It was a jam-packed Saturday night in the Association, with eight exciting games on the docket. Thus, let’s get right into our recap of the action.
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Pistons 136, Sixers 106
The Pistons were clearly clicking on all cylinders Saturday night. Typically in a 30-point blowout, it’s difficult for a team’s starters to match their standard statistical output. However, Detroit scored a season-high 136 points, which meant there was plenty of fantasy goodness to be spread about… Reggie Jackson began the day on the hot seat. Coach Stan Van Gundy admitted this weekend that he has considered benching Jackson and starting Ish Smith in his place. Well, Reggie responded with a solid outing, finishing with 21 points, four rebounds, two assists and three 3-pointers in 25 minutes on Saturday night. His improved play and Detroit’s big win should turn down the heat underneath Jackson’s seat just a bit. However, it should be noted that Ish Smith also played well in the win. Smith had 11 points, 13 assists and four rebounds in 23 minutes… Kentavious Caldwell-Pope paced the Pistons with a game-high 26 points, including three 3-pointers. KCP has scored at least 16 points in five of the Pistons last six contests… Tobias Harris scored 20 points with nine rebounds, two steals and two 3-pointers in 32 minutes… Andre Drummond dominated the paint in this one. He had 14 points, 14 rebounds, two assists, four steals and three blocks. Drummond has now posted a double-double in 10 of his last 11 games. He is averaging 15.2 points, 14.9 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.0 blocks over that stretch.
Although their defense was horrendous, the Sixers offense was able to put up 105 points. Nik Stauskas led the way with a season-high 24 to go along with five rebounds, two assists, two steals and four 3-pointers in 37 minutes. Stauskas was starting his second consecutive game in place of Gerald Henderson (hip). In his first start, Friday night vs. the Knicks, Stauskas dropped a dud (five points and five boards) but bounced back in a big way on Saturday. He should see plenty of action as long as Henderson is sidelined, but Stauskas is obviously tough to trust, especially with new arrival Justin Anderson playing well off the bench. Anderson scored five points and grabbed eight rebounds in 30 minutes on Saturday… Jahlil Okafor did not play due to right knee soreness. It is unknown at this point if he was sitting out due to maintenance/rest for the knee, or if this an aggravation of a previous injury. With Okafor out, as well as Joel Embiid (knee), and Nerlens Noel traded away to Dallas, Richaun Holmes was the last center left standing for the Sixers. Holmes was dealing with a troublesome hamstring of his own, but started and finished with 12 points, two rebounds and two steals in 24 minutes. With Okafor questionable going forward, Holmes is worth taking a flier on and scooping up off the waiver wire… Dario Saric continued his excellent play, stuffing the stat sheet once again. He dished out a career-high eight assists, while also adding 19 points, six rebounds and a block in just 29 minutes.
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Heat 120, Cavaliers 92
When you find a way to win 18 out of 22 games, as the Heat has done, sometimes you benefit from being in the right place at the right time along the way. The Heat pounced on the undermanned Cavs, who decided to rest both LeBron James and Kyrie Irving on Saturday. Because it was a blowout, Miami was able to give some unexpected rest to their top guns as well. Hassan Whiteside played just 28 minutes but was able to stuff plenty of stats into his court time. Whiteside finished with 20 points (on 9-of-14 shooting), 13 rebounds and a block… Goran Dragic scored a team-high 23 points, and added five dimes, four 3-pointers, and three rebounds in 24 minutes… Tyler Johnson finished with 17 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals off the Miami bench... After a scorching hot stretch in the middle of the season, Dion Waiters continues to descend back to earth. After scoring just three points on Friday, he finished with eight points (on 3-of-10 shooting) and two assists on Saturday.
Last month, coach Ty Lue stated he would make reducing LeBron’s minutes a top priority. However, LeBron is still averaging 37.6 minutes per game and played 39 on Friday night. Thus, it wasn’t shocking that Lue decided to rest King James on Saturday. The result was a massacre in Miami. Every game LeBron James sits out is a forceful reminder of just how valuable he is to his team. The Cavs are 0-5 this season when LeBron does not play and just 4-20 since the start of the 2014 season without him. Yes, James Harden and Russell Westbrook are putting up historic numbers, but we shouldn’t allow that to distract us from the fact that an adamant case could be made for LeBron taking home the MVP this season. In fact, over his last 12 games, LeBron is averaging 27.1 points, 10.3 assists and 8.2 boards, while shooting 60.5 percent from the floor & 56.6 percent(!) from 3-point territory. That’s just insanely efficient… Lue also sat Kyrie Irving on Saturday. This was somewhat predictable as well, as the Cavs want to keep Kyrie fresh for the postseason... Onto players that suited up on Saturday. Deron Williams made his first start as a Cavalier. He tallied 10 points, five rebounds and seven assists in 27 minutes. D-Will won’t see enough minutes to have fantasy value on night’s when Irving is in the lineup, but makes for a fine plug-and-play in games such as this… Channing Frye was the only Cavalier to score more than 15 points. He finished with 21 points (on 9-of-12 shooting), three 3-pointers, four rebounds and two steals in 23 minutes off the bench. Like Williams, Frye is worth plugging in when the Cavs are resting their studs, but is otherwise difficult to trust.
