Nikola Mirotic, Jusuf Nurkic and Ricky Rubio are going to be responsible for a lot of fantasy championships this week, Reggie Jackson's time is up in Detroit, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got into some trouble with the law and Ivica Zubac suffered a high ankle sprain on Thursday. For the latest NBA news and fantasy advice, find me on Twitter here!
Pistons 90, Nets 89
The Pistons snapped a five-game losing streak and kept their slim postseason hopes alive (they trail the No. 7 and No. 8 seed by 2.5 games), but they didn’t get much help from their franchise player Andre Drummond. The big man grabbed 11 rebounds with a pair of steals and blocks, but only managed two points and missed his only shot of the night. Reggie Jackson was inactive again because of his knee, but something tells me there’s more to the story — there are rumors that he could be shut down for the season. “Reggie probably wants to play and be at his best but right now, if you look long term, it’s [not playing] probably what’s best for him and his body, too,” Tobias Harris said. His value in real life and in fantasy has never been lower and the Pistons won't be able to trade R-Jax for Jackie Moon this summer.
Anyways, Ish Smith looks like a strong play the rest of the way and had his third strong game in a row, racking up 21 points with six rebounds, five assists and three triples. Tobias came off the bench and flopped with eight points on 2-of-9 shooting, but keep in mind that he was coming off a 19-point effort. He’s fine and should bounce back on Thursday vs. the Bucks. A bigger concern for the Pistons is that we learned that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was arrested on suspicion of a DUI on Wednesday morning. The Pistons haven’t released a statement and likely won’t do so until they compile all the details, but a suspension is very likely.
As for the Nets, Brook Lopez scored 11 points with nine rebounds and a full line, while Jeremy Lin chipped in with 14 points, five rebounds, four assists. Those are the only two Nets that you can trust right in most formats, but they could be shut down without a moment’s notice. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is still trending up and scored 14 points with nine rebounds, one assist and one block, but I was more excited about the workload — he reached the 30-minute mark for just the seventh time this season. That’s inexcusable from the Nets. Caris LeVert (7-7-4-1-1) is another player who’s still not getting the minutes he deserves, but hopefully the Nets will unleash him next season.
For those of you in deeper leagues, the return of Sean Kilpatrick (15 points in 23 minutes) has ruined K.J. McDaniels’ (four points in 15 minutes) momentum.
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Bulls 99, Cavaliers 93
The Bulls aren’t going down without a fight and had arguably their biggest win of the season on Thursday, keeping them just 1.0 game behind the No. 7 (Heat) and No. 8 seed (Pacers). Jimmy Butler was awesome with 25 points, six rebounds, five assists and a pair of steals and triples, but Nikola Mirotic stole the show once again with 28 points, 10 rebounds and six triples. He’s been a ghost for most of the season, but he’s now scored 24.8 points per game over his last four outings with a combined 20 3-pointers… Are you kidding me! Mirotic has gone on these types of runs before and is carrying his fantasy owners right now.
"I feel that it's my time," Mirotic said. "It's my time to make things right. I just want to enjoy the basketball. I just want to be happy right now. I'm very happy to be here. I want to make an impact at the end of the season. I want to be in the playoffs, that's all.” (h/t ESPN).
Rajon Rondo dished out a season-high 15 assists with seven points, nine rebounds, two steals and a block, while Robin Lopez double-doubled with 10 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and a block. Butler, Mirotic, Rondo and Lopez will continue to eat with the Bulls chasing a playoff spot, but rookie Denzel Valentine is also worth keeping an eye on — he finished with 12 points, six rebounds, one assist, one steal and three triples in 32 minutes. As for Paul Zipser, he started again and posted a line only Dante Cunningham would be proud of, finishing with four points and four turnovers in 22 minutes.
LeBron James dropped 26 points with 10 rebounds, eight assists and a full line and Kyrie Irving pulled his weight with 20 points and four triples, but Kevin Love only lasted 23 minutes before fouling out. With the Cavaliers now trailing the Celtics by 1.0 game in the East for the No. 1 seed, hopefully that means LeBron, Kyrie and Love will all play during the second night of a back-to-back set against Philly. The game is in Cleveland, so that definitely helps.
J.R. Smith has been awful all season and looks like he could benefit from some shooting lessons from Marcus Smart, hitting just 32.8 percent of his shots prior to Thursday. He finally had a decent game vs. Chicago with 12 points and four 3-pointers, and he’s looking at another large workload on Friday with Kyle Korver (foot) out for at least one more game. Tristan Thompson added 15 points and nine rebounds, but didn’t block any shots.
Wolves 119, Lakers 104
Ricky Rubio led the Wolves with a career-high 33 points, posting one of the best lines of the night with five rebounds, 10 assists, two steals and four 3-pointers on 12-of-20 shooting. The Wolves don’t have a realistic shot at making the postseason, but with Rubio playing the best ball of his life and Kris Dunn playing more shooting guard, I don’t think the shut-down risk is too high for the Spaniard. As for Dunn, he was coming off a few really nice games and is showing signs of improvement, but only scored two points Thursday. However, he still played 30 minutes and salvaged his line with six rebounds, five assists and three steals, and keep in mind that the Wolves have five games on the schedule next week.
Karl-Anthony Towns is in my top two for next season along with Giannis Antetokounmpo, as he’s been the most consistent player in fantasy basketball for months. He finished with 32 points, nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. Andrew Wiggins added 27 points for the Wolves and Gorgui Dieng had his fourth monster game in a row, racking up 11 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, three blocks and a triple. He’s averaging 14.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.5 blocks in that span.
D’Angelo Russell cooled off on Thursday with 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting, but still managed six assists, three boards, three steals and two triples. Jordan Clarkson is still worth deploying everywhere and had 18 points, seven assists and four triples, while Julius Randle double-doubled with 12 and 13. The Lakers caught off a tough break when Ivica Zubac suffered a high ankle sprain after just two minutes, and based off coach Luke Walton’s comments, he’s probably going to miss at least a couple games. He’s scheduled to be re-evaluated on Friday, but if this is finals week in your league, move on. Larry Nance, Tarik Black and Thomas Robinson will all potentially benefit, but Nance is the early favorite to help standard-league owners despite his four-point dud in 28 minutes. To be clear, there’s probably a better option on your waiver wire and feel free to ask for my advice on Twitter!
Clippers 124, Suns 118
The Clippers kept the pressure on the Jazz by securing a surprisingly difficult win over the Suns — the Clippers now trail the Jazz by just 1.0 game for the No. 4 seed. With Austin Rivers on the shelf with a hamstring injury, that means Chris Paul is less likely to rest going forward and it also increases the fantasy appeal of both Jamal Crawford (19 points) and J.J. Redick (14 points, three triples). As for CP3, he finished with 29 points, 10 assists, five boards, one steal and a triple. Blake Griffin feasted with 31 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and two triples in one of his best games of the season, while DeAndre Jordan also feasted on the Suns with 17 rebounds (six offensive) and three blocks.
Devin Booker returned from his “ankle” injury and looked amazing with 33 points, nine assists and four triples, and I’m still not convinced that he wasn’t simply rested last game. Tanking teams are usually pretty shady, but expect Booker to play on Saturday and Sunday. Tyler Ulis logged 40 minutes and was solid once again with 16 points and 13 assists, and if Phoenix moves on from Eric Bledsoe this summer, they are in good hands with Ulis running the show.
Marquese Chriss is averaging 5.7 fouls per 36 minutes which makes him prone to duds, but he bounced back in a big way with 20 points, six rebounds, two assists, one steal and two triples. It would’ve been nice to see some of his trademark blocks, but it’s hard to complain about this line. He’s a breakout candidate for next season with elite upside. T.J. Warren is still rolling along with 14 and 10, while Alex Len (12 points, three boards, one block) and Alan Williams (six points, seven rebounds) appear to be locked into a timeshare even though it looked like Big Sauce was running away with the job over a month ago.
Blazers 117, Rockets 107
Damian Lillard dropped 31 points with 11 assists and four 3-pointers to lead the Blazers, giving his team a 1.5 game cushion over the Nuggets for the No. 8 seed in the West. C.J. McCollum was held to just 12 points, but he deserves some slack considering he was coming off a 39-point effort. Moe Harkless has fallen off a cliff since the All-Star break, but snapped out of his funk with 17 points, six rebounds, three blocks, two steals and one triple. The Blazers only play one more time this week, but do have four games on the schedule next week.
Jusuf Nurkic is one of my favorite players as I’m sure most of you know, and he had another impressive game on Thursday with 19 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. If he continues to hit his free throws at a respectable rate, Nurkic will be one of my favorite fantasy targets next season — he might be available at a discount since he burned some fantasy owners earlier in the season when he was borderline depressed in Denver.
James Harden made it pretty clear that he’s not going to rest his ailing left wrist, an obvious sign that he’s hungry for the MVP Award. I don’t blame him and obviously his fantasy owners don’t mind. His shot has been a little off since the injury and he finished 11-of-30 from the field in the loss, but still racked up 30 points, eight rebounds, four assists, one steal and two triples. Trevor Ariza is loving his new role as the starting power forward, swiping six steals for the second game in a row. He also had 17 points, five rebounds, two assists and three 3-pointers, while Eric Gordon and Lou Williams combined to score 27 points for the Rockets.