength, and an overabundance of confidence. As we saw after his big game over the weekend, he has the motor to be something special if he’s put into a garbage-time element with instructions to ‘go.’ The entire starting core is dog tired right now, and with half of them ruled out tonight and the frontcourt banged up, don’t be surprised if Barton is this season’s Patty Mills with a few extra games to show his stuff. I think he’s a must-own player for the upside alone, though my opinion isn’t shared in full around here.
NO @ SAC: Patrick Patterson (hand, back) is expected to play tonight. The Kings have just two home games left (this season) and this is one of them, so expect a raucous crowd and barring total team anarchy they should give the Hornets all they can handle. We’ll be watching for Greivis Vasquez updates and surely you will be too.
SA @ DEN: Tony Parker (neck) is being called ‘probable’ for tonight, and there was some funny business with the reports early yesterday so owners need to watch this closely, as if it warrants mentioning. Stephen Jackson did not travel with the team and is out for tonight, as is Boris Diaw with a bad back. Ty Lawson (heel) could get 15-20 minutes tonight but as of now he’s still questionable to play. There is a lot not to like here but I could think of worse players to pick up.
MIN @ LAC: The Clippers have plenty to play for in the seeding race so expect them to approach this game as they normally would. Chauncey Billups (groin) is the only guy on the injury report. Keep an eye out on Ricky Rubio’s injury, and the lineup in general. The Wolves have nothing to play for and plenty of guys that need a rest.