There were only two games in the Association last night, so after a few speedy recaps I've added an injury report that includes the latest casualties of the NBA’s injury bug – Eric Bledsoe (torn meniscus) and Jrue Holiday (stress fracture in his tibia). The injury report replaces the ‘individual matchup’ data I had promised to provide, which focuses on the best/worst defenders at a given position. If you want that information you can just send me a request with your email address via Direct Message on Twitter: @Knaus_RW.
We start with Thursday's first game, in which the Knicks surprisingly earned a three-game win streak by defeating the visiting Heat, 102-92. Just as surprising as the final score is the fact that New York pulled out the victory without Tyson Chandler (illness...day-to-day), Pablo Prigioni (toe...out 1-2 more weeks) and Beno Udrih (inflamed knee...day-to-day). They also didn't have J.R. Smith but that wasn't injury-related. Mike Woodson has always been fond of J.R., but on Thursday he slapped him with a DNP-CD that left Smith questioning his future with the Knicks even though they just re-signed him to a sizeable contract this summer.
Woodson may have reached his breaking point due to Smith's most recent shoelace-related antics, his historically awful shooting, the steadily improving play of Iman Shumpert, or some combination of those factors. When I say 'historically awful' I'm not being hyperbolic. Smith is taking 12.0 shots per game this season but he's making only 34.8 percent of those attempts, numbers which haven't been seen since Slater Martin did it during the 1957-58 season with the St. Louis Hawks.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $50,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Friday night's games. It's $25 to join and first prize is $7,500. Starts at 7pm ET on Friday. Here's the FanDuel link.
It's doubtful that the Knicks will be able to trade Smith and he's shown zero signs of shaking his slump, so I have no reservations about leaving him on the waiver wire in all formats. As mentioned, Iman Shumpert's game has come around lately and he's worth owning in all leagues with January averages of 15.8 points, 3.4 triples, 6.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.8 steals and just 1.0 turnovers in 34 minutes per game.
The Knicks also got surprisingly effective performances from Raymond Felton (13 points, season-high 14 assists), Andrea Bargnani (19 points on 9-of-13 FGs) and Amare Stoudemire (14 points, season-high 11 rebounds). Amare is best left unowned in standard leagues, and part of his big night was due to Chandler's absence, but anyone needing a PG should give Felton a long look. His next injury could be right around the corner but he played 38 minutes vs. Miami, and as the Knicks' unquestioned starting PG he has middle-round upside.
The Heat lost despite shooting 54.4 percent from the field. They were cold from beyond the arc (7-of-21) and hurt themselves at the FT line (11-of-21), they were out-rebounded 43-32, they only forced 10 turnovers, and they were basically just outplayed on the road in New York. Dwyane Wade looked good while scoring 23 points on 11-of-15 shooting and there's a chance that he'll be in uniform on Friday, but as usual we're unlikely to get the final word until just before tip-off. What a pleasure it is to own D-Wade in fantasy leagues, eh?
Mario Chalmers sat out again with a sore Achilles and he's questionable to face Brooklyn on Friday, but I'll be very surprised if he's in uniform since the Heat don't play again until Wednesday. Norris Cole scored 12 points with two 3-pointers, two assists and one steal in 35 minutes as Miami's starter vs. the Knicks, continuing his pattern of subdued production with Chalmers on the sidelines.
Thursday's second game was played in Denver, where the surging Nuggets defeated the Thunder, 101-88, for their fourth consecutive victory. This winning streak comes on the heels of an eight-game losing streak, and coincides with Ty Lawson's return to health, Randy Foye's return to the starting lineup, and Kenneth Faried's morphing back into the Manimal (he barely missed his third straight double-double vs. OKC).
Lawson was slowed by injuries for much of December but his buy-low window may have slammed shut with Thursday's game, in which he posted 16 points, two 3-pointers, seven rebounds, 14 assists, three steals and just one turnover, while working over Reggie Jackson and Derek Fisher all night. His backcourt mate Randy Foye was also impressive, pouring in a team-high 24 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 6-of-9 from downtown. I've never been a big proponent of Foye in fantasy leagues, as he does little beyond making 3s, but when he's this hot there's no case to be made against him. Just plug him into your lineups until he cools off.
Quincy Miller started at SF in place of Wilson Chandler, who is day-to-day with a strained hip, but Miller only had nine points and two rebounds in 20 minutes of action. The more intriguing result was Evan Fournier's 19 points, four 3-pointers, four rebounds and one steal off the bench, and his line could have been much bigger if he wasn't limited to 18 minutes due to foul trouble. Here are some numbers worth stashing away -- on a per-36-minute basis, Fournier has career averages of 15.6 points, 1.9 threes, 3.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.0 steals. His upside is dented by reports which indicate Andre Miller could soon rejoin the Nuggets' rotation, as Denver has been unable to find a suitable trade for their veteran PG.
On the Thunder side of the ledger, however, a variety of disappointing performances resulted in a lopsided defeat, their fourth loss in the past six games. Reggie Jackson shot 5-of-12 from the field to finish with 13 points, five assists and four turnovers in 26 minutes. He joined Derek Fisher (12 points) and Kevin Durant (30 points) as the only Thunder players in double-digits, and none of OKC's starters played in the fourth quarter. Although Durant led all scorers and made a living at the FT line (15-of-16), he missed 12 of his final 13 field goals and it was clear that OKC's engine was running out of gas. It's not a significant concern for fantasy owners, but the Thunder need to figure out ways to ease KD's burden in Westbrook's absence, or they'll risk wearing him out by the time the playoffs arrive.
Jeremy Lamb logged 36 minutes off the bench but wound up hurting fantasy owners with three points on 1-of-12 shooting. He's now shooting an abysmal 30.0 percent from the field in five January games, but owners can take heart in the fact that his averages have been higher across the board in January (including playing time), with the glaring exception of scoring-related categories. The second-year swingman is a career 43.2 percent shooter and he gets a huge chunk of his attempts from downtown, so the occasional slump can be expected.
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