Bucks 101, Raptors 94
Khris Middleton was questionable for this contest, as he had played 33 minutes on Friday and had sat out the second game of each two prior back-to-back's the Bucks had played since he returned from his hamstring injury. However, Middleton suited up on Saturday and posted another impressive line. He had a game-high 24 points, three rebounds and a steal in 30 minutes. As the Bucks lift restrictions on Middleton, he will have an opportunity to be a difference-maker in the fantasy playoffs… A solid, if unspectacular, night for Giannis Antetokounmpo (21 points, 10 boards, four assists, one steal)... Malcolm Brogdon continues to earn the trust of coach Jason Kidd with his stellar play. Brogdon played a game-high 42 minutes and tallied 17 points, five rebounds, three assists and one turnover. On a related note, Matthew Dellavedova scored six points on 2-of-11 shooting in 26 minutes… Spencer Hawes came out of nowhere to score 16 points with eight rebounds, one block and two 3-pointers in 17 minutes. He had played only three total minutes since being traded to Milwaukee over a month ago. He can be left on waivers until he comes close to replicating this type of performance.
DeMar DeRozan entered this matchup with Milwaukee red hot, averaging 33.8 points, 7.2 boards and 3.2 assists over his last five games. But DD started off slow on Saturday and was never able to get back track. He didn’t attempt a single shot from the floor was held scoreless in the first quarter. He finished the game with 11 points (on 5-of-13 shooting), three boards and four dimes… Fantasy owners had high hopes for Serge Ibaka when he was dealt from Orlando to Toronto, and Ibaka has exceeded those lofty expectations. He had 19 points (on 7-of-11 shooting), five boards, two assists and two 3-pointers. He is averaging 17.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.4 treys and 1.6 blocks over his last six games… On the flip side of the coin, Jonas Valanciunas has struggled mightily since the Ibaka acquisition. JV had scored a total of just nine points in 34 minutes in the Raps previous two games combined before traveling to Milwaukee. Fortunately for Valanciunas owners in panic mode, JV bounced back with a decent game on Saturday, finishing with 13 points on a perfect 5-of-5 from the floor, in addition to seven boards in 21 minutes. There is still obviously reason to be anxious going forward, as JV was once again benched the entire fourth quarter… After struggling a bit after being named the starter in the wake of the Kyle Lowry injury, Cory Joseph has started to play much better of late. He scored 14 points with five rebounds, eight assists and two 3-pointers… DeMarre Carroll suffered a left ankle sprain in the third quarter and was unable to return to the game. If Carroll is forced to miss time, P.J. Tucker and Norman Powell will likely divvy up his minutes. Tucker had nine points, four rebounds, and two 3-pointers in 29 minutes on Saturday. Norman Powell scored 12 points with two rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes. Of the two, Powell is probably the more appealing add due to a more well-rounded offensive game. However, if you need steals, then Tucker is your man.
Clipper 101, Bulls 91
Jamal Crawford can get cold and struggle for weeks at a time, as he did earlier this season. However, he also has a unique ability to get hot and take over a game, which is precisely what the reigning Sixth Man of the Year did on Saturday night. Crawford (25 points, two 3-pointers, two rebounds, two assists and two steals) caught fire in the fourth quarter to help carry the Clippers to the victory… Chris Paul (17 points, four assists, two rebounds, two steals and just one turnover) was dealing with a minor thumb issue on Friday but was good to go on Saturday… Blake Griffin finished with 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds… DeAndre Jordan was quiet offensively (six points on 3-of-5 shooting), but hauled down 14 rebounds and dished out three assists.
It was a collective dud from the Bulls on Saturday, as they could not get going on the offensive end. Thus, there is very little to write home about from a fantasy perspective. No Chicago player scored more than 16 points, and no Bull had more than seven rebounds. Jimmy Butler salvaged a decent night with 16 points, six assists, four boards and three steals... Bobby Portis scored 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting with seven rebounds in just 21 minutes. Nikola Mirotic ended up playing six more minutes, but wasn’t overly productive, finishing with eight points, seven rebounds, two assists and three steals. It always dicey to try and predict what coach Fred Hoiberg might do from night to night, but Portis appears to be the more appealing fantasy option at the moment.