Tuesday gave us a light, three-game slate in the NBA but there was plenty of news to report, including the return of Kyrie Irving, season highs in scoring from several popular players, 13 wins in a row for the Celtics and a landmark victory for Gregg Popovich. Oh, and even the much anticipated return of Joffrey Lauvergne for the Spurs. Okay, that last one might be a stretch.
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Celtics 109, Nets 102 – Kyrie Irving was back from his minor facial fracture and wearing a mask on Tuesday, racking up 25 points, five assists and a couple 3-pointers in 29 minutes. He's wearing the clear version, and not the black one, but if you put him in your weekly lineup, it looks like the move paid off. The mask clearly bothered him at times tonight, but he looked great. Marcus Morris is not one of my guys, but I have to admit I picked him up last night after he hit 8-of-12 shots, scored a season-high 21 with 10 rebounds and two 3-pointers, and scored 11 points in the fourth quarter for the C’s. Al Horford had a strong double-double, Jayson Tatum hit 6-of-9 shots and two 3-pointers for 19 points, and Jaylen Brown had 14 points, three steals and a 3-pointer in the win. Morris started for the Celtics’ small lineup, moving Aron Baynes to the bench and Baynes disappeared, missing all four of his shots and failing to score in 12 minutes. If you own Baynes, surely there’s a better free agent available. Marcus Smart came off the bench with the return of Irving and hit just 1-of-8 shots. He’s not really helping anyone with his inability to shoot, as he’s hit just 12-of-50 shots over his last five games for 24 percent. Ouch. The Celtics lost their first two games of the season, but have rattled off 13 straight wins since then.
Spencer Dinwiddie came as advertised, hitting 4-of-14 shots and a 3-pointer for 12 points, four rebounds, 11 assists and a block, while turning the ball over just one time. He’s a must-own player as long as D’Angelo Russell is out with his knee injury. However, it doesn’t sound like Russell will be out beyond this week, so Dinwiddie’s run could be short lived. And had Dinwiddie’s shot been falling tonight, his line might have been truly special. Timofey Mozgov was finally sent to the bench with Trevor Booker starting at center, so keep an eye on him if you’re in the market for a big man. The move could be semi-permanent and Booker had 12 points, eight boards, a steal and a block. DeMarre Carroll had an off shooting night (hold onto him), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 16 points and nine boards, and Allen Crabbe had 15 points, two steals and five 3-pointers to round out the starters. Jarrett Allen finally returned from his foot injury, but had just two points and one rebound in nine minutes. He’s always worth keeping an eye on, but it still seems too early to stash him in 12-team leagues. Joe Harris came through for DFS players who started him, finishing with 19 points, four rebounds and five 3-pointers, while Caris LeVert hit 6-of-7 shots and two 3-pointers for 15 points, four assists and a steal. Harris had three points on Saturday, so it was tough to see this one coming.
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Raptors 129, Rockets 113 – Kyle Lowry double-doubled for the fourth time this season despite hitting just 4-of-12 shots. He saved it by hitting 9-of-10 free throws and a couple 3-pointers, finishing with 19 points, five boards and 10 assists. He got off to a shaky start this season, but is playing well now, averaging 18.3 points, 4.5 boards, 7.5 assists and 2.8 3-pointers over his last four. DeMar DeRozan hit 13-of-16 free throws and finished with 27 points, six boards, five dimes and a steal. DeRozan didn’t hit a 3-pointer (0-for-3), but had hit at least one in four of his previous five games, and has attempted 27 of them over his last six games, with eight makes. The knock on DeRozan is his lack of threes, but it would appear that he’s trying to change that. Norman Powell was out with his hip injury and we still don’t know how long he’ll be out, so OG Anunoby started and hit 6-of-8 shots and three 3-pointers for a career-high 16 points, two boards, one assist and a steal in 30 minutes. I have no idea if he’ll play this well again anytime soon, but he played great defense on James Harden, who hit just 8-of-25 shots, and might have earned himself more starts going forward. I’m not running out and picking him up, but if you have some dead weight on your roster, he might be worth a flier. He’s made some noise in four straight games. C.J. Miles played just 17 minutes off the bench, but got hot and hit six 3-pointers for 19 points, two steals and a block. I’m not sure why he’s not getting more run without Powell around, but Anunoby’s defense is a big part of it. I picked up Miles on Monday with Powell out and so far it’s paid off. But he needs more minutes, which might not be coming. Delon Wright also got a boost without Powell around and hit all five of his shots for 14 points, two rebounds and two assists. He’s hit 21 of his last 28 shots, good for 75 percent, and looks like a decent stash in deep leagues, although Lowry’s not going anywhere. On the flip side, Serge Ibaka was awful, hitting just 2-of-5 shots and a 3-pointer for five points, five boards and two blocks. He’s still averaging 11 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.8 3-pointers over his last five games, so he’s obviously worth hanging onto. But the days of Ibaka being a fantasy beast appear to be behind us.
