There were five games on the slate Saturday night. Rudy Gobert was downright dominant once again, John Wall remained red hot, and Willy Hernangomez set a career-high; while Gordon Hayward, Chris Paul, Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis dropped duds.
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Clippers 108, Jazz 95:
The Clippers notched a nice win on Saturday, as they pulled within a half game of the Jazz for the four seed in the Western Conference. L.A. also won the season series 3-1, which would be substantial should the two teams finish tied with the same record. Only one Clipper scored more than 15 points in this win, and that was Jamal Crawford, who poured in 28 points in 25 minutes off the bench. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the 62nd time that Crawford scored at least 25 points in a game he did not start. (That’s by far the highest such total in the NBA over the last 20 seasons; the runner-up is J.R. Smith with 44.) Crawford was extremely efficient, shooting 8-of-12 from the floor and 3-for-6 from downtown. He also nailed all nine of his free throw attempts.
On the other end of the spectrum was Chris Paul. CP3 missed 13 of his 18 shots, including all eight of his 3-point attempts, and finished with 14 points, five assists, three rebounds and three turnovers… Blake Griffin (15 points, six rebounds, three steals and one 3-pointer) didn’t have his finest fantasy night either. The Clips play again on Sunday against the Kings, so here’s hoping BG and CP3 to bounce back with improved performances… Marreese Speights had a solid Saturday. Mo Buckets tallied 11 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, three blocks and one 3-pointer in 22 minutes… DeAndre Jordan scored seven points and pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds.
Rudy Gobert is undoubtedly one of the league's most dominant defensive forces. In fact, he is arguably the odds-on favorite to take home the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award. Thus, we aren’t surprised when he racks up blocks and boards at a breakneck rate. However, Rudy has been piling up points at a prodigious pace as well, much to the delight of his fantasy owners. Gobert scored 26 points on Sunday and added 14 rebounds, one assist and two blocks in 36 minutes. Rudy’s per-game averages over Utah’s last five contests are incredible: 22.0 points, 15.0 rebounds and 4.2 blocks, while shooting 70.3 percent (!) from the floor. Gobert has at least 13 points, 13 boards and two blocks in each of those five games. He is just the second NBA player to post those numbers in five consecutive contests since Shaquille O'Neal did so in 2003.
Unfortunately for Utah, the rest of the Jazz didn’t come close to matching Gobert’s production vs. the Clippers. It was a particularly disappointing night for Gordon Hayward. Not only did Hayward finish with only 13 points, five rebounds and three assists, he also left the game in the fourth quarter with a limp after colliding with Austin Rivers. It turns out that Hayward was diagnosed with a left quadriceps contusion. The good news is that the X-rays were negative, so he didn’t suffer a fracture. Also, coach Quin Snyder said he thinks Hayward is "fine." Luckily, it appears Hayward avoided an injury, and it sounds like he is on track to play Monday night against the Pelicans… George Hill also struggled on Saturday, as Chris Paul put the clamps on him. Hill scored nine points with one rebound, one assist and one 3-pointer in 32 minutes… Utah’s second-leading scorer was Joe Johnson, who finished with 14 points, three rebounds, two assists and three 3-pointers... Joe Ingles (one point, three rebounds, five assists) didn’t bring much to the table. Ditto for Rodney Hood (nine points, four rebounds, two steals)… Shelvin Mack (ankle) missed his 11th straight game… Derrick Favors is still out due to a left knee bone contusion.
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Wizards 127, Cavs 115:
LeBron James is still the best player on the planet, but John Wall was the best player on the floor in this game. Wall hit his first eight field goal attempts for the first time in his career and hardly cooled off the rest of the evening. Wall ended the night with a total of 37 points, 11 assists, four rebounds, two steals and two 3-pointers. Wall is just the second Wizards player in the last 25 years to score more than 35 points and dish out more than 10 dimes in the same game. Gilbert Arenas is the other.
