The last couple weeks of the NBA’s regular season can get pretty ridiculous with teams tanking and players resting, but Thursday’s slate actually had a lot of playoff implications which is always fun. For NBA news and fantasy advice, find me on Twitter here!
Bulls 102, 76ers 90
The Bulls were missing Rajon Rondo who is day-to-day with a right wrist sprain, so Jerian Grant moved into the starting five and had one of his best games of the season with 15 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two steals and a triple. Where did that come from? The matchup with the short-handed 76ers definitely helped Grant, as he averaged 7.0 points, 2.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.7 steals and 1.1 triples in his 25 previous starts. I’m not going to roll the dice on Grant, but he does get a good matchup on Saturday vs. the Nets if Rondo is out again.
Jimmy Butler carried the Bulls and notched his second triple-double of the season with a 19-10-10 line, while Nikola Mirotic’s incredible comeback story continued with 22 points, eight rebounds and six triples. Mirotic also hit a deeeeep triple with two minutes to go to give Butler his 10th assist. "I told him, ‘Jimmy, we’re going to play pick-and-pop. I’m going to shoot,” Mirotic said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a far shot. Just give me the ball.’” If you picked up Mirotic a month ago, he probably won you a fantasy championship. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?
As for the 76ers, Richaun Holmes double-doubled with a full line and is locked in as a top-50 option in the final three games of the season, while Justin Anderson had another excellent line with 17 points, four rebounds, one steal and two triples. Anderson should already be owned, but Timothe Luwawu is also worth a look. TLC scored 18 points in 34 minutes vs. the Bulls and is now averaging 19.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.0 triples over his last four games. T.J. McConnell played through an ankle scare and finished with nine points, eight assists and three steals, while Dario Saric was limited again and played just 22 minutes with nine points, 10 rebounds and a full line. "Of course I have pain on the foot, but I really want to play,” Saric said of his plantar fasciitis. “I really want to try to help the team.”
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Pacers 104, Bucks 89
Paul George scored 23 points with 10 rebounds, four steals and two triples, Thaddeus Young double-doubled and Jeff Teague scored 15 points with seven assists to lead Indiana to their second straight win. The Pacers (No. 8 seed) have the same record as the Bulls (No. 7 seed) and have a 0.5 game lead over the Heat (No. 9 seed), so they control their own destiny going forward. Lance Stephenson has given them a spark and had nine points with five assists tonight after scoring 12 points with three assists in his previous game. Not only is he saving Indiana’s season, but he said he also has a plan to keep Paul George in Indiana with the superstar hitting free agency in 2018. "I gotta get all my guys, tie him up on a chair, and say, 'You ain't going nowhere, Paul George’." Never change, Lance.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was the only Buck who showed up with 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists, while guys like Khris Middleton (10 points), Greg Monroe (four points) and Matthew Dellavedova (eight points) were held in check. Malcolm Brogdon (back) is expected to miss yet another game on Saturday vs. the 76ers, so Giannis and Middleton are the only two Bucks you can trust right now. On a side note, I recently did a mock draft with the guys from the In This League Podcast for the 2017-18 season and I took Giannis with the second overall pick. Be prepared to spend up for him next season.
Magic 115, Nets 107
Aaron Gordon led the Magic with 21 points, six rebounds, three steals and two steals and continues to thrive as a small-ball four, Elfrid Payton scored 22 points with 11 assists and Nikola Vucevic had 18 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. Evan Fournier sat out with a “sore right wrist,” so Jodie Meeks started and scored 20 points with four triples. It sounds like the Magic simply rested Fournier to try and improve their draft position, and coach Frank Vogel strongly hinted that he could rest more of his studs in the final three games — he specifically said he won't rest players in games that have playoff-race implications for opposing teams. Terrence Ross played just 25 minutes and was only expected to play in the first half, but he finished with just five points anyways. He’s a candidate for a DNP.
Jeremy Lin had his best game of the season with 32 points, five 3-pointers, three assists and a pair of steals, but his fantasy owners want to know where this production was four months ago. Brook Lopez was quiet with 10 points, but you can’t complain about a guy who was in danger of being shut down weeks ago. Caris LeVert finally broke out of his slump with a career-high 20 points, but Brooklyn’s hesitancy to play him big minutes all season will make me a little nervous in fantasy drafts for 2017-18. His long-term potential is solid, though.
Wizards 106, Knicks 103
John Wall had 24 points, eight assists and four triples to lead the Wizards, while Bradley Beal carried his weight with 25 points and four 3-pointers. Marcin Gortat returned from a two-month vacation and scored 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting, so maybe he can heat up just in time for the postseason. Markieff Morris was rested with a sore right ankle, but Jason Smith flopped in a start with five points and six rebounds. Otto Porter (seven points and nine rebounds in 22 minutes) has slowed down considerably and has been held to single-digit points in four out of his last five games. Porter has lost a lot of steam largely due to the emergence of Kelly Oubre (13 points) who is averaging 10.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 0.6 blocks and 0.8 triples over his last five games. Make sure he isn’t available if you’re in a dynasty league.
Kristaps Porzingis (lower back) was expected to return for the Knicks, but he had back spasms during warmups and missed his second straight game. Coach Jeff Hornacek said KP wanted to play in every single game going forward, but that was before his back flared up on him again. He’s very questionable for Friday’s game vs. Memphis with the Knicks tanking. Willy Hernangomez had 13 points, eight rebounds and one assist vs. the Wizards, and he’s the clear winner if KP misses more time.
Carmelo Anthony had a nice game with 23 points, six rebounds, four assists and two triples, but I would expect him to sit out on Friday vs. the Grizzlies. Look for Justin Holiday (16 points, five rebounds and two triples) and Courtney Lee (11 points, eight rebounds, three assists and five steals) to pick up the slack if Melo sits.
Hawks 123, Celtics 116
The Hawks are now 0.5 games ahead of the Bucks for the No. 5 seed, but travel to Cleveland to face the Cavaliers on Friday. Paul Millsap had a monster night with 26 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a triple, but the Hawks are going to give him the day off vs. Cleveland. Look for Ersan Ilyasova to draw the start in his absence which makes him a solid DFS play. Tim Hardaway Jr.’s breakout season continued as he dropped 23 points with five rebounds, five assists and two triples in the win, while Dennis Schroder chipped in with 18 points, five assists and three triples. Taurean Prince is quickly becoming one of my favorite rookies and went off for a career-high 20 points, adding seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. With Thabo Sefolosha hitting free agency this summer, Prince is already one of my biggest sleepers for the 2017-18 fantasy season.
Isaiah Thomas poured in 35 points for the Celtics with four assists and four triples, but it wasn’t enough as his team fell 1.5 games behind the top-seeded Cavaliers. Jae Crowder’s elbow didn’t seem to bother him as he racked up 24 points with four treys, though he did take a hard fall near the end of the regulation. Al Horford’s line was straight out of a Stephen King novel with four points on 1-of-8 shooting, while Marcus Smart became the first player in NBA history to produce seven assists, six steals, five triples and two blocks (h/t Sean Grande) in a single game. Smart also poured in 18 points, and while his ability to fill up the box score has never been in doubt, his shocking FG percentage will scare away a lot of owners — he was shooting 35.8 percent from the field and 27.4 percent from deep prior to Thursday.
Blazers 105, Wolves 98
Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum combined for 40 points in the win, but Allen Crabbe took over for the Blazers with 25 points and eight 3-pointers in 32 minutes. Moe Harkless flopped for the second game in a row with four points in 29 minutes, Noah Vonleh had a respectable line with nine points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocks while Al-Farouq Aminu still looks like a must-own player — Aminu had 15 points, seven rebounds, two steals, one block and three triples in his second straight start. With three games remaining, the Blazers have a 1.5 game lead over Denver for the No. 8 seed and they also hold the tiebreaker.
The Wolves have nothing to play for expect lottery balls, but coach Tom Thibodeau isn’t interested in resting his players and it looks like his studs will finish the season on a positive note. Andrew Wiggins dropped 36 points with eight rebounds, three assists, two steals and a triple, while Ricky Rubio posted 19 points with seven rebounds, five assists and a full line. Karl-Anthony Towns got into some foul trouble, but still managed to finish with 24 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and a full line. Looking ahead to next season, Giannis, KAT and James Harden look like the top-3 picks in fantasy.