Before we talk about the games that were played on Saturday night, let’s first discuss a game that did not take place. The Blazers were scheduled to host the Pistons at the Moda Center on Saturday evening; however, the game was postponed due to potential severe weather conditions in Portland area. The game will now be played on Sunday, Jan. 8 at the Moda Center at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET.
Another bit of news related to one of Sunday’s games. The Heat take on the Clippers in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon. The good news for Miami is that starting center Hassan Whiteside is expected to return to the lineup after missing each of Miami's last four games. Yet, considering the onslaught of injuries the Heat have dealt with the season, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that they will also lose a key contributor at the same time they get one back. Josh Richardson left Saturday’s practice with a soft tissue injury in his left foot. Fortunately, the x-rays came back negative, but Richardson will need an MRI and has already been ruled out of Sunday’s game. Dion Waiters, Wayne Ellington and Rodney McGruder will soak up the playing time left behind by Richardson, who is averaging over 36 minutes per game over the Heat’s last 10 contests.
With that out of the way, let’s get to Saturday night’s action.
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Pacers 123, Knicks 109
Playing a weary Knicks team which was on the second night of a back-to-back on the road, the Pacers cruised to an easy victory on Saturday night. No Pacer needed to play more than 32 minutes in this one. Paul George was out there for just 28 minutes, finishing his night with 19 points, four assists, three rebounds and three steals. Jeff Teague tied George for the team-high in points (19) by shooting 4-of-7 from the floor, 2-of-3 from downtown and 9-of-9 from the free-throw line. Teague also dished out a game-high eight assists. PG-13 and Teague were but two of six Pacers to score at least 13 points. (Per the Elias Sports Bureau: Indiana became the first team this season to score at least 120 points without any individual player accounting for as many as 20.) Myles Turner grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to go along with his 13 points… Monta Ellis, playing with a mask due to a broken nose he suffered on Tuesday, played 21 minutes, which was most among Indiana’s reserves. However, Ellis scored just nine points with two rebounds, two assists and one 3-pointer… FYI: For those that play in weekly leagues, the Pacers have just one game all of next week. They have five days off before they meet the Denver Nuggets in London on Thursday, and then don’t play again until the following Monday (Jan. 16) at home vs. New Orleans.
The Knicks starters were barely competitive on Saturday, falling behind by 29 points at the beginning of the fourth quarter before the New York bench made a run to make the final score a bit more respectful… Derrick Rose sat out the entire fourth quarter for the second straight game. He tallied a total of 14 points, two rebounds, three assists, two steals and two turnovers in 24 minutes. Despite struggling a bit this weekend, Rose’s fantasy numbers are still quite solid. He is one of only 15 NBA players averaging at least 17 points, four rebounds and four assists per game this season. Rose’s backup, Brandon Jennings, played well in the fourth quarter on Saturday. He finished the game with 17 points, four assists, three 3-pointers and three rebounds. One of the heroes from Friday night's comeback, Ron Baker, ran the Knicks offense in the fourth quarter again on Saturday but finished with just one point and two assists in this one… Like D. Rose, Carmelo Anthony also sat out the entire final stanza on Saturday night. He finished with 17 points, two rebounds and five assists in 27 minutes. Melo has hinted that his shoulder has been bothering him, and he’s shot just 37.6 percent from the floor over the Knicks last nine games. The Knicks, losers of seven of their last eight games, are desperate for wins, so it’s unlikely they will rest Anthony, but it is something to keep an eye on… As has been the case on many occasions this season, the lone bright spot for New York was Kristaps Porzingis. KP played a team-high 34 minutes and stuffed the stat sheet. He had 16 points, four rebounds, four 3-pointers, four blocks, three assists, five turnovers and a steal. He became the first player in Knicks franchise history to block at least four shots and knock down at least four 3-pointers in the same game.
Celtics 117, Pelicans 108
The night started out ominously for the Boston, as Avery Bradley was announced as a late scratch due to a strained Achilles. This news was particularly surprising since Bradley had played so well on Friday night, scoring 26 points in 36 minutes. Fortunately, it doesn’t sound serious. "We'll be appropriately conservative," coach Brad Stevens said on Saturday. "Any muscular injury we want to be sure about." Marcus Smart stepped into Bradley starting spot and stepped up. Smart had a terrific all-around game, finishing with a season-high 22 points, five rebounds, six assists, two steals, one block and a season-high five 3-pointers in 32 minutes. If Bradley misses any more time, Smart will certainly be worth scooping up off the waiver wire in standard leagues… Boston’s other guard was unsurprisingly stellar as well on Saturday night. Isaiah Thomas scored 38 points and knocked down six 3-pointers. It was Thomas’ 21st straight game with at least 20 points. He failed to hand out an assist, but are we really going to complain about a guy who is averaging 34.8 points, 5.4 assists, 3.2 boards, 1.2 steals and 4.8 3-pointers over his last five games!? And even with those gaudy numbers, IT’s efficiency is the most impressive aspect of this five-game stretch: He is shooting a sizzling 54.7 percent from the floor, 58.5 percent from downtown and 97.9 percent from the free throw line. Incredibly, Thomas has scored 174 points on just 95 field goal attempts over those five games. To put that in context, Russell Westbrook has scored 182 points on 143 field goal attempts over that same timeframe.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Anthony Davis posted a monster stat line but got little support from his teammates in a game the Pelicans lost. Davis poured in 36 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked two shots on Saturday night. Remarkably, it was the 18th time this season that AD cracked the 30-point plateau. Per Basketball Reference, that is a new franchise record for most 30-point games in a single season. Keep in mind, the Pelicans still have 44 games left to play in 2016-17. What's more, Davis now has eight games with at least 35 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks this season. The entire rest of the league combined has just one such game. (Karl-Anthony Towns did it once back on November 30th.)
The other four Pelicans starters combined scored just 26 points on Saturday. Yes, Davis scored 36 points on 22 field goal attempts, while the rest of the New Orleans starting five scored 26 points on 29 FG attempts. Langston Galloway did play well off the Pelicans bench in this one, scoring 20 points to go along with four rebounds and four 3-pointers in 22 minutes… Another solid game off the New Orleans bench was supplied by an interesting name. Donatas Motiejunas made his long-awaited season debut on Saturday, scoring 11 points with five rebounds, four assists, one steal and one 3-pointer. Surprisingly, he logged 20 minutes and seemed to be in good shape. His presence likely eats into the upside of Terrence Jones, who scored just four points in 16 minutes. Still, we will have to wait and see more of D-Mo before making any grand proclamations. Nonetheless, if you play in a deep league and have roster space, he is worth taking a flier on.
Thunder 121, Nuggets 106
Another night, another triple-double for the machine that is Russell Westbrook. That makes 17 on the season for Russ. (Over the past two seasons, OKC is 32-3 the when Westbrook records a triple-double.) He tallied 32 points, 17 rebounds, 11 assists, while also chipping in three steals and knocking down seven 3-pointers on Saturday. According to Basketball Reference, Russ is just the third player in the last 30 years to tally at least 30 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists and seven 3-pointers in one game. As if Westbrook wasn’t bringing enough to the table, now he’s taking and making an abundance of 3-pointers. Prior to Thursday night’s game in Houston, Westbrook had not made more than five 3-pointers in any game this season. However, he nailed a career-high eight treys on Thursday and backed that up with seven more triples on Saturday. Westbrook has attempted at least 10 3-pointers in each of the Thunder’s last four games… The Thunder bigs did their usual damage as well on Saturday. Steven Adams had 16 points, six boards and four blocks. Enes Kanter finished with 14 points and six rebounds in 21 minutes… OKC also got their backup point guard back. Cameron Payne made his season debut on Saturday with seven points, two rebounds and three assists in 20 minutes.
Another night, another defensive dud from the Nuggets, who have now lost five straight games and given up at least 120 points in each of those five defeats… Wilson Chandler got off to a torrid start on Saturday, scoring 19 points in the first 17 minutes of the game. He did cool off but still finished with 24 points and seven rebounds in 32 minutes… The Nuggets were forced to play without surging center Nikola Jokic, who was sidelined by the flu-bug that is sweeping across the NBA. Jusuf Nurkic started in place of Jokic and posted a double-double (11 points and 10 rebounds)… Denver was also without their starting shooting guard, Gary Harris, who was a late scratch due to a groin injury. This is troubling news because it was a groin injury that cost Harris most of the first six weeks of this season. We will have to wait for a medical update from the team before trying to read too much into the situation. Will Barton started for Harris and finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and three 3-pointers in 28 minutes. Barton will see a huge boost in his value if Harris misses any time at all. Jamal Murray (four points, one rebound and one assist) was also expected to see an uptick in minutes on Saturday but ended up playing just 14 minutes… The dud of the night honor from this game goes to Emmanuel Mudiay, who was scoreless, missing all nine shots of his field goal attempts.