While not quite as prolific as his backcourt mate, Bradley Beal was excellent as well on Saturday, finishing with 27 points, four rebounds, six assists and two 3-pointers. Beal continues to efficiently and effectively post solid fantasy numbers on a daily basis… Bojan Bogdanovic (lower back stiffness) was unable to play on Saturday night. Surprisingly, Kelly Oubre stepped in and played very well, soaking up most of Bogdanovic’s minutes. Oubre had 16 points (on 7-of-8 shooting) with seven rebounds and no turnovers in 26 minutes… Otto Porter only scored 10 points but added six rebounds, three steals, two blocks and two 3-pointers. The reason Porter has such a high fantasy floor is because even on nights he’s not knocking down shots, he finds other ways to make his presence felt… Marcin Gortat (10 points and five boards in 23 minutes) continues to frustrate fantasy owners.
The Cavs are just two games over .500 since early January and now are just a half-game ahead of the Celtics for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Cavs defense, which has been atrocious over the last month, is the primary culprit in their losing ways. One player these losses can’t be pinned on is LeBron James. LeBron was questionable coming into Saturday night due to a corneal abrasion of the right eye he suffered on Friday. James started the game with goggles on but quickly discarded them in the first quarter. He didn’t seem bothered by the eye issue the rest of the night and finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, one block and three turnovers in 41 minutes. Amazingly, in his age-32 season, LeBron is averaging career-highs in both rebounds (8.4) and assists (8.8). He passed Maurice Cheeks for 12th place on the NBA’s all-time career assists list on Saturday.
Kyrie Irving got torched by Wall all night but managed to score 23 points himself. However, he needed 23 shots (8-of-23 from the field) to do so. Kyrie has scored at least 20 points in 21 straight games, which is the longest active streak in the NBA. Irving also added four assists, two rebounds and two blocks… Kevin Love, playing in both sets of a back-to-back, scored 17 points with seven rebounds, one steal, one block and three 3-pointers in 33 minutes… Iman Shumpert did not play due to a sore right knee. J.R. Smith played 31 minutes but scored just six points. Kyle Korver had 10 points, two rebounds and three 3-pointers in 21 minutes.
Spurs 106, Knicks 98:
The Spurs frontcourt dominated the Knicks all night. Kawhi Leonard was brilliant as usual, stuffing the stat sheet with 29 points, five rebounds, five assists, four 3-pointers, two steals and a block. LaMarcus Aldridge double-doubled with 19 points and 10 boards. Dewayne Dedmon (five points and 13 rebounds) was a demon on the glass. Pau Gasol played well off the bench, tallying 19 points, 10 boards, three assists, three 3-pointers and two blocks in 26 minutes… Tony Parker (10 points and three assists) had to leave the game briefly after banging his head on a drive to the basket in the third quarter, but returned and seemed to be unfazed… Patty Mills (10 points and seven assists) scored all 10 of his points in the final quarter to help the Spurs pull away.
With Carmelo Anthony (left knee) sidelined for a second consecutive game, Willy Hernangomez was the star of the show for the Knicks. He scored a career-high 24 points (on 11-of-16 shooting) and grabbed 13 rebounds in 36 minutes. According to Basketball Reference, Willy joins Kristaps Porzingis and Patrick Ewing as just the third Knicks rookie with at least 24 and 13 in a game since 1983. Hernangomez has been one of the few bright spots in a very dark season for New York, yet this was the first time he had played more than 20 minutes in nearly two weeks. Hopefully, coach Jeff Hornacek will give him more minutes and more reps over the final nine games of the year. With Joakim Noah suspended for at least the first 11 games next season, Willy may be the Knicks starting center on opening night in 2017-18… The Knicks other young, bright spot, Kristaps Porzingis, was dull on Saturday. KP found himself in foul trouble early and was on his way to a horrendous game, before salvaging his night with a decent fourth quarter. Porzingis had zero made field goals and four fouls in the first half. He began the second half on the bench, with Maurice Ndour starting in his place. However, KP checked in with about six minutes left in the third and managed to avoid fouling out. He finished with 12 points (3-of-8 shooting), five rebounds, two assists and five turnovers.
After sitting out Thursday night’s loss to the Blazers, Derrick Rose was back in the starting lineup on Saturday and didn’t appear to be bothered at all by his sore foot. Rose scored 24 points and added five rebounds and five assists in 36 minutes… Mindaugas Kuzminskas started in place of Melo for the second straight game. Kuz matched a career-high by scoring 19 points. He also knocked down three treys but had just two assists and one rebound… Courtney Lee couldn’t shoot straight (six points on 3-of-11 shooting) but found other ways to contribute, finishing with eight rebounds, seven assists, two steals and a block.