The Rockets lost for just the fourth time this season despite a 38-point, 11-assist double-double from Harden, 20 points, eight boards, a steal and five 3-pointers from Trevor Ariza, and an 11 & 11 double-double from Clint Capela, who disappeared in the second half. Eric Gordon is trending down simply because of the eminent return of Chris Paul, but also had one of his first bad nights of the season. He hit just 3-of-12 shots and was 0-for-7 from downtown, finishing with just 12 points on the night. This was his first game without a 3-pointer since opening night and his lowest-scoring night of his season. Paul (knee) is due back on Thursday and it appears the sell-high window on Gordon passed by like a ship in the night. Ryan Anderson might also take a hit when Paul is back and hit just 3-of-8 shots and two 3-pointers for nine points, eight boards and a block. Anderson’s scored in single digits in four of his last five games and is averaging just 7.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.6 3-pointers on 40 percent shooting over that stretch. You might be able to do better off the waiver wire. Luc Mbah a Moute played 31 minutes and hit two 3-pointers, but finished with just nine points, two boards and three assists. Just keep an eye on him. The same goes for Tarik Black, who hit 5-of-8 shots for a season-high 13 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. But as long as Clint Capela is able to walk, Black will be very unreliable. He belongs on waivers, especially since he hasn't had a game approaching this one all season.
Spurs 97, Mavericks 91 – The Spurs beat the hapless Mavericks behind a season-high 32 points from LaMarcus Aldridge, who also had five rebounds, four assists, a steal and two blocks in 36 minutes. It’s hard to believe 32’s a season high for LMA, but he’s been very consistent. He’s scored in double figures in every game this season and has scored at least 20 in 11 of his 14 games. Patty Mills has started every game in November at point guard for the Spurs, pushing the once hot Dejounte Murray to the bench, but has been wildly inconsistent. He had just five points in his previous game, so it was tough to see his season-high 19 points, four 3-pointers, three rebounds, two assists and four steals coming. Tony Parker appears to be nearing a return, which will be a buzzkill for Mills, but he’s probably worth a look until that happens. Just be ready for some inconsistency if you grab Mills. Kyle Anderson played 34 minutes but hit just 1-of-4 shots for seven points, eight boards, a steal and two blocks, Pau Gasol was a dud on 1-of-5 shooting for two points, 10 boards and four assists, and then there’s Danny Green. He returned from his hamstring injury and hit just 2-of-6 shots for four points, three rebounds, one assist, two steals, a block and zero 3-pointers. Green’s last four games perfectly sum up what it’s like to own him. In his last two, he’s hit 4-of-13 shots to average 4.5 points and zero 3-pointers, while he hit 14-of-25 shots with six 3-pointers to average 19 points in the two games prior. He’s always going to be a source of threes, steals and blocks, but his disappearing act once or twice a week is tough to live with. I own him in quite a few places, but I don’t know how much longer I can take the roller coaster ride. Rudy Gay is a mess right now too. He hit just 1-of-7 shots for four points, six boards, two assists and a block in a season-low 16 minutes. He’s dealing with a sore Achilles and was equally as bad in his previous game, but was rolling before that. Hopefully the Spurs are just being careful with him and he’ll be back to form on Wednesday night. Speaking of Wednesday night, it’s a back-to-back for the Spurs, so Aldridge, Gasol, Green, Gay and Manu Ginobili should all be considered questionable. Hopefully Gregg Popovich lets us know nice and early who will be in street clothes against the Timberwolves. Speaking of Pop, he became the fastest NBA coach to reach 500 road wins, picking it up in just 835 away games, 41 fewer than Pat Riley.
The Mavericks, who have won just two games, got a career-high 27 points from Dennis Smith Jr., who hit 10-of-23 shots, five 3-pointers and 2-of-2 free throws, and handed out two assists with six rebounds. He also had six turnovers and scored a lot of his points late, but I don’t care. I love him. Harrison Barnes had 16 points and eight rebounds and three steals, while J.J. Barea got hot off the bench and also scored 16 with six boards, four assists, a steal and three 3-pointers in 27 minutes. I don’t really trust JJB, but he’s averaging 11.6 points, 3.2 boards, 4.2 assists and 1.4 3-pointers over his last five. Wesley Matthews hit just 4-of-11 shots and a 3-pointer for 12 points before fouling out and Yogi Ferrell missed all five of his shots and failed to score despite starting and playing 33 minutes. Nerlens Noel played just five minutes and his decision to bet on himself is failing miserably. I’m just thankful I don’t own him. Salah Mejri is sort of what we hoped Boban Marjanovic would be and had three points, three rebounds, a steal and two blocks in 14 minutes. Meanwhile, Dwight Powell, who had been playing well, didn’t even get off the bench in this one. The Mavericks are a mess and the only ones you can trust are DSJ and Harry Barnes.
Batum and the Injury Report
Chris Paul (knee) is due back for the Rockets on Thursday.
Justin Holiday will sit for the Bulls on Wednesday due to the birth of a child, freeing up minutes for Kris Dunn, who will probably start. Lauri Markkanen is also due back from his ankle injury, and could be used extensively. It’s time to own Dunn, and it will be interesting to see how Markkanen and Bobby Portis coexist.
Steven Adams (calf) is doubtful for the Thunder tonight, meaning Dakari Johnson is likely to start again. Carmelo Anthony (back) is a game-time decision. If he’s out, Jerami Grant will likely start again.
I think Gary Harris (shoulder) will play for the Nuggets on Friday, but he’s yet to be cleared.
Stephen Curry (thigh) sounds like a go for the Warriors on Thursday after sitting out on Monday night.
And no, I have no idea when Kawhi Leonard will actually play this season, but Popovich said Tuesday that it will be “sooner than later.” Whether that’s sooner as in this weekend, or sooner as in January, I have no idea.