North Carolina, Guster and the Timberwolves were all winners on a one-game NBA Monday night. With the NCAA Championship game happening, the Wolves-Blazers was the only NBA game in town. Congratulations to the Tar Heels and my buddies in the band Guster, who blew up the internet after the “Guster is for Lovers” sticker on a guy's laptop was shown over and over again last night. We do have a busy 11-game NBA night on tap for Tuesday, but for more Guster love, check out a fantasy hoops interview I did with their drummer, Brian Rosenworcel, a long time ago. Guster is not only for lovers, but also hoops heads, as well. And you can follow me on Twitter by clicking here. And while we're at it, happy baseball season, too!!
Timberwolves 110, Blazers 109 – Karl-Anthony Towns scored 14 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter and put the game away with a dunk with 34 seconds left that gave the Wolves a four-point lead. Towns added 12 rebounds, but no blocks or 3-pointers, and the loss snapped Portland’s six-game winning streak. They could have really used Jusuf Nurkic in this one, who is out for the regular season with a fractured leg. Ricky Rubio stayed hot with 11 points, seven boards and 16 assists, and Andrew Wiggins came through with 29 points and three 3-pointers, but didn’t do much else in the box score. The surprise of the night (and a possible source of hate mail for me based on my Waiver Wired column) was that Kris Dunn played just six minutes and didn’t do anything. He picked up two quick fouls, got yanked and was never heard from again. He played between 24 and 35 minutes in five straight games before getting just 19 on Thursday and then six last night. The Wolves still have four more games this week and there isn’t any reason I can see to for him not to get big minutes in them. If you picked him up, write this one off and hope things turn around on Tuesday night against the Warriors. Gorgui Dieng added eight points, eight boards and two blocks, and Brandon Rush played 37 minutes for 12 points, seven boards, three assists, a steal, two blocks and a 3-pointer. He hadn’t been doing much of anything, but with Dunn sitting in this one, Rush got loose. Shabazz Muhammad also came through with 11 points in 13 minutes, but the rest of his stat line wasn’t good. I fully expect Rush to quiet back down tonight and for Dunn to get back to it, but it could go either way.
The Blazers got 25 points, six assists, two steals and three 3-pointers from Damian Lillard, but he hit just 7-of-21 shots. C.J. McCollum hit just 5-of-14 shots for 17 points and didn’t hit a 3-pointer, but at least had four dimes, a steal and a block in his 35 minutes. Moe Harkless was one of the surprises of the night with 17 points, eight boards, a steal, a block and three 3-pointers on 7-of-10 shooting, while Al-Farouq Aminu came off the bench for 20 points, seven boards, five assists, three blocks and four 3-pointers in 35 minutes. Noah Vonleh started over Aminu again and had 12 points, four boards, two steals and two blocks on 4-of-5 shooting in 26 minutes, and starter Meyers Leonard played just 12 minutes and didn’t score. Allen Crabbe played 29 minutes and had 12 points, a steal and a 3-pointer, and Evan Turner played 27 minutes for six points, four boards, four assists and two blocks. The Blazers have three games left this week and Harkless and Aminu should be good to go. Crabbe and Vonleh are hit-or-miss, while I really don’t trust Turner or Leonard right now. The Blazers visit the Jazz tonight and are currently 1.5 games up on the Nuggets for the final playoff spot in the West.
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Tuesday's 11-game Preview
The Nets and Sixers go early in one version of the toilet bowl and guys like Richaun Holmes, Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarot (knee), Justin Anderson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Caris LeVert and Sean Kilpatrick should all be interesting plays, while Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin should be good if they play. Isaiah Whitehead is iffy for the Nets with an ankle. Jahlil Okafor and Robert Covington are done for the Sixers, while TLC and Dario Saric (heel) are a little banged up.
Charlotte is at Washington and there are playoff implications here. Washington is chasing the Raptors and Charlotte is just a game behind the No. 8 Heat, so hopefully everyone will be playing. This may be the most injury-free game of the night.
Orlando is at Cleveland and the Magic are out of it, so they’re a bit of a crapshoot, while Jeff Green (back) has already been ruled out. However, the Cavs are still a half game behind the Celtics, so I’m assuming everyone’s a go. However, they face the Celtics in Boston on Wednesday, and I always worry about LeBron James in back-to-backs. But the Cavs also know they can basically wrap up the No. 1 seed, or at least make themselves strong favorites, with two wins, so I still think the studs should play in both.
Toronto is at Indy and the Pacers are fighting for their playoff lives. The Raptors are trying to hold off the Wizards and the Pacers are just trying to get in, so this should be a playoff-intensity type matchup. And the injury report is pretty clear for both squads.
Denver is at New Orleans and both teams are still fighting to make the playoffs, although the Pelicans are basically toast. Denver is 1.5 games back of the Blazers for the No. 8 seed, so I assume all hands will be on deck in this one. Anthony Davis has finger and ankle issues, so make sure he’s a go. Will Barton (foot) and Jameer Nelson (calf) are both iffy for the Nuggets.
Milwaukee is at Oklahoma City and the Bucks are trying to hold off the 6, 7 and 8 seeds, while Russell Westbrook is going to be trying to make a final MVP statement this week. This should be a fun one with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Westbrook going at it. Malcolm Brogdon (back) has already been ruled out, which means more Matthew Dellavedova, while Victor Oladipo is expected to play after banging his knee on Sunday.
The Bulls are at New York and Chicago is still feeling the Heat to secure a playoff berth, currently sitting as the No. 7 seed. Nikola Mirotic, Rajon Rondo, Jimmy Butler, Robin Lopez and company should all be ready to roll. For the Knicks, now that we’ve pretty much buried Mindaugas Kuzminskas, I wouldn’t be surprised if he does something tonight, although Carmelo Anthony is expected to play, which will hurt Kuz. Derrick Rose is done for the season with yet another knee injury and the Knicks are simply playing for ping-pong balls, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Chasson Randle goes off tonight. Honestly, I’m surprised Melo hasn’t been shut down already, while Willy Hernangomez should be good to go I’d think. Lance Thomas is iffy with a hip injury.
Memphis visits San Antonio and the Spurs have come to terms with being the No. 2 seed in the West, so it’s possible that Kawhi Leonard could sit. Memphis is probably locked into the No. 7 seed, but needs to tune up for the playoffs, so hopefully their guys play. Tony Allen (eye), Marc Gasol (foot) and JaMychal Green (shoulder) are all questionable for Memphis, while Vince Carter should return from a rest and Andrew Harrison (ankle) is probable. Danny Green (quad) has already been ruled out by Gregg Popovich.
Portland is at Utah, which should be interesting. The Jazz are only a ½ game up on the Clippers with first-round home court on the line, so they should be all-in, while the Blazers need to keep winning to stay in the No. 8 spot. George Hill (groin) was out on Sunday and is iffy for tonight for the Jazz. Shelvin Mack would likely step up in his place if he’s out.
Minnesota is at Golden State and there’s not much that either team is playing for here. Keep an eye out for news on the Warriors’ studs and look for Dunn to hopefully bounce back. Kevin Durant (knee) is hoping to make his return on Saturday.
The Mavericks visit the Kings to close out the night and neither team has much of anything to play for. This will be another one where owners will want to keep an eye on the newsfeed to see who is in and who is out. Dirk Nowitzki is very iffy with a sore achilles and Seth Curry is still dealing with his shoulder injury, while the Kings could easily rest any number of guys, just like they did on Saturday.
Good luck in your championship